Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
April 23, 2024 10:01 AM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] Something something, nuclear weapons, Lex Luthor, Nuclear Man, something something, Golan/Globus cheapness, something something, Christopher Reeve as Superman.

Also starring Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mariel Hemingway, Margot Kidder.

Directed by Sidney J. Furie. Screenplay by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal. "Story" by Christopher Reeve, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal. Based on the comic book character Superman, created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster. Produced by Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus. Cinematography by Ernest Day. Edited by John Shirley. Music by John Williams.

16% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently steaming, er, streaming in the US on Max. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (15 comments total)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:01 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]

Also - in a deleted scene - the KLF's Ford Timelord (previously).
posted by offog at 10:15 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]

Eight year old me was even disappointed by this film, even if inspired by its message of anti-nuclear proliferation.
posted by Atreides at 11:57 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]

This came on HBO one afternoon and midway through I got off my dad's armchair and packed my things and moved out. Just couldn't take how I was wasting my time watching it, just watching anything that was on. My family was friends with a family who owned a video store, I'd watched endless stacks of films in the vhs era. But this was so bad that I loaded up my recently purchased volkswagon van and set out on a life of adventure before the credits rolled. Of course I'd seen it before, that's what's worse.
posted by Catblack at 12:57 PM on April 23 [17 favorites]

This is the one where the Great Wall of China gets destroyed, but Superman uses his rarely mentioned "Wall-Rebuilding Vision Rays", right? That's a very... specific power.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:01 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]

i've been rewatching the Supermen a la Reeves lately and they're all so delightfully terrible. This one however is not that bad, compared to Superman 3, which is an absolutely bonkers romp (richard pryor, computer hacker!, robert vaughn, evil business tycoon!). This one however does bring up an important question, which is why superman doesn't just put a stop to all war and establish a kind of pax supermanica, making all others bow to his will in the name of an endless, eternal peace. Why stay hidden with some alter ego at all? Just be superman.
posted by dis_integration at 4:12 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]

Christopher Reeve will always be my Superman, and this was such a sad send-off for the character and the franchise. I remember seeing the opening credits when I was a kid and thinking, "This looks... cheap." Like, the other movies had those awesome credits with the words whooshing around (dated as hell now, admittedly, but they were unprecedented for their time) and the credits for this movie were like the dollar store version of the that. And then Lois Lane was sidelined in this really weird, off-putting way and the blond supervillain guy was just the pits and everything about the film just seemed clumsy and slapdash and... cheap. You could accuse the original film of being overstuffed, of trying too hard, but nobody would say that of this movie. Reeve and Gene Hackman are giving their all, because they always gave their all, but otherwise this is an absolute turd.

I somehow never saw Superman 3, despite loving the first two films. 3 got middling reviews and what I've seen does look not great, but I've gotta figure it's still quite a bit better than this film. At least they threw a lot of money at 3, they were still making an effort, while this one had effects that would've looked cheesy for 80s TV. This movie hurts.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:24 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]

> 3 got middling reviews and what I've seen does look not great, but I've gotta figure it's still quite a bit better than this film

3 is kind of like what if the Zucker brothers directed a superman movie, only cheaper and with worse special effects. It's the one where Superman becomes a jerk and grows a beard, and tears open an oil tanker cause he's horny. But Richard Pryor does rock a sick Louis Vuitton suitcase, and there's a joke about Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In the end they do battle with a sentient computer that turns someone into a robot. There's so many things I'm not mentioning. Hmm.. Maybe it was good?
posted by dis_integration at 7:29 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]

I remember LOVING 3, but then again I had very accommodating tastes for basically anything bonkers on TV. I also love that Richard Pryor spikes the synth-kryptonite with tar, thus turning Superman bad.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:39 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]

The part where what's her name is turned into a robot was soooooo disturbing to little me.
posted by Atreides at 7:25 AM on April 24 [3 favorites]

I've never seen IV, but I remember when Margot Kidder was on Letterman to promote it, Letterman couldn't even make it through the whole promotional clip, saying, "Alright, that's enough of that." I still remember this forty years later, haha.
posted by jabah at 6:30 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]

I got curious about why Kidder played such a reduced role in this film, and it sounds like she was being punished for speaking out in support of Richard Donner during the famously troubled production one Superman and Superman 2. I read her Wikipedia page, and it's quite a journey. She seems like a complicated, endearing, outspoken person who was ahead of her time in some ways. She got branded "Baghdad Betty" for speaking out against the first Gulf War, and she was open about her own mental health struggles back when that was taboo. Toward the end of her life she lived in the mountains and would put out food for the wolves because she loved to watch them from her window. She'd expressed a desire to be left out for wild animals after she died, she wanted to return to nature that way, and her brother sort of granted her wish by spreading her ashes on lilies that were eaten by the local bears. Margot Kidder really lived a life.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:23 PM on April 24 [8 favorites]

I would actually watch this movie if it had Ford Timelord and/or the Timelords in it.
posted by abraxasaxarba at 11:58 AM on April 25

I realized that I'd never seen this movie in its entirety, so I watched it (and Superman III!) over the last weekend. Wow, just, bafflingly terrible, yet at times so hilariously funny because of that. An almost infinite number of ridiculous moments and/or lines to choose from to mock and/or cherish. This movie really highlights the problem with Lex's whole operation in these movies: he has no infrastructure! This guy has to do everything himself, with only the dubious help of a cretin or 3 to lighten the load.

I do like that Superman gives a shout-out to the subway system and is a supporter of public transit as his first lines in the film. Nice callback to what he says to Lois at their first meeting in "The Movie" about flying still being the safest way to travel.

God love ya, Christopher Reeve, for wanting to put in a positive message of hope for peaceful nuclear disarmament, but wow was that the definition of inept writing. One key problem, I think I realized, is that the relentless positive didactic tone ends up leading to a contradiction: the world is such a horrible dangerous place and the nuclear problem so intractable that it takes Superman to fix it, yet when he decides to, it is unanimously celebrated by everyone except Lex & his war profiteers, as if nuclear weapons were some sort of wholly unforeseeable natural disaster, and as if they themselves weren't the cause of it in the first place. If I wanted to go dime-store-Zizek, I'd say its a fantasy of submission to a nurturing hybrid mother-father or something like that. "Yay!" all the UN Delegates say, "thank you for undercutting all of our natural sovereignty with your unilateral action, which could quite reasonably be interpreted as an act of war!" I know, I know, it's a kids' movie, but I don't think little Jimmy or whoever he was who wrote the letter in the first place would really fall for that B.S. if he were in the audience.

A few Amazing Moments: the "Drop Dead" says Superman to Kid headline; Lex Luthor dancing with a woman from the court of the Sun King for some unfathomable reason; "It's a well known fact that you hate children and animals, Luthor." Damn! That's a cold rep. Nukular Nuclear Man talking with Lex's voice for some unknown reason. The magic computer that can survive the sun and make pro-wrestling outfits for starbabies that Lex puts in with his super-goo. Lex's amazing kryptonian bolt-cutters that can cut Superman's hair. The complete lack of security around Superman's hair.

Real low points: Almost everything with Nukular Nuclear Man. His weakness is just absurd, and of course, wildly inconsistent, as he is most certainly out of direct sunlight multiple times before Supes gets him in the elevator. Almost everything with Jon Cryer (poor kid), except Lex's sick burn about being the Dutch Elm Disease in the family tree. The writing. The plot. Most of what I also listed as "Amazing Moments" above. It really is a stinker of a movie and yet a
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:40 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]

oops, missed the last phrase, "and yet a perverse pleasure"
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:19 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

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