When I look at the poster for Superman III, I see a different tale from what was intended. I see Christopher Reeve – stoic, all-powerful – straining to curl his lips, feigning behind the heavy burden of towing co-star Richard Pryor; a far cry from his trademark grin that ended parts I and II.
Superman III takes a perfectly prepared gourmet meal and tosses in some new extra ingredients that ruins the taste. After establishing a mythology, Part III tosses in a comic performer -- Richard Pryor -- and an disconnected theme – computers. With Richard Lester fully in charge, Superman III attempts to imbue more comedy, less scale. It also commits a fatal error by trying to reflect modern times, which dates the film in ways that the previous films avoided.
We see the film’s weak hand in the first five minutes. Rather than propelling us through the splendor and awe of the cosmos, a pre-credit sequence subjects us to a waiting line at an unemployment office. (Maybe Part IV should begin at the DMV.) An unemployed Gus Gorman (Pryor) glimpses a matchbook ad, immediately takes a computer job and slowly attains a skill level that dwarfs any M.I.T. grad. When billionaire tycoon, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) catches him embezzling company funds, he seduces Gus into becoming his technological patsy. When Superman interferes, Webster gets Gus to replicate Kryptonite. However, a missing element thwarts their plan to kill Superman – but, instead, turns the Man of Steel evil.
Superman III’s best contribution is Superman’s evil turn. Yet, the film – keeping within the restrictions of its family demographic – doesn’t explore this twist far enough. Instead, evil Superman is regulated to a feeble prankster, puffing out Olympic torches and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Reeve’s evil twist is about as menacing as Tobey Maguire’s evil Spiderman, where one performance tricks -- the other dances. Also, there is some bizarre conflicts in Superman lore, such as when evil Superman takes to the bottle in a Metropolis bar and becomes inebriated. Since Superman is capable of being drunk, does that make Superman susceptible to poison also?
|"Bill, glance over to your right. Did I have too much Captain Morgan's or is that Superman gulping down Jim Bean?"|