Review for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
The world is on the brink of a new arms race, following the breakdown of negotiations between the superpowers, and concern spreads. It’s the plaintive letter from a schoolboy that gets Superman thinking about whether he should use his powers to interfere in the affairs of mankind to such a degree as to rid the world of nuclear weapons. But Lex Luthor has escaped from prison, and the criminal genius mastermind has a new plan to defeat Superman; he’s going to create a clone. All he needs is the power of the sun, and Nuclear Man will be born.
You get a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English, DD 2.0 French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, Thai, and DD 1.0 Spanish and Portuguese with subtitles in many, many languages. This is the best looking of the Christopher Reeve movies, in terms of transfer if not content, with a clear, sharp, and stable print, with no signs of damage or compression, but with excellent detail and colour. The audio does what it needs to, but on occasion the dialogue can sound a little muffled.
Should a ‘god’ interfere in the affairs of mortals at the behest of his worshippers? There’s a great Season 3 Futurama episode called Goodfellas that explores this question, where a microscopic civilisation colonises Bender as he drifts aimlessly through space. It’s well worth a watch. Whatever you do, don’t watch Superman IV, as while it asks this question, it only presents an unpolished turd as an answer. I first saw this film when I was a child and it premiered on TV. I didn’t watch it again until the 7th of July 2019, when I decided that I ought to review it as part of this anthology. I will never watch it again as long as I live. But don’t say I didn’t learn anything. Mac McDonald who played Captain Hollister in Red Dwarf has a bit part in this movie.
I recall my initial disappointment with this film was for another reason though. As so often happened back when I was a child, my local library got the novelisation of a movie long before it got to television, and I had read the story of Superman IV before I watched it. When I finally did, I found that half the movie was missing, and what was left was really poor. I’ve now seen most of that lost footage in the deleted scenes, and it’s no improvement. The story of what happened with Superman IV is legend now, the rights to make the movie passed from the Salkinds to Cannon and Golan Globus, a small-time movie company that wanted to play in the big leagues, but who by the time Superman IV moved into production, were in such dire straits that they slashed the budget by half.
All that’s left is an opening scene on the barely disguised London Underground, Milton Keynes standing in for Metropolis, visual effects that are laughably bad, and a disjointed story that has whopping great obvious holes in it, and barely makes any sense. But let’s say the budget had been there, the effects given the full effort, the movie actually completed, Superman IV is still a waste of celluloid. The script is absolutely dire. There is no satisfactory resolution to the question that is posed. This is a Man of Steel who pauses to give public service announcements after every rescue. The foes are laughably inept. The dialogue is dreadful. This is a Superman who reveals his secret to Lois, just so he can unburden himself and feel better about himself, and then erases her memory afterwards. This Superman is a dick! Lois will probably end up with a brain tumour. This film’s comedy is so low rent that it makes the Lester movies feel like high drama in comparison.
So Superman IV quite rightly killed the franchise. People were tired of the character, and the increasingly comic tone had diluted what the franchise was all about. People didn’t want optimistic naiveté any more. They wanted something darker, more stylised, and two years later, Tim Burton would deliver that and then some in his vision of Batman. But Superman IV... You won’t believe a man can fly.