What’s this? Another utterly disappointing fourth film in a franchise to be released in July of 1987? You bet it is!
In a span of four weeks in the middle of the summer of 1987, moviegoers had to be subjected to Jaws: The Revenge from Universal, this week’s feature, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Masters of the Universe. The latter two being massively popular intellectual properties for young kids – both released by Cannon Films.
That’s fucking depressing to know that much shit flew out of screens into your face in such a short period of time.
But enough about last week (and what’s coming for you all in two weeks). Let’s talk about Superman IV. In 1983, Superman III dealt with the Man of Steel taking on computer genius Richard Pryor and his maniacal bosses who wanted to… control the weather. There were certainly enjoyable things like Clark Kent going back to Smallville for his high school reunion and reconnecting with his crush, Lana Lang, but there are all sorts of other problems that were a little too much to ignore like we could with the first two films in the series. That equaled a diminished profit margin compared to the other films and left Warner Brothers trying to figure out where to go from there. When Supergirl failed in 1984, producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind all but abandoned Supes thinking their series was dead.
Enter Cannon Films who purchased the rights to produce further films in the series. When they budgeted Superman IV for less than $20 Million, it proved to be an all around bad marriage for Superman and the Golan-Globus Group. Reused shots from the much more expensive and well-made Warner films and reused effects from within this movie itself proved that you can’t really cut corners on something like Superman.
You may be curious, before we start, what the movie is actually about. Well, it’s nothing more than Superman has decided to take it upon himself to rid the world of our nuclear weapons and enforcing peace across the planet. That’s the main gist of this plot. And if you think that sounds weird, you’re fucking right! Superman is traditionally a symbol for hope and a shining example of what we should aspire to. He rarely interferes in a way that makes decisions FOR us instead of to HELP us find solutions for ourselves. That’s the Golan-Globus way, though. Most of their action flicks were very conservative almost to the point of a harsh, near-fascistic order being established by their heroes. I could spend hours writing about that with examples, but I won’t. I’m here for Superman and that’s what we’re gonna talk about, goddammit!
Oh, and if you are one of those assholes who think Man of Steel, or Batman v. Superman, or even Spider-Man 3, either of The Amazing Spider-Man movies, any Fantastic Four movie, or Batman and Robin are the worst mainstream superhero films, then I want to punch your fucking face in because this one is like the makers simply took a steaming shit on the filmstock and processed it, thus releasing nothing more than a brown shit stain all over the movie screen in every theater across the country.
Remember a week ago when I said I could give Jaws: The Revenge some respect when the DVD didn’t auto start while I was taking a shit in preparation for watching one of these garbage movies? Superman IV is one of those that really wants to make sure you don’t change your mind. Once the DVD loaded, the menu stayed on screen for only about 60 seconds before going forward and playing the movie on its own. You afraid, Superman IV? You afraid I’m gonna bow out and not watch you tonight? Is that’s what’s up?
So, how does this Superman movie start? Is it with a kid reading a comic book before it leads into a big, epic credits sequence to one of the best theme songs ever composed? That’s a big NOPE! It starts with a giant middle finger to the audience.
At least something of the iconic Superman Theme is involved here, but it’s oddly edited together to include all sorts of variations of John Williams’ piece. Sadly, I also see Alexander Courage listed as providing the additional score. You know what he’s best known for? The original Star Trek theme music from the TV series. Yeah. Captain Kirk and Superman have a guy in common.
Anyway, a Russian space station is damaged by space junk and they nearly spin away out of control, and lose one of their cosmonauts. Superman is there, though, to save the day. To show he is a friend to all the peoples of Earth, he doesn’t discriminate for who he saves.
From the outreaches of the stratosphere to Smallville, Clark Kent has returned home. He’s selling the farm now that both his parents are gone now. He finds a Kryptonian energy module where he found his original crystal that built his Fortress of Solitude. Lara, Kal-El’s mother, tells him that once he removes the module, the ship will essentially die and he will be allowed to use the power of the crystal but once. All that remains of Krypton will fade with the ship. This scene kind of always bummed me out. Some of the more poetic and beautiful moments of the original film and everything that was good about the previous installment took place in Smallville. Now, he’s getting rid of his roots. In a Cannon Films sequel. Sigh.
