Superman is back, Jack! This time he’s looking to eliminate all nuclear weapons, but finds Lex Luthor standing in his way. Can he stop him before it’s too late? Find out in… Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
How?! Superman is back and feeling real down about the state of world affairs. Everyone is super stressed about the threat of nuclear war and he figures that if anyone can be expected to bring it to an end it should be him (talk about a boring plot). In the meantime Lex Luthor escapes prison and comes up with a devious plan to create a Nuclear supervillian by stowing some super DNA on one of the nuclear weapons Superman is throwing into the sun. This ridiculous plan works (of course) and Nuclear Man is born. When Superman attempts to do battle with this new foe he ends up being poisoned by his intense radiation and has to use his last Kryptonian energy module to heal himself. Once recovered he battles Nuclear Man in space and again looks like a total dope when Nuclear Man easily pummels him into the surface of the moon. Fortunately he frees himself, pushes the moon into a solar eclipse (draining Nuclear Man of his sweet, sweet sun power), and destroys him. This synopsis of course ignores the major and mostly inconsequential plot line where the Daily Planet is bought by a Rupert Murdoch-like tabloid newspaper mogul and his daughter falls in love with Clark… cause that was even more boring than the nuclear weapons plot.
Why?! Most superhero films (and every other film in the Superman series) has the superhero take on a supervillian hell bent on world domination or gaining extreme wealth. It’s very reactionary: bad guy shows up, Superman stops him. This film on the other hand has Superman with an explicit motivation: he wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Because he chooses to use his power to influence humanity’s course he leaves himself open to have this plan exploited and of course Lex Luthor (still just wanting world domination and excessive riches) does just that. Very different than the rest of the series.
What?! This didn’t have nearly as much product placement as the first three films in the series. I did like the prominent Pepsi cooler visible in the Daily Planet office and that Lenny was clearly a rad teenager as demonstrated by the NES he messed around with.
Who?! There is a true art to a Planchet and Superman IV delivered. A classic Planchet is a guy just trying to do good but is basically ridiculous and everyone constantly makes fun of him. Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor’s nephew Lenny fits that bill to a T. Look at this asshole! He’s ridiculous and Lex Luthor constantly reminds him of that fact. Perfect Planchet.
Where?! This entry in the series is almost entirely set in Metropolis. As mentioned in the Superman III recap it’s amazing that in all my years of bad movie settings research I never stumbled across the fact that in the DC canon Metropolis is located in none other than our arch nemesis Delaware. This would be amazing and earth shattering if it were ever explicitly mentioned in the film. As it is it’s just a D-.
When?! Didn’t get so lucky on the temporal setting for this one. Nary a close-up of a newspaper or check to be found (although it seemed like they got mighty close a couple of times). F.
Creepy Superman saved Superman III from being a boring mess. Nothing was around to do the same for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. But let’s throw it to Patrick for his thoughts. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Superman IV: The Quest for Peace? More like Super Lame Bore: Puts Me to Sleep! Hey, that wasn’t bad, and is actually very apropos. What do you get when you cross a movie studio desperate for a hit with a writer-star who seems like he might be a little light on the “writer” in that combo? You get a sequel that legit destroyed a franchise for 20 years. Let’s get into it!
The Good (Sequel, Prequel, Remake) – I think there is a kernel of a good movie here, because the idea is okay. Beyond that the movie is a bore, none of the actors seem to have bothered to care about it, so let’s explore that a bit in a Remake! So the kernel is the idea of Superman as the good American boy. He gets a letter from a child saying innocently: “Hey Superman, why don’t you get rid of the nukes?” and he thinks to himself “Well, golly, why not? Let’s give it a shot”. In this though it would explore the futility of disarming the world in the face of those intent on defying him. He spends time deflecting nukes, capturing them, and running global diplomacy, he loses sight of the little guy as Metropolis slips into a crime wave. The ultimate result is him having to trust the President to take care of the geopolitical game while he fights against a ruthless Metropolis crime lord. The result is the world staring into the face of nuclear disaster without Superman willing to get in the way, and the resulting peaceful disarming. More serious tone, but again, an idea of Superman finding his place among humanity: he isn’t a global peacekeeper or a policeman, he’s just there to protect the little guy from danger (big and small). And when humanity realizes that, they change a bit to take the load off of Superman so that he can continue to help the little guy as much as possible. But … less boring and cheesy than I’ve managed to make it sound.
The Bad (Sklognaology) – It is boring (aggressively so). Hackman does not give a shit, and Lex seems a bit out of place as a weird gun runner in this film. He gains a Planchet sidekick who is … terrible and absurd is the only way to describe him. He’s like a mall rat or something, it is weird. And Nuclear Man might be the worst thing I’ve ever seen as a bad guy. I had to think long and hard about this one and I think the analogy might be Fast & Furious (that’s the fourth one for those playing at home). Just blah. Overwrought, hitting some of the same old notes, but also really terrible if you take the time to think about it. Decent analogy I think.
BMT: Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com – This will get mentioned on occasion for having an amazing Planchet for sure. As far as fourth installments and franchise killers as well. Decent legs, but in the face of Creepy Superman it really will mainly be mentioned as the one after Creepy Superman. And as with Superman III this mostly gets mentioned as a bad superhero film as opposed to a terrible film in general. It gets a cover photo for the top 10 worst superhero sequels. But beyond Razzie nods there is very little else to mention for street credit.
Because Superman III was a bonus and I had already seen Superman and Superman II (multiple times) over the years, there isn’t much I can say concerning the homework in this film. So I’ll leave it there.