March 24, 2016
Review #786: Superman III.
Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Richard Pryor (Gus Gorman), Robert Vaughn (Ross Webster), Annette O'Toole (Lana Lang), Annie Ross (Vera Webster), Pamela Stephenson (Lorelei Ambrosia), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Marc McClure as (Jimmy Olsen), and Gavan O'Herlihy (Brad Wilson) Directed by Richard Lester (#541 - A Hard Day's Night, #594 - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and #785 - Superman II)
There is nothing wrong with a bit of humor and/or slapstick. Some comic book movies even excel at moments of lightness in otherwise good films. Superman III is not one of those movies. It's a sad, desperate attempt of trying so hard to be both that it manages to fail at every turn. It's hard to tell when the first cracks appear, but it could be argued that it's either when Richard Pryor first appears, or when the title sequence is shamelessly put on the bottom of the screen so we can all see some slapstick immediately after Pryor shows up. Afterwards, the movie goes up and down from there. Reeve is the best part of the movie, carrying the movie even when you know it's already past the point of no return. He even gets to play a Superman who (briefly) becomes weakened by synthetic kryptonite (just go with it) and becomes...a Superman who fixes the Tower of Pisa and even drinks some alcohol (while flicking peanuts at beer bottles). It's a ridiculous aspect of the movie, but it gives Reeve something to do amidst the Pryor parts that really take up nearly 45% of the film. There's even a scene where the two "Supermans" fight each other, which while being ridiculous (especially in how it ends), is actually pretty interesting to watch.
The new villain this time around is played by Robert Vaughn, but he doesn't really stick out too much, coming off as a Lex Luthor stand-in. O'Toole is the new leading lady (by that I mean for only this film), and while she is relatively decent, she isn't given much to do, as compared to Kidder...who is essentially put on a bus early on. And then of course there's Richard Pryor. He's not inherently terrible, and he is somewhat funny, but he doesn't really feel like he should be in a Superman film. For most of the movie he is on the side of the villain(s), but the second that Superman is in actual danger, he switches sides, and it comes off as a dull surprise. The only thing that surprised me is the computer "robotizing" one of the characters near the end, but of course it's not permanent, so whatever (by the way, how does a computer who is supposed to know Superman's weaknesses not realize how a certain acid gets volatile under intense heat? Actually, forget it, the movie still stinks). The movie's biggest flaw is that there really is no spectacle to any of it. You never really care about anything that goes on, and nothing sticks out in this movie that you truly remember as a good thing. The main idea behind the movie isn't terrible, but the execution falls flat on its face.
Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.