Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Superman: The End?

The ejaculation of Superman
Hang about. Superman doesn't need oxygen again? He can speak Russian? He's got another glowy crystal space dildo?  Superman can make things invisible just by squatting near them?  Has Superman's outfit faded in the wash?  These are just a few of the many, many questions raised by Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.  The biggest question of all is just who thought this would be a good idea.  Donner wouldn't go near it and Lester wouldn't touch it with a bargepole either.  The previous films had been huge affairs, lavish almost but here is the Poundland version.  The unmistakable concrete of Milton Keynes dominates as New York's Metropolis becomes a memory.  The Salkinds had sold the rights to the franchise, presumably in a moment of prescience, and despite a halving of budget Cannon Films still put the film into production.  Perhaps it was assumed that the sheer earnestness of the storyline would drag them through.  Cannon obviously weren't content with releasing Masters of the Universe in 1987 so along came another outing for Superman.

Despite the return of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor as well as Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder everything is just a bit flat.  Reeve didn't really want to come back and was effectively lured in with promises of stroy input, a Street Smart shaped carrot and maybe, just maybe a directorial pop at Superman V.

Reeve wanted the story to be more serious; more faithful to Superman lore and a step away from the good time slapstick of Superman III.  Unfortunately, it seems Cannon Films' scattergun approach to production and corner cutting took greater precedence.  Solid gold nobility in the form of ending the Cold War and nuclear proliferation is the soup du jour.  Croutons take the form of tedious underdeveloped sub plots. The corporate takeover of The Daily Planet is uninteresting and Luthor's newly acquired nephew (who is most definitely not Matthew Broderick) is annoying.  Gone are the days of Puzo's grand vengeance story arc and Mankiewicz rewrites.  And then......then there's Nuclear Man.  Dolph Lundgren was away having a dust up with Frank Langella so the 'role' went to the unknown Mark Pillow.  Poor old Mark couldn't build a career on these fragile foundations.  A flimsy script, dodgy locations and cheap special effects are a plague on all their houses.  Oddly enough, no one seems remotely bothered that Lex Luthor's hair has grown back.  If I'd been Hackman and was playing a role for the THIRD time I think I'd have had a word.  Or a shave.

United Nations based peril
The last time I saw the United Nations on my tellybox Cary Grant found himself in a spot of bother, now Superman goes for his Polaris Missile Removal Scout badge.  ICBMs in their hundreds are rounded up and cast into space.  Yes, it all sounds vaguely familiar and Superman really should have worked out how The Phantom Zone broke two movies ago but on he goes.  These aren't the only feelings of deja vu suffered during Superman IV:The Quest For Peace.  Meanwhile we are asked to accept that Luthor has become a master genetic and nuclear scientist whilst behind bars.  Some pre-Jurassic Park genetic tomfoolery sees Luthor make his evil Superman clone and Nuclear Man is 'born.'  It's all a bit pointless, Superman first appeared in 1938 and so was nearly 50 at the time of production.  As proven by Batman there is a plethora of material to plunder for effective villains.  Couldn't we have had an attempt at Bizarro, Brainiac or even Mister Mxyzptlk?  No, instead we're left with the strangely animated Nuclear Man.  In two year's time Tim Burton will use animated techniques to help The Joker and Batman to much more successful ends.

Everything's just so flimsy,  it's hard to invest or arouse any real interest and you begin to get itchy feet around the 40 minute mark.  From 1978 to 1983 Superman was, literally, on top of the world.  Superman IV: The Quest For Peace was such a hammer blow to the hero's heart it's surprising that even 1999 was early enough for Warner Bros to bash the reboot button.  Especially if those Tim Burton and Superman Returns rumours were true.

This film's only redeeming feature is the double date sequence.  Superman and Lois versus Clark and the entirely forgettable Lacy Warfield.  Superman rekindles his slapstick tendencies but it's Reeve's charm that pulls it all together.  You can almost forgive him for another Rohypnol Kiss earlier in the film.  An epic lunar conclusion is sadly a wasted opportunity as is the Great Wall of China spat and I'm struggling to even wonder that much about all those deleted scenes.  Even The Liability Formerly Known As Jimmy Olsen is an afterthought.

For now, Superman's star has fallen.  There's a bigger shadow coming to take over the late 80s and 1990s.  The Dark Knight is coming back and he looks a lot like Beetlejuice.