|And now Pinky, we will take over the WORLD|
1983 was a bit of an odd year cinema wise. The battle of the Bonds rang out as Octopussy clashed with Never Say Never Again whilst George Lucas released his extended toy advert Return of the Jedi. Another of the 3s came in the form of Jaws 3-D; three doesn't seem like a lucky number. Much maligned by the public and critics on release Superman makes his return in the less than originally titled Superman III. Now, that title is slightly misleading. Whilst it is Superman III, it's less a superhero movie and more a vehicle for Richard Pryor. Pryor is cast as Gus Gorman a secondary character and then promptly takes over overshadowing Reeve's overdue top billing. Pryor was aided in this by director Richard Lester, the usurpation of Richard Donner now complete. After this, the now mainstreamed Pryor got himself a $40 million contract with Columbia and went on to Brewster's Millions and the like.
Whilst Superman and Superman II were effectively parts of the same film the Salkinds now have their man in charge to deliver the version of Superman that they always wanted. They've seemingly won the war with Donner but not without consequences. Gene Hackman refused to have any part of Superman III whilst Margot Kidder is marginalised and so we have a Superman devoid of his nemesis and love interest. Their replacements aren't entirely effective. Lex Luthor is replaced by the lightweight Ross Webster played by the efficient Robert Vaughn and Annette O'Toole steps in to be Lana Lang, an entirely unneeded Lois Lane mark II.
Casting isn't the only departure as Superman III has an overly slapstick feel and veers into camp territory from the outset. The space based opening credits of the first two films is replaced by a slapstick sketch. If it wasn't for the titles and the merest hint of the Man of Steel you wouldn't know it was a Superman film amongst all the sight gags and penguin based near misses. Pamela Stephenson meanders through the chaos and will be recycled as the Woman In The Red Dress for The Matrix.
|You look very familiar|
Superman III is a very confused film. So much seems to have been done on the hoof and this scattergun approach doesn't lend itself to a coherent story. Why should Kent's return to Smallville coincide with Gorman's need to use an untraceable computer? It shouldn't but it does. The return to Smallville also affords the opportunity for The Liability Formerly Known As Jimmy Olsen to find a rival. Little Ricky might be prepubescent but he makes Olsen look redundant. Yeah Ricky is a bit of a drip but he has more of an affect on Superman than Olsen and Lane have combined in the previous two films. This is all down to the best part of Superman III: Supes chemically induced internal conflict.
|Smoking kills. Subtle|
|Hey kids! Johnnie Walker is bad!|
There's still time left for a needless cameo from a future Eastender and a few extra pounds per square inch to put a smile on Lana Lang's face. Yeah, Superman III is muddled and overly comic but there are some lovely moments and it probably stands as my favourite of the Superman films even with the niggling unanswered question of why Lorelei plays dumb. Despite all this there's a feeling that the Man of Steel is running out of steam. He's got one outing left in the 80s and it's not one to look forward to.