Revisiting the Reviled — ‘Superman III’ Drives the Man of Steel and Viewers to the Bottle

superman-3-002

Nowadays it seems like each major studio can’t get out of their own way in trying to craft the latest and greatest in franchise filmmaking. Whether it’s Warner Bros. having trouble getting its DC Universe off the ground (yes, it’s finally happening now, but they’re very much behind the curve) or Fox’s problems with the Fantastic Four and other superhero properties or Sony’s failed attempt at an expanded Spider-Man universe, the intersection of art and commerce that is franchise filmmaking has its fair share of accidents and bloody wrecks.

But these problems aren’t anything new. The modern superhero film really got its start with Richard Donner’s Superman in 1978, an ambitious project that would have the first installment and the sequel filmed back-to-back. But things quickly went astray, and Donner was fired from Superman II before its completion, with Richard Lester taking over the reins of the sequel. But the behind the scenes turmoil didn’t affect the onscreen product, as both Superman and Superman II were box office hits that were well-received by critics and audiences alike. But the behind the scenes turmoil would finally reach a head and find its way on the screen, and that happened with Superman III, a sloppy and lazy sequel that is overflowing with complacency.

superman-3-004

In the comics, when a character has been around for 55 years (as Superman was in 1983), it’s easy for the character to be stuck in outlandish and repetitive plots. But movies don’t always have to descend into staleness in with the third installment, though it has happened before (*cough* Batman Forever). Superman III plays out like a comic story from a crew out of ideas. Having vanquished General Zod and Lex Luthor in the previous two films, Superman (Christopher Reeve) is set to battle another maniacal industrialist. Superman isn’t just forced to fight a Lex Luthor wannabe Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), he’s forced to contend with the dark side of his own personality, which plays out in an unintentionally hilarious fashion. The behind the scenes issues that plagued the first two films also deprives the film of Lois Lane, with Margot Kidder, who protested the firing of Donner, reduced to a few lines before a trip to Bermuda removes her entirely from the picture and replaced by Lana Lang (played by Annette O’Toole). (Obviously, Superman has a fetish for women with alliterative names.)

Most of all, Superman III plays out like a very bad comedic take on the character. The comedic elements of Superman have always been broad, as evidenced by Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty in the previous films, but here the comedy is so broad that anyone over the age of seven is likely to groan at the flailing attempts to earn laughs. The opening scene of Superman III presents a city of calamity, like a slight breeze may set off a series of pratfalls that will leave 40 people dead if not for the well-intentioned meddling of Superman. Or perhaps the denizens of Metropolis have become complacent and their personal safety takes a back seat because they know that when things eventually go wrong Superman will swoop in and save them.

The comedic failings of Superman III are really evident by the casting of Richard Pryor as Gus Gorman, an unemployed schlub who backs into a career of super-villainy through computer programming. Pryor, the greatest stand-up comedian ever, tries to elevate the content of the material bestowed upon him, but the great comedian can’t make toothless gags works. Donning a military uniform and delivering a Patton-esque speech or passionately recounting the heroism of Superman fail to work at all. As Pryor confessed, this was a gig taken for the large paycheck. It would be crazy to expect elements from a Richard Pryor stand-up routine to find its way into a PG-rated superhero film, but there is room for a sharp edge of social commentary in Pryor’s Gorman as a man who’s constantly taken advantage of. All Gorman does is bumble about in different aspects of villainy before growing a conscious and taking Superman’s side – not exactly a strong character arc.

superman-3-005

One area where Superman III does find ample comedy, albeit unintentionally, is when Superman is presented a chunk of synthetic kryptonite. While the substance doesn’t kill him, Superman slowly morphs into an arrogant prick, one only slightly less callous than Zack Snyder‘s interpretation. He destroys an oil tanker, causing an ecological disaster; he also gets incredibly petty, blowing out the Olympic torch because he can; and he straightens out the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Everything about the character is darker, his attitude, his costume, and even his skin are all a shade darker. Superman’s bad behavior culminates in the Man of Steel sitting on a barstool, a bottle of booze in front of him. He pours himself shot after shot before causing all sorts of damage by flicking peanuts at the bottles behind the bar. This descent into darkness is just a minor vignette that concludes with the two sides of Superman fighting each other until, of course, the good one wins. There’s no real character struggle at play, just a bit of nonsense to pad out the running time.

That’s the dire problem with Superman III – there’s no real storyline that propels everything throughout, just a series of loosely connected vignettes. (Sounds familiar.) No single actor is the comedic relief, they’re all the comedic relief. Every actor is playing it up to 11 hoping to earn just one little chuckle, but it quickly becomes tiresome. Even with the dismal Superman III and the woefully incompetent Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Christopher Reeve is still the best actor to don the tights and cape. (Henry Cavil finds no new charms in the dismal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.) Superman III is the movie for those who always wanted to see the icon of American heroism attend a high school reunion and do the twist to some hackneyed Chuck Berry cover. This is a superhero movie that has more pratfalls than action, more failed attempts at laughs than moments of heroism. Hey, at least we finally get so Superman get drunk. Now that I’m done with Superman III, I just might need to join him for a stiff drink.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Tiger Hunter
Now on Blu-ray: ‘The Tiger Hunter’ Glides by with its Charming Heart

Always a hot-button issue, the topic of immigration has recently dominated...

'12 Strong' Press Conference
Chris Hemsworth and the Cast and Crew of ’12 Strong’ Discuss Bringing the Declassified True Story to the Big Screen

In the days after 9/11, as the United States grieved the...

Matinee
Shout! Factory Unleashes Joe Dante’s Cult Classic ‘Matinee’ on Blu-ray

We’re at this point in pop culture where everything seems to...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Vr Change
Guest Author: Katie Green – How Might VR Change the Way We Play

Super Guest Author, Katie Green, shares how VR might change the...

Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light
A Big Wave is Coming – Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light Structure Deck Releases Friday

A big wave is coming in the form of light, Yu-Gi-Oh...

Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Cards
Ancient Treasures Uncovered – Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Art Cards

Beginning in February, ancient treasures will be revealed and fans will...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Die Hard Christmas
The Greatest Christmas Movie Becomes The Greatest Christmas Book – A Die Hard Christmas Review

The greatest Christmas movie ever made becomes the greatest Christmas storybook...

8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

9.5/10
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Starts the Year Off Right

In just two weeks time WWE’s Royal Rumble not only continues...

January’s Loot Crate is Here!

January is a month where resolutions are made, hopes are extended...

Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba
Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 Will Be Great For Your Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 will be great for your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator 192 Full Results including the Welterweight Championship and Heavyweight Grand Prix

January 20, 2018 – Tonight, airing for the first time on...

Bellator 192 Prelims Live on FanboyNation

Bellator: Lima vs. MacDonald – Live Tonight 9/8c, on Paramount Network...

LFA 30 Full Results

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), one of the most recognizable names in...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity #11 Star Wars Underworld: A XXX parody

ADULT CONTINUITY ISSUE # 11 STAR WARS UNDERWORLD A XXX PARODY...

New Year's Resolutions for Fandom
New Year’s Resolutions for Fandom

It’s the start of another year and while everyone out there...

Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...