Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, as I ramble about one of the many movies I own. I've been working my way through the Superman franchise, and we get to the end of Christopher Reeve's run with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. This is in my notes at January 17, 2016.
And we've come to the end...to the film that ended franchise, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
After Superman III, the Salkinds decided to take the franchise in a new direction and gave us the Supergirl film. When Supergirl bombed, they figured the franchise had run its course. So, the Salkinds sold the movie rights to...Cannon Films. The Golan-Globus Group. Cannon Films has been re-discovered lately, and is being heralded for the wonderful, low-budget, borderline exploitative films they pumped out in the 1980s. They made Chuck Norris a star, thanks to the Delta Force and Missing in Action franchises. They gave the world the phrase "Electric Boogaloo" thanks to their breakdancing film franchise Breakin'. (Electric Boogaloo was the subtitle of the second one.)
So, as they were already infamous for being low-budget, The Quest for Peace offers up the weakest special effects and the lamest fight sequences in the franchise. Superman and his foe Nuclear Man just kind of roll around in the air as they fight. Christopher Reeve talked about it a bit, and gives a scene were Superman addresses the United Nations as an example. As Reeve points out, back during the first film, they would have shot in New York, in front of the real United Nations. But for The Quest for Peace, they filmed it in the UK industrial city of Milton Keynes, in front of a not-at-all-resembling-the-UN hotel.
It's also the shortest film in the Superman franchise. Jon Cryer (yup...the guy from Two and a Half Men, who plays Lex Luthor's teenage nephew and henchman Lenny Luthor) says that the film was plagued with the same problem as another Cannon epic that I love, the live-action Masters of the Universe: they ran out of money, and had to release the film incomplete.
With all that into account, I remember liking it well enough when I first saw it. This is the only Christopher Reeve Superman film I saw in the theatre. I was 10 years old. Summer vacation always included spending a week a hanging out with my grandparents in Red Deer, and my Oma would always take me, my brother and my sister to a movie. This, however, was the first movie my brother and I saw on our own...with no parental supervision. While Oma took my sister to one end of the cineplex to see whatever Disney animated film had just been re-released, my brother and I went to the other end to see Superman. *sigh* I miss the Famous Players theatre in Red Deer. That was a nice theatre.
Anyway. the plot: the latest nuclear arms treaty between the USA and the USSR falls apart, and it looks like the world is closer than it ever has been to World War III. A young boy named Jeremy writes a letter to Superman, imploring him to do something. After a lot of soul-searching, Superman decides to rid the world of nuclear weapons. However, with no more ICBMs, desperate superpowers turn to one man to re-arm then: Lex Luthor. To make sure Superman doesn't interfere, Luthor acquires a sample of Superman's DNA, and creates his own twisted, mutated clone of Superman, Nuclear Man. Meanwhile, as this was the "greed-is-good" 1980s, the Daily Planet is overtaken by David Warfield and his daughter Lacy, and seek to re-launch the Daily Planet as a sleazy tabloid. However, Lacy soon falls for Clark Kent and his idealism, and Clark convinces her that journalism should still be used as an instrument for truth and justice.
As bad as it is, there is some good stuff. Gene Hackman makes a welcome return as Lex Luthor. And there's a scene at the beginning with Clark Kent returning to the old homestead in Smallville, as Ma Kent has recently passed and he's looking to sell the old family farm. I love scenes like that, where Superman is in his Clark Kent duds, but not wearing the glasses, looking more like Superman in regular clothes. Makes me think that that's the truest form of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El.
But, yeah. It literally gets preachy as Superman realizes that, even though he's super, he is just one man, and he can't solve the world's problems, and addresses the UN again. It's not legendary cheeziness like Rocky's similar speech at the end of Rocky IV, but it's Superman, so you know he means well.
Yeah...Superman IV. Christopher Reeve's run definitely ended not with a bang, but a whimper. As many pointed out, in this film, Superman's final words to Lex Luthor, as he returns Luthor to prison, are "See you in 20," and it was damn near 20 years before Superman returned in, well, Superman Returns.