But worse, Lex Luthor’s fuckhole ass-shit nephew, Lenny (Jon Cryer), shows up to break his uncle out of prison by first tricking the prison guards into getting into a car with a super sweet sound system. Despite the guards being not buckled into their seats and the car landing on its hood, they survive. Also, criminal super genius Lex Luthor is in general population with a bunch of other criminals working on a chain gang and guarded by only two corrections officers. That seems a little lenient on a guy who has threatened the world twice before.
As if that’s not enough happenings for you in these first 15 minutes or so, Lois Lane, naturally, finds herself in trouble in Metropolis. When the subway operator of the train she’s on has a heart attack and forces the train to go into super fast motion, but Superman comes and saves the day. Problem introduced, and immediately solved without hardly a worry from the victims.
At the Daily Planet, Donald and Ivanka Trum… er, ahem… cough cough… David and Lacy Warfield, tabloid magnates, are holding a meeting with the staff to go over their proposed changes now that they own the planet… er, ahem… cough cough… Daily Planet. I totally meant to say DAILY Planet. Apparently, the Daily Planet hasn’t made any money in three years, and as Ivank… Dammit… LACY says, “The name of the game is ‘making money’.”
The Trumps… Sigh. The WARFIELDS have decided that the Daily Planet will start sensationalize fear-mongering headlines and sleazy tactics to sell more papers. One might even call it… Fake news…?
Guys, this is going to be very difficult for me to not call the Warfields the Trumps. I promise to do my best not to keep at it.
Anyway! Donald and Ivanka get super excited about the possibility of an international crisis that could lead to the sale of twice as many newspapers. They tune into a speech from the President that doesn’t sound like things in the world are going all that well. Jeez… I sure am glad I don’t live in a time like that when the news is an utter bummer to watch and everything being said is super dire and makes me want to punch random strangers. Gosh, that would be terrible. That would probably make a guy become reclusive and spend Friday nights locked away in his apartment watching shitty Jaws and Superman movies.
A kid in some class watching the President’s speech about some summit falling apart suggests they write Superman to help fix the world. Smash cut to some museum with a display that shows the strength of a single strand of Superman’s hair by having it suspend a half ton ball of something. Lex Luthor plans to steal the strand of hair for whatever plan his criminal mastermind brain has come up with. But how will he plan on getting such a strong piece of…
Oh fuck it, just cut it with snippers.
Lacy decides she wants to seduce Clark Kent. Why? Because sure. Lacy’s advances are interrupted by Lois who delivers the letter from the kid in the classroom who wanted to write to Superman to create peace between all the countries. Clark reads the letter and becomes somber, but Lacy decides to use the kid to sell papers. Mr. Warfield meets with the kid in lieu of Superman meeting him which he and Lacy turn into a smear campaign to say Superman snubbed his fan.
Superman flies to his Fortress of Solitude to confer with the Krypton Elders – in other words, replacement old guys because they couldn’t afford Marlon Brando to play Jor-El again. They warn him in no uncertain terms that he could 1) fly to another planet where there is no war and 2) if he interferes, he would be teaching the humans to be betrayed.
Lois comes over to Clark’s place because he’s forgotten some sort of engagement they were supposed to go to. Clark says he’d rather not go. To ease her friend’s troubles, Lois asks if there is anything she can do. Clark asks if they could go out for a breath of fresh air. Through all of this, I’m most distracted by Clark’s sports pennants randomly placed in the room. He’s a fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1987, that would have been terrible. Clark Kent likes loser teams. What a dummy!
So he walks with Lois off the edge of his balcony and decides to take her for a flight as Superman. This has fucking nothing at all to do with the plot. It’s just because it existed in the first movie and the second movie had them actually fuck in an ice bed in the Fortress of Solitude. Golan and Globus really understand Superman, didn’t they?
We are one-third of the way through this movie and I’ve not seen Superman quest once for peace. Come on, assholes. Let’s force your will upon the world by ridding them of anything that might defend them against you.
