Thursday, June 20, 2013

Not The Superman Review You Were Expecting!

As it turns out, I have a number of what I have to dub "unpopular opinions". Over the course of the summer I'll be sharing some of those with the readers of the Dojo.

The first concerns a movie which in my rather unpopular opinion deserves a better reception from comic book fans than it receives. I'm not arguing that Superman IV : The Quest for Peace is a movie that should have packed them into the theaters necessarily, it has some substantial weaknesses as a major film, but I do argue that comic book fans should by any definition love it. Here's why.

It's largely disappeared now with the glut of superhero movies we enjoy today, but once upon a time each time a studio or producer brought a beloved superhero project to the small screen or the big screen comic book fans would launch into laments left and right about what was not especially accurate about the presentation. Personally it's always been fine with me when things get changed for the films, but some fans don't feel that way, or seemed not to. 

What I suggest is that Superman IV is the perfect movie for the comic book purist. We have our hero Superman battling his arch-enemy Lex Luthor and Luthor's surrogate creation Nuclear Man. Until very recently I cannot remember any film which put on the screen a more accurate rendering of an actual comic book story. This tale is just like what had been appearing in many of DC's Superman comics only a few years before.

Here was the Man of Steel actually fighting a colorful costumed super-villain who could stand toe to toe with him. They battled in classic comic book fashion throughout the movie. It's one of the purest translations of comics to film I've ever seen, for all the weaknesses and inherent silliness that suggests. But it's the kind of thing comic book fans had been screaming about for years, and sadly when they got it, it was dismissed.

Superman IV failed at the box office for a host of reasons. But one of those reasons comic book fans cannot point to is that the movie is not "comic booky" enough. It is, in spades!

Careful what you wish for. 

Rip Off


  1. I have always said that _Superman IV_ was a failed but noble effort. It tried to take things from each of the previous films (the romantic flight between Lois & Superman in the first, the "evil" Superman change from the third, and, chiefly, the super-powered battle from the second), but its budget--and the high expectations saddled on it--worked against it.

    1. The key to enjoying Superman IV is to think of it as a B-movie and not an A-movie which I think clearly the first three were meant to be. Freed of those high-tone expectations it cannot be savored as a jaunty entertainment, with some vigorous moments.

      Rip Off

  2. I remember seeing Superman IV on opening day and being shocked at how low budget they'd gone with it, but also thinking pretty much exactly what you say here. When Superman literally gathers all the nuclear missiles in one giant net and hurls them into the sun, that's a moment straight out of a Silver Age story, perhaps written by Hamilton or Binder. Even the central question of how would Superman solve a pressing social problem (i.e., the nuclear arms race) is straight out of that era. For once you got the impression that the writers had actually looked at some old Superman comics and said "How can we do this on screen?" The answer is with a hell of a lot more money than you're going to have...

  3. The director had $60M taken from his budget and yet still delivered - Sidney Furie was always going to give folks the best bang for the buck (as in The Ipcress File) - I wonder what we would have seen had he not be robbed.


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