A Tale of Two Supermen
SUPERMAN III Remembered
Memory is a funny thing. You can remember every detail of one event that is so inconsequential and yet, when it comes to Superman III, I can remember next to nothing about watching it as a child. Watching it again now, I really only have a few clear memories. The one thing I remember clear as day is the chemical fire plant scene. As a kid I had no idea what those vials were all about or why they were so important, but I got it that fire was bad, Jimmy got hurt, and I loved it when Superman froze a nearby lake and dropped it over the fire saving the day. Looking at it now, I can't help but feel like this scene should have been the climax of the movie. It just feels out of place this early in the show. After that I only vaguely remember the split personality Superman and the weird robot lady at the end. That's about it. That sums up about 20 percent of the total movie. Looking at the trailer... I think I have an idea why this one didn't stick with me:
Now watching this movie again as an adult, I quickly start to see the worst parts of Superman II are magnified in this movie by a factor of a thousand. Apparently somewhere down the line the creative geniuses behind this one thought the last movie wasn't kid friendly enough and decided to dial up the childish humor to 11... wow that's two math metaphors in one paragraph. Sorry, I'll refrain from that if I can.
First off, we are treated with a five minute opening sequence featuring the comic genius Richard Pryor being told his employment benefits have run out. THEN we are put through one of the most excruciatingly unfunny Rube Goldberg comedy title sequences featuring toy penguins lit on fire, pies in faces, a man trapped in a flooding car? and some blond lady that wonders around is the apparent cause of it all. Mind you now, all of this happens in the first 10 minutes of the movie. By the time the credits finish you already feel like you're in for one long ride.
Even though he's given second billing, this is actually 100% Richard's movie. Sure Superman is here, but the ENTIRE plot, from laundering money to the big giant evil super computer, all of it, revolves around Pryor. It really feels like it was originally a Richard Pryor comedy whose screenplay got hijacked by the Superman producers.
Lois lane is there for 5 mins, Perry White is physically unable to chose the lottery numbers, Jimmy Olson breaks a leg. There is just nothing really here to call it a "Superman" movie other than the fact that Chris Reeves shows up in his signature red and blue tights and cape. It's so lost in it's techno-fakery of computers taking over the world with a few key strokes that it can't figure out what to do with its title hero other than to send him back home for his high school reunion. Sure in 1983 I bet it seemed pretty state of the art. But today, 30 years later, this movie's ideas of technology are just silly. I will say though, the evil robot computer lady at the end, is still as creepy as she was when I was 4!
Do I hate this movie? No. But I can't help but be a little disappointed by this one. Is it the worst Superman movie ever made? By far and away no! That honor goes to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.