You know all those times that Superman kissed away Lois Lane’s memory of who he is? She says she remembers everything – from him and Clark Kent being the same person to his real name being Kal-El. Well, that’s new. He kisses her again and I guess this time it worked a little better because she’s now a drooling idiot who can no longer form words or use a fork. Nah, just kidding. I guess she forgets until she is reminded?
Later, Superman shows up at the United Nations and declares to the world that they will bow down before him and he’s going to take their fuckin’ missiles from them and rid the world of all nuclear weapons. The world applauds this without a single person raising their hand and asking him some questions about his plans.
This does not stop anyone from firing off their weapons which Superman catches and places in a giant space net to toss the weapons into the sun. Were they supposed to do that? Or were they all like, “Fuck that asshole in those gay ass blue tights – fire all the weapons!” and then he was all like “Ha ha, all you guys with your dumb weapons!”
Seriously, what was the plan? I mean I guess he couldn’t just barge into Pakistan and demand their missiles, though it seemed as though the U.N. was cool with that when they applauded him ridding the world of the weapons.
Meanwhile, Lex meets with nuclear missile experts to give him their plan about removing Superman from the equation. He plans to give Superman radiation poisoning from the sun. You know – the thing that powers all his Superman-ness. Lex and one of the terrorists he met with, places this genetic goo Lex made from the DNA in Superman’s strand of hair and attaches it to a nuclear missile which causes it to be caught by Superman and tossed into the sun creating…
Nuclear Man goes to Earth and meets Lex. There’s some real weird shit here. So, at first, it seems like they play some sort of angle like a Frankenstein type of parallel. But then Nuclear Man turns the tables and says he’s the “father” and has Lex’s voice. It’s fucking weird. But we find out that Nuclear Man is literally solar-powered. When he’s not in direct line of sunlight, Nuclear Man powers down and becomes, for a lack of a better term, inert.
Meanwhile, Lacy and Lois have a double date with Clark and Superman. Why does Clark do this? Why does he agree to this goofy switcheroo of identities when one or the other could simply decline and offer another situation to have the date or the interview that Lois is planning with Superman. Plus, here’s a nitpick I suppose… Superman can hear and pretty much see everything everywhere. He’s willing to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but he doesn’t think to check in on Lex Luthor? You think he’d listen for him and perhaps learn more about Nuclear Man? This movie is wasting our time by having this crap scene.
At least yet another call back to the first film of the series ends this stupidity by having Lex tune in on a frequency only Superman can hear. He tricks Superman to bring him to his home where he unleashes Nuclear Man onto him. Superman instantly figures out that Lex hid a device on one of the missiles he hurled into the sun. He figured that out because the script told him that’s how Lex accomplished the creation of Nuclear Man.
They end up fighting all over the world. They fly into space. Nuclear Man blows up whole chunks of the Great Wall of China which Superman puts back together by way of laser eyes… Yeah, sure. They fly back into space where Nuclear Man freezes Superman in a big piece of crystal…? Okay, sure.
While Superman tries to break free from that, Nuclear Man returns to Earth and causes a volcano to erupt. Superman comes back in time to cut the top off a mountain and use it to plug the volcano. Okay, that one I buy. That’s real science at work there.
Next, Nuclear Man picks up the Statue of Liberty and plans to hurl it into the streets of whatever city this is in the Superman universe because I’m not sure this is New York. Really, I think in the Superman movies, all the landmarks in New York are in Metropolis. Frankly, I doubt anyone cared enough to say for sure what’s up. When Superman flies Lady Liberty back to her place, Nuclear Man scratches him with those nice nails which weakens Superman. When Nuclear Man punts Superman across town, his cape lands on the Statue of Liberty leading to a particularly provocative front page picture of his cape draped over a part of the statue. I actually applaud that. That’s the one thing I remember from this movie.
