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Wealthy businessman Ross Webster (<a href=">Robert Vaughn)discovers the hidden talents of Gus Gorman (<a href=">Richard Pryor), a mischievous computer genius. Ross decides to abuse his talents, in a way to help Webster with his plans for economic control. When the man of steel interferes, something must be done about Supes. When Gus' synthetic Kryptonite fails to kill Superman, it turns him in an evil incarnation of his former self. The tar-laced Kryptonite pits man against himself, setting up the Clark vs. Superman battle.
In mortal enemies, the Man of Steel has no match. Even faced with a trio of sinister super-powered villains from his home planet, Superman saved the day. But can super-strength stand up to the diabolical circuitry of a criminally insane computer? Enter Gus Gorman (<a href=">Richard Pryor), a genial half-wit who just happens to be a natural-born genius at computer programming. In his hands, a computer keyboard turns into a deadly weapon . . . and soon, Superman faces the microelectronic menace of his career. Clark Kent meets his old flame Lana Lang (<a href=">Annette O'Toole) at a Smallville High School reunion and Superman turns into his own worst enemy after exposure to a chunk of red kryptonite.
Despite this being my first time going through the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, I am keenly aware of the general public attitude toward them. So, I knowingly lowered my expectations for this third entry in the series. Even with those lowered expectations, I still wasn't prepared for how insipidly stupid it would be. Yes, there was plenty of Superman action. Yes, the special effects were as good as ever. The acting was fine. But the story? Oh my god! Richard Lester was merely a hired gun on SUPERMAN II, due to Richard Donner being fired. Here he was in charge the whole time, and the sillier aspects of that film were given too much free reign here.<br/><br/>The plot this time around is certainly one of the weakest aspects of the whole film. In short, an evil corporation that has ambitions for economic domination taints Superman with synthetic kryptonite (laced with tobacco tar), and this splits him into evil Superman and good Clark Kent. All of the best parts of the first two films are either shoved to the side or left out entirely. This means hardly any Daily Planet, and Lex Luthor is nowhere to be found. The replacement just doesn't compare favorably, no matter how much I didn't like Lex Luthor's characterization before. That being said, Superman having an identity crisis was an intriguing idea, but the way it's executed is so hamfistedly literal that it kills whatever impact it could have had.<br/><br/>However, in the interest of not coming off like I absolutely hated the film, I will say that the technical aspects of the film were really good. All of the special effects were handled well, and the flying sequences were deftly handled, even if it's fairly apparent now how they were achieved (front projection). I also thought the cinematography was excellent, with a number of beautiful shots of landscapes and scenery. As previously stated, the acting was fine. In the TV special on the making of SUPERMAN II, Christpher Reeve talked about how he preferred playing Clark Kent because he was more relatable as a person. Here, the plot allowed for him to explore a darker side to Superman's personality, which I'm certain he had a hand in seeing as he's the film's star and it probably gets tiresome playing the same character over and over again. That one aspect of the plot is something I'll give the writers kudos for. If only they (and the director) hadn't made the film so silly…<br/><br/>What's wrong with the film is nearly everything else. Richard Pryor plays an opportunistic con man and computer genius (who discovers his talent in a computer programming course). There is absolutely nothing wrong with Richard Pryor. I quite like his standup act. However, he seemed extremely out of place here. In general, the silly tone just rubbed me the wrong way and there was too much reliance on slapstick for laughs. A perfect example of this is the opening scene which just went on far too long. At some point, it felt like I was watching a Keystone Kops movie than a Superman film. Beyond that, some elements of the story were nonsensical and just plain stupid. First of all, is this the same Clark Kent/Superman who reversed time to save Lois Lane and gave up his power to be with her (temporarily, at least)? If so, then why does he go back to Smallville and almost immediately hook up with childhood friend Lana Lang? Also, compared to the villains' schemes in the previous two films, the plot to turn Superman into a jerk (so that they can dominate the coffee industry?) seems like a step back. Not only that, but they bungle the one clever plot element by having Superman literally fight Clark Kent, and then having the "evil" side just disappear when Clark Kent puts a choke hold on him. And when you think about it, kryptonite is pretty stupid as it is. I could go on, but hopefully I've made my point.<br/><br/>Overall, SUPERMAN III feels like a huge step back in storytelling when compared to the previous two, which I didn't exactly love to begin with. Entertaining? Yes, in some respects, but this one was borderline painful to watch. The idiocy displayed on screen was barely tolerable. Richard Lester was allowed to indulge in his slapstick tendencies to a degree which wasn't possible in SUPERMAN II (since he had to use stuff that Richard Donner shot), and the result was rather unflattering. Having watched nine of the original Superman cartoon shorts, at times this felt like a return to that style, which I was not a fan of. I'll give the filmmakers credit for making a visually appealing film that displays some technical prowess. I also still get goosebumps when I hear John Williams' iconic theme. But literally everything else works against that to make an unfortunately sub-par film.
