Title: Superman III.
Director: Richard Lester.
Screenplay by: David Newman & Leslie Newman.
Release Date: 1983.
Runtime: 125 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, and many more!
Budget: $39,000,000 (estimated).
Opening Weekend (US & Canada): $13,352,357.
My Overall Rating:
Previously in Christopher Reeve’s Superman saga:
Superman Extended TV Cut (1978).
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006).
Sometimes you need a little vacation out of the city to really become one with who you are. For Clark Kent, it wasn’t an intergalactic trip but a voyage to Smallville that he found himself in past acquaintances but also repressed evil. Unfortunately, this little detour seems to unveil more about what he wants to strive to be than anything else. Okay, maybe it also unveiled director Richard Lester’s ludicrous vision and style for the Man of Steel. Both a sequel to Superman II (1980) and a stand-alone movie, the latest entry in Christopher Reeve’s Superman saga is a flop in every sense of the word, giving the world a Superman that no one asked for.
What is Superman III (1983) about? Unknowingly computer-programming knowledgeable Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) finds a job at Webscoe where he discovers loopholes in the new technological era and exploits them only for the CEO Ross Webster to find out and blackmail him into aiding in his evil international plans. Meanwhile, Clark Kent goes back to his roots in Smallville for a high school reunion and is mesmerized by his childhood friend Lana Lang as they both set off on a mundane human adventure revolving around her single mom life, her ex’s constant harassments, and her son’s lonely and bullied day-to-day. What follows is a messy journey that leads Superman to come into possession with a flawed kryptonite that turns him evil and eventually forces him to fight his secret identity Clark Kent.
What a disaster. Without Tom Mankiewicz or Richard Donner involved in this sequel, the screenplay fell into the hands of David and Leslie Newman who took the opportunity to deliver their campy and banal iteration of Superman. If the illegally long slapstick sequence at the beginning of the movie was not a forewarning of the mediocrity to come, I don’t know what is. Oh yes, I do. It would be Gus Gorman, played by Richard Pryor, appearance. Without any good reason, his secondary role seemed to take far more importance than anything else, shifting the spotlight off Superman and onto himself far too often, only for spectators to cringe at his unfunny comedy business. Unfortunately, this remains a common theme throughout the whole movie. A mélange of useless comedy goofs and banter that never work is seem from start to finish, mostly making you wonder how anyone thought it was a good idea to go down that road.
If that wasn’t enough, let the unstructured, jumbled, and cacophonic plot let you wither to your death. This time around, Superman does not face any of his usual top-tier villains or any form of cosmic threat. The directorial vision is his only enemy and he unfortunately won’t win this battle. The movie poorly infuses a ridiculous social commentary on conglomerates and globalization, mostly focusing on oil, coffee, and computers. The latter is also a larger thread in this narrative, constantly reminding viewers the complexity of the machine to the point of making a sentient computer the ultimate boss battle. Mix in all the human drama that Clark/Superman/Evil Superman go through in this movie, you’re never quite sure what message to take home in the end. However, watching Christopher Reeve in a darker suit and embracing an evil persona does give you one reason to dare watch this movie.
There isn’t much more than can be said about the score but suffice to say that even the classic Superman theme song wasn’t enough to detract my mind from building up a headache. With no intention to go beyond Earth’s stratosphere, it was also not surprising to see that Superman’s scenes weren’t very spectacular in any way whatsoever. In fact, one can argue that the green screen used throughout this movie was in abundance and were absolutely horrifying. If anything, it felt like they made a hundred step backwards in every way possible. I did find Annie Ross’ final moment (especially her transformation) oddly satisfying but I can’t say that the final product was worth my time though. If anything, this movie was a mistake. Christopher should’ve ended his time as Superman with Superman II. Unfortunately, there’s one more disaster before his legacy is completed.
Superman III (1983) is an unfunny adventure/mockery steering clear from its traditional comic book threats to send Superman down an uncharacteristic route where he’s forced to embrace his darker nature in a ridiculous plot riddled with silly gags and centered around computers, coffee, and oil.