Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)

Rating: **
Music: John Williams
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Mariel Hemingway, Jon Cryer, Mark Pillow

"All men like me. I'm very rich."

As the Cold War continues to heat up, disarmament negotiations break down and the arms race intensifies. A young boy writes a letter to Superman (Christopher Reeve) to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and the Man Of Steel eventually breaks his vow of non-interference and takes it upon himself to pave the way for world peace. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) sees this as an opportunity to begin a new arms race and creates a clone of Superman called Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow) as his ultimate weapon. Meanwhile, the Daily Planet has been bought out by a sleazy business tycoon and his unscrupulous daughter Lacie (Mariel Hemingway) has been put in charge. For whatever reasons, the dim-witted Nuclear Man chooses her as his mate, which complicates things for both Clark and Kal-El. In the end, Superman learns that peace can only be achieved when the people want it badly enough, and that he has neither the ability or the right to force it on humanity.

After seeing "The Go-Go Boys" (2014) and learning how "Superman IV" was supposed to save Cannon Films and instead ended up destroying the studio, I felt compelled to watch it. Not surprisingly, Cannon ended up sabotaging themselves by slashing the budget in half and cutting 40 minutes from the finished film so that they could sell more tickets. Naturally, the end result was a confusing and unattractive mess. Honestly, it feels like a step up from the appalling "Superman III" (1983), and while its heart and intentions are in the right place, the execution is awful. It was also very much a product of the time, and its topical themes and attitudes haven't aged well. The writing is cringe-worthy and Nuclear Man is painfully embarrassing. The visual effects are dreadful and betray the film's budget constraints, and the film's complete disrespect of rudimentary science is a constant annoyance. Christopher Reeve's ego gets in the way and his squeaky clean good guy charm feels forced and overdone. The film's only real bright spots are the return of Gene Hackman and a very sexy Mariel Hemingway. Hackman owns every scene he's in, and his gleefully unhinged performance is shear delight. "Superman IV" had all the right elements to be an excellent film, but production issues, weak writing, financial problems, and behind-the-scenes politics robbed it of its potential. Cannon was betting on fan loyalty and undiscerning audiences to save their studio with this inferior offering, and that proved to be fatal.