Lois goes to see Clark who has been missing from work for several days. Clark appears very weak and sickly. Lois asks him to pass along a message to Superman saying how much she loves him. Now, here’s the thing about this moment. It’s a nice sentiment for Lois to ask Clark to pass those things along and there might be a bit of recognition that Lois knows she’s telling Superman those things directly, but it’s so dumb. I have no doubt in my mind that Golan and Globus had no real intent in this being a subtle scene between Lois and the man she loves who is in a disguise she already sees through. Oh no. These guys are the type who would kill a fly with a machine gun. Literally – they would have Chuck Norris kill a fly with at least one giant machine gun and a whole bunch of bullets. These are guys who probably don’t see anything that Superman stands for besides strength. To put it in even another way: If Lois Lane was the most popular girl in the world of Superman, and Superman was the most manly of all the people in the world of Superman, naturally they would go to the dance together and win the titles of King and Queen. They would share their dance together while Clark Kent gets pants and Lacy Warfield gets pig vomit dumped onto her nice, fancy dress.
That is 150% what I think Golan and Globus thought was going on in this world.
While Clark uses his Kryptonian energy module to regain his strength, Nuclear Man sees a picture of Lacy and decides to nab her. Superman initially bars his access to the Daily Planet, but Nuclear Man threatens, then goes through with blowing stuff up, to hurt people. Superman does nothing to stop this other than to say, “Don’t do it… The PEOPLE!” He kinda blows some freeze breath onto some of the fires that Nuclear Man started. Eventually, Superman tricks Nuclear Man into going into an elevator where he’d power down without direct contact to sunlight. Superman takes the elevator to the moon and just leaves it there thinking everything is cool, but when the sun rises, the light slips through the door of the elevator and powers Nuclear Man back up. The two of them duke it out on the moon. When Superman gets beat into the ground, Nuclear Man returns to Earth and kidnaps Lacy. What does he do with her?
Oh only something utterly fucking impossible. He takes her to space. Also, totally fucking no good for humans, Superman moves the moon in front of the sun to power down Nuclear Man. But Lacy is so far into space that when she looks back at the Earth, it is about as big as Alderaan looked from the Death Star when it got blown up. That means she is really far away from Earth and should be super gonzo deadsville.
But the money is almost all gone, so Superman needs to save Lacy, fly back out into space, get Nuclear Man, and drop him into a nuclear reactor that powers all of the Earth forever ever. Superman then speaks to the people about how peace will only be achieved when the people of the Earth want it so bad that their leaders have to give it to them.
That’s a much better way to deal with all this instead of, you know… Ridding the planet of all the weapons again like he did before.
At the Daily Planet, Donald Trump is defeated when Bernie Sanders was able to talk enough of the right people from the big banks to put him over the top and take over the paper restoring all that is good in the world.
Er… I mean… ahem. Oh fuck it, you know what I mean.
It’s hard to believe that this silenced the Superman franchise for nearly 20 years. Nah, I’m kidding. There was no possible way for this to end without a complete and utter shutdown of all possible Superman movies going forward. There wasn’t anything that could have been worse for the character at this point. There was no idea that came to fruition that could have been worse than this.
That isn’t saying there wasn’t an honest attempt to do something worse:
And if we came into the movie with a giant middle finger on the screen, at least this film remained consistent by flying a second middle finger as people left the theater:
Everyone on set knew this thing was a turkey while it was in production. When interviewed about the film, actors didn’t place too much confidence whatsoever in it. This was a series that was already on its last legs after Superman III and when Cannon came along, I think it’s pretty safe to say this movie being lost in a sea of 30 other developed projects being churned out by Cannon in 1987 proved that they weren’t going to give the movie the care and attention it needed. All they were going to do was keep cutting whatever corners they could to save money for other projects.
That wraps up this week’s B-Movie Enema. Next week, I’ll be covering a movie from 2007, but also a sexy thriller type movie too. It’ll be a bit of a departure for me, but it’s never bad to try some new things. Bahahahahaha… I’m kidding. I love watching sexy thriller movies, but don’t worry, there’s no way I won’t be back in the Cannon Films saddle again for another soon-to-be-30 movie.
But before I can do any of that, I have to pay a visit to Lindsay Lohan next week, and help her find the person who killed her.