Superman III (1983)

superman3_1983_poster
Superman III (1983)
  • Time: 125 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Richard Lester
  • Cast: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O’Toole

Storyline:

Wealthy businessman Ross Webster discovers the hidden talents of Gus Gorman, 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.

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  • After witnessing unknown actor Christopher Reeve successfully fill the enormous shoes of Superman in Superman (1978) and then do it again in Superman II (1980), it would seem doing it a third time would be no problem. The question however, that many fans of the first two films can’t seem to get a clear answer to, is why was this the turning point for everything else? For most, this entry would mark the point where fans became baffled and disappointed with the lack of care that went into later Superman productions. It’s not to say that this film is awful, no it’s not unwatchable. However for those who loved how the first two movies complimented each other, this time the experience will feel quite different. After defeating Lex Luthor with Zod & Co. in Superman II (1980), Clark Kent / Superman (Christopher Reeve) runs into his next villain who looks to control the world via global satellite.

    This greedy manipulator known as Ross Webster and his sister Vera are played by Robert Vaughn and Annie Ross respectively. There they convince a self-discovered computer whiz named August Gorman (Richard Pryor) to help them acquire their demands by hacking into a global satellite to control the weather. This plot isn’t exactly plausible in any respect but, to at least enjoy the positives of this entry, the concept of belief can be suspended (mostly). Unfortunately what really hurts this installment is its writing, which shockingly is written by the same duo (Leslie & David Newman) that penned the first two movies. One big change that is strongly noticeable is its tone. This might be due to director Richard Lester who worked on more comedies than anything else. But here, the comedic bits feel weird, forced and sometimes out of place. This is more for the last half of the running time. There’s also a very abrupt change in genre for a small time too. It feels like a totally different movie.

    An example of this is always happening when Clark Kent is talking with an old school friend named Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). Every time they exchange lines, one’s asking about one thing while the other answers that question but is talking about something else. It’s always a conversation where one ends up getting confused about who’s talking about what. Along with that are unexplained problems and resolutions to those problems. When something occurs and people make assumptions about it without any proof, then it’s not credible. So how does an audience accept that if the characters themselves don’t even truly know? You can’t really, that’s the whole point. The other component that did not fit this entry were the villains. For one thing, Richard Pryor as a sniveling computer hack was not convincing or funny. He was just obnoxious. Even more annoying however was Ross Webster, Vera and some other female that hung around them named Lorelei (Pamela Stephenson). Stephenson was absolutely useless.

    Be that as it may, these parts don’t drag down the whole movie entirely. Aside from the writing, the rest of the parts that make up a movie remain well put together. Although the last half of the film feels odd, the first half however reminisces more of the traditional tone. That means more of what everyone was originally used to with scenes like Daily Planet with Perry White (Jackie Cooper), Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) and a cameo of Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Even with Margot Kidder having a reduced role and Annette O’Toole taking her spot wasn’t that disappointing. Lana Lang had a different backstory involving a drunk named Brad (Gavan O’Herlihy) who was once a football jock from Smallville. These relationships are acceptable and feel worthy of a subplot. Heck, even the infamous Good Vs Evil Superman subplot entertained at a decent level. Seeing an evil Superman was certainly something Reeve had never played before.

    Speaking of which, Christopher Reeve again verified to his fans in this film, that even with an uneven script he still can play the man of steel with ease. Reeve was undoubtedly still the best part. The cinematography provided by Robert Paynter, who also shot for Superman II (1980) maintained the ability to include great scanning POVs and capture unique set pieces. This blended nicely with the special effects as well, which also had practical areas included. And here I was thinking its effects budget wasn’t going to be good for all the negative responses about it before viewing. I was impressed however. Finally for the music, although harder to find an actual copy, composer Ken Thorne returned to score the film. Just like before, Thorne held onto Superman’s theme from the last two films and does include new tracks. These themes are mostly for evil Superman. If the script was handled better, it probably would’ve been easily another enjoyable follow-up. But the attention isn’t there.

    For what people say for it to be, it isn’t THAT bad. If you can suspend your belief, it will be easier to accept because half of it is decently written. It’s just the other half involving its annoying antagonists and forced comedic tone that don’t work. Its special effects, music, camerawork and cast of actors from the first two however still remain the best parts, especially Christopher Reeve.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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