Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) – Directed by Sidney J. Furie – Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway, and Jim Broadbent.
Watching SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE is like watching a once proud athlete sticking around just because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself.
It’s probably not fair to lay the blame for the film’s failures on the actors because Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, and Margot Kidder are all still game, but this is a wretched script that looks like it was made on a budget at half of what it should have been. There’s no skill here and the whole film is just sort of a pathetic mess and an unfortunate end to a franchise that has dropped in quality with each passing film.
About halfway through this sinkhole we hit the lowest point in the franchise, when Clark and Superman go on a “double date” with Lois and Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway). Warfield’s dad bought the Daily Planet, so she gets to stick around for much of the film to flirt with Clark. This whole date nonsense was put in motion when a kid writes a letter to Superman asking him to take care of all the nuclear weapons. After agonizing about it, Supes walks into the United Nations, states, “I’m going to rid our planet of all nuclear weapons” and everyone gives him a standing ovation.
Yup, Superman basically says, “I’m in charge now” and everyone goes, “Hooray!”
After he’s taken away everyone’s weapons of mass destruction, Lacy’s dad gives Lois a set of questions to ask Superman. Somehow, Superman and Lois agree to do this interview at Lacy’s fancy apartment, and Lacy decides to turn it into a double date.
Yes, that really happens. We don’t hear from Lois and Supes on this double date-slash-interview because everyone involved with making this turkey probably realized that it’s a really stupid idea. We have to sit through this unholy abomination of having Clark and Supes run around switching identities to keep the women guessing and it’s beyond dumb.
Lex Luthor gets busted out of prison detail by his nephew Lenny Luthor (Jon Cryer), and he concocts this plan to steal a strand of Superman’s hair in order to make a new super villain called Nuclear Man, which proves that Lex just might be, as he likes to say, the greatest criminal mind of our time, but he’s too cheap to hire someone to come up with a decent name. So this Nuclear Man fellow (Mark Pillow’s body, Hackman’s voice) shows up and scratches Superman and makes him so sick that he has to heal himself with yet another “last piece” of Kryptopn.
Really. I’m not making that up. Nuclear Man defeats Superman by scratching him.
Then – and this might just be my favorite thing that has ever happened on film that doesn’t involve Kate Beckinsale in a catsuit – Superman defeats Nuclear Man by shutting him inside an elevator.
Not a special elevator laced with kryptonite or asbestos or magic pixie dust, but a regular elevator. Why does this happen? Because Nuclear Man draws his power from the sun, and his body has all the energy storage capability of a twenty year old laptop without a battery. Seriously, the dude steps into the shade and shuts off faster than you pulling the plug on your toaster.
With Nuclear Man defeated by placing him inside an elevator, Superman then decides the best place for ol’ Nukes is … the moon! Because the moon doesn’t get any sun! So Nuclear Man beats the crap out of Superman on the moon (with most of it done in slow motion, I’m guessing so they could stretch the action scene out), and this fight ends with Nuclear Man pounding Superman into the ground like a nail being hammered into a piece of wood.
Nuclear Man goes after Lacy and takes her to space to make moon babies or something, and then Superman digs himself out of the ground, fixes the American flag that Nukes had knocked over, and then takes the bad guy out for good by dropping him into the core of a nuclear power plant so he can energize the city. There’s a big happy ending as Perry buys back enough of the Planet‘s shares to be put back in charge and Lacy … um … disappears … and Superman tells the world he was wrong to play Supercop and just wishes that Golan Globus had given them all a bit more money to make the movie so the special effects didn’t look like they were made by high school kids in 1926.
The only spark of life in this whole film comes when Hackman and Reeve are on screen together, and some of the old magic comes back. They’re too good at their craft to not try throughout the film, but I could feel some actual energy when they were together. While that’s great, the effect is just to make me realize the rest of the movie play even worse.
When I dropped Superman IV into the Blu-ray player this afternoon, I’d hoped to be able to find something worthwhile. I wasn’t expecting something magical, but I was hoping that after all these years there’d be something here to recommend it. The first two movies (the original and The Donner Cut) offered up mythic Americana in a nostalgic way. I was hoping, if nothing else, that SUPERMAN IV would be able to tap into a sense of nostalgia for Donner’s films, but it doesn’t. Other than that five or ten minutes when Hackman and Reeve are acting together, SUPERMAN IV is hanging out at the bottom of the barrel of superhero movies. It’s nothing more than a bad action movie.