Superhero Month: "Superman III" Review

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Superhero Month: "Superman III" Review

-- Rating: PG
Length: 125 minutes
Release Date: June 17, 1983
Directed by: Richard Lester
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy

Based on a popular DC Comics character, "Superman III" is the third film in the "Superman" series. Starring Christopher Reeve as Superman, the film also features Richard Pryor as August Gorman, Robert Vaughn as Ross Webster, and Annie Ross as Vera Webster, Ross's sister. Full of action, the film is primarily focused on Ross Webster's attempts to take over the world through his company and Superman's attempts to stop him. However, a number of subplots exist, including one that focuses on Superman's new love interest, that weave their way through the film as well.

While many fans find "Superman III" to be significantly different from the earlier two films in the series, many critics have complained that the third installment in this franchise rehashes too many scenes from the earlier two films. Also, there seems to be a fundamental difference in the film's genre when compared to the earlier films in the series. While the first two films seemed to be action flicks, this film appeared to be more of an action-filled comedy.

One of the major reasons why the film seems to be so comedic is the casting director's decision to put Richard Pryor into such a prominent role in the movie. Even Reeve has been quoted as saying that the film's director was too focused on creating funny scenes with Pryor. Although Pryor may make the film too funny for many fans, his portrayal of Gorman is quite well done.

Gorman's knowledge as a computer wizard lies at the heart of this film. Initially, Gorman tries to use his computer knowledge to embezzle money from his company, but when Webster, the company's CEO, discovers what Gorman is doing, he elicits his help in his world-takeover scheme. Whether the duo is tech savvy or not, most contemporary audience members will love looking at 1983 technology and hearing how the characters discuss it.

Webster is the central bad guy in this film; unfortunately, he is not an adequate replacement for Lex Luthor, played by Gene Hackman, who was the principal bad guy in the first two "Superman" films. This fact can be a drawback for fans who enjoyed Luthor in the first two films.

Unfortunately for Webster, Superman is there to thwart most of his evil plans. For instance, when Webster tries to ruin the world's coffee supply, Superman stops him. In order to create destruction in the coffee fields, Webster orders Gorman to create a tornado using a weather satellite, but Superman quickly foils his plans by physically stopping the tornado in its tracks. Scenes like these are exciting for some viewers. However, they seem almost comedic in nature, and to modern audiences, who are accustomed to contemporary special effects, these scenes may seem downright cheesy or even painful to watch.

Enraged at the aftermath of his plans, Webster knows that he needs to stop Superman somehow. He remembers from reading an interview written by Lois Lane in the Daily Planet that Superman's only weakness is Kryptonite, so he asks Gorman to make synthetic Kryptonite for him. Unfortunately, Gorman cannot get all of the ingredients, and he has to substitute tar into the final product. The result is something called Red Kryptonite, which has a strange effect on Superman.

Because the Kryptonite was not pure, it does not take effect immediately. Instead, it affects Superman's character slowly. As it takes effect, Superman starts to act badly. Most notably, he becomes so selfish that he forgets to be a superhero. In one scene, he delays rescuing a truck driver who needs him, and after a while, he even starts to suffer from lowered self-esteem. Eventually, Superman goes on a drinking binge, and he has a nervous breakdown before he essentially splits into two separate characters.

One of his personalities is an evil Superman, while the other personality is a moral Clark Kent, and each of these personalities is housed in a separate body. While he is living in two bodies, this hero gets the opportunity to engage in a number of other cheesy scenes. Scenes like the one where Superman has to defend himself from a missile in the Grand Canyon may be hilarious for contemporary audiences to watch. However, some audiences will still be able to appreciate the action that is implicit within these scenes.

One of the major drawbacks to this film is that Lois Lane, played by Margot Kidder, only appears briefly. However, some viewers may enjoy seeing Superman's new love interest Lana Lang, played by Annette O'Toole. She is an old girlfriend of Superman's character from the "Smallville" television series, and that part of the film when Superman returns to Smallville is fairly interesting. Overall, this film is not a must-see, but watching it may be a good way to spend an evening.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5