You know, Richard Pryor can be a very funny comedic actor. And Christopher Reeve is the definitive Superman actor in my book. I don't want to criticize either actor because they're both great in their own right. But what madman decided these 2 style concepts could go together? For years "comic" books adapted into films and TV usually had a high camp and rather cheesy look about them. I think this was largely due to the misunderstanding producers and screenwriters had for the medium, and the lack of respect for the art form.<br/><br/>Then we got the first of this Superman series, and it changed everything. Someone actually came close to getting the writing style right, and put the grandeur comics always strove for into a movie. "Superman 2" largely continued this feel and look. But I guess someone got bored with the genre and decided to mix it up. Who knows, What we ended up with, is one of the worst sequels to anything, and certainly one of the worst films of the 80's. (I say this in context with how good the first 2 of the series were, and what comics in this style are supposed to be about.)<br/><br/>I guess this is a common theme for sequels. By the third installment, you've gotten so far away from the concept it's unrecognizable ("Jaws 3-D" comes to mind). It's just too bad so many talented people showed up to work on this waste of film. Come to think of it, the same fate befell the Batman franchise, the last of which ("Batman and Robin") challenges Superman III for worst ever.<br/><br/>Now I'm not going to say that someone couldn't possibly enjoy this movie in some context. Folks like all sorts of things (thank God). It just doesn't have anything to do with the previous films aside from some of the castmembers, and so on that level it completely fails. Let's hope the Spider-Man sequels do better - at least Mr. Raimi's a Spidey fan.
Credit goes to Richard Lester, who is much more than an action director and whose erratic brilliance occasionally transcends this material, and to Reeve, who has manfully refused to let on that he is tired of the part (as opposed to the Jedi principals, who phoned theirs in). [17 June 1983, p.D1]
Whether or not Clark & Jimmy's trip to Smallville would be a business expense is not explained in the film, that is, in light of the fact that Clark mentions he's doing a story on his high school reunion.<br/><br/>However, if they'd flown then Clark wouldn't have been on hand to stop the chemical fire they encounter. On a plane, it would've been much more difficult for Clark to suddenly leave (he'd probably detect the fire somehow, say super-smell or his super-vision) the plane w/out anyone noticing.<br/><br/>Then again, Jimmy & Clark might have flown to a major city near Smallville first & then boarded a bus from the airport to Smallville itself.<br/><br/>In Superman IV, the new owner, David Warfield asks Clark why there were no travel expenses for him and he responds that he gets airsick which I assume he has said before since you never actually see "Clark" fly. Not really. When Gus gets the composition readings from the satellite's scan of a kryptonite meteorite, there's an element that doesn't correspond to anything in Earth's periodic table of elements & therefore couldn't be reproduced in the lab. So Gus, probably thinking he'd be scolded by Webster, entered "tar" as the unknown compound. When the completed compound was given to Gus after being manufactured in the lab, it turned out to be "fake" kryptonite which didn't have the total effect on Superman they'd intended. Instead of killing him it altered his personality, which did have it's benefits, allowing Webster to begin his plan to control the United States' oil supply.<br/><br/>As well, although this is not true Kryptonite, its effects are similar to that of Red Kryptonite. Red Kryptonite has numerous different effects on Superman. At times, in the comics and in the CW show Smallville, Red Kryptonite has altered Superman's personality in numerous ways. It is either a continuity issue, or a different power, which it could be as we never see the actual beam going from his eyes.<br/><br/>Also, Zod only had his powers for a brief time, he may have only had control to send concentrated beams of heat that were easily deflected. Superman had much more experience and control over his powers, at the bar he was angry and almost showing off by melting the mirror. In the bar, it looked more like big round heat waves hitting the mirror instead of the typical red laser beams.
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