Review for Superman III
It’s the eighties, the age of the computer, and the right man with the right know-how can rule the world. That man turns out to be unassuming Gus Gorman, who’s compelled to get a job when his welfare cheques are stopped. A training course reveals an unexpected genius for computers, and his first inclination is to defraud his new employers. Unfortunately his boss, Ross Webster is a megalomaniac with unlimited greed, and he decides to blackmail Gus into making him even richer. But standing in his way to global domination is the Man of Steel.
The film gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. Hold onto your hats for the audio options. DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Polish, Thai, and Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono Spanish. There are subtitles in these languages, plus Chinese, Korean, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Icelandic, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish, and Turkish. The English surround is a very front-focussed, stereo sounding surround track, with just a bit of ambience making its way to the rears. In this respect it reflects the original theatrical experience. John Williams’ iconic music is still there, but this time Giorgio Moroder composes the new music for the film, and it blends in well. The image quality is impressive, clear and colourful, rich with detail and very much an improvement over the first two films. The effects and production value is a sign that this was a big budget production on a par with the first films and you can still believe that a man can fly.
The synopsis above is an indication of the problems that many fans had with Superman III, that it was more a Richard Pryor vehicle than a Superman movie, and that is a position I really can’t argue with. But when I was a kid, this was my favourite Superman movie, and probably for that very reason. Richard Pryor is easily the best thing about the whole film. It is still a guilty pleasure of mine, one that I was looking forward to revisiting on Blu-ray, seeing in widescreen for the first time. Alas, this disc turned out to be a disappointment, although not for the reasons you might be expecting. The film is still much the same, the humour is still there, and I still love the characters, and there is enough nostalgia for the eight-bit era of videogames that reminds me of why I loved this movie in the first place. It’s just that the Superman III Blu-ray isn’t the movie that I watched as a kid, isn’t the VHS I wore down almost to non-existence.
I watched, and taped the Superman III premiere on ITV way back in the eighties, and ITV then showed a TV version that is markedly longer than the theatrical version. If you look at the deleted scenes on this disc, all of those extensions were in the TV version, and more, including an operating theatre sequence during the blackout, and a punch line following Brad’s eviction at the end of the film; neither of which are on this disc in any form. That TV Version also had the traditional opening credits before starting the film; the theatrical version just plays the credits silently over the first scene, distorting the image and distracting from the slapstick humour. The TV version adds a couple of beats of character development, fixes a couple of continuity flubs, but mostly adds to the comedy, which you’d think makes sense in a Richard Pryor vehicle.
The Superman arc might not be as prominent in this third film, but it still works well, but of more interest is the Clark Kent arc, no longer as much of a clumsy dork, and with a more interesting and realistic relationship with Lana Lang. It could have been a weird love triangle had the character returned, Lois and Superman, Lana and Clark. Of course Superman III has the most iconic, and best remembered Superman scene in all of the films to date, the dark-Superman vs. Light-Clark fight in the scrap yard.
But for me it’s the comedy that really sells the film, made evident in the opening scene that belongs more in a Pink Panther movie than a Superman movie. Gus Gorman is a wonderful character, a protagonist whose inability to resist temptation leads him onto the wrong side. And forgive me, but Ross Webster’s greedy businessman is so much more appealing a villain than Lex Luthor. Luthor’s plans were utterly stupid, whereas you can imagine Webster’s schemes as at least rooted in the real world, while Gus Gorman’s initial half-cent scheme is an actual crime, so-called ‘salami-slicing’.
Superman III isn’t the best Superman movie, but it is my favourite of the franchise, a delightful guilty pleasure, and the one that I’d want to watch most. I won’t be watching this Blu-ray though. Back before I ditched VHS, I managed to back up that TV recording to DVD-R, and I’ll be spinning that, low resolution and pan and scan version before I watch this Blu-ray; the extended version is just the funnier film.