The title says it all. While many comic book fans are salivating over the upcoming Man Of Steel movie, many of them want to forget not just Superman Returns but those horrendously awful Superman sequels from the ’80s, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
On the flip side of that notion there are the Batman movies. Sure Christopher Nolan singlehandedly reinvented and salvaged the Bat franchise with his own take of Batman, but the sting of Joel Schumacher’s version of Batman in the ’90s is still felt.
Altogether these flicks nearly derailed each franchise and forced years-long moratoriums where no new Superman or Batman movies were available. With the Superman train wrecks it took nearly twenty years until a new Superman movie came out. But Superman Returns was a huge letdown and brought upon another drought of Superman flicks until this year. Batman recovered much quicker, his sabbatical from the movies only lasted seven years and his comeback flick Batman Begins set fandom on fire, culminating with The Dark Knight.
Still the nagging question remains, which of those films are worse? Let’s take a look, and start with Superman.
Before Superman III, Superman was riding high in popularity. Superman II was a huge success in the movies with its action-packed story about Kryptonian supervillains coming to Earth and Superman having to confront them. The end of the movie promised a Superman III, which excited many people. Unfortunately, the second sequel was doomed from the start. See, Richard Donner, who deserves credit for his masterful work on Superman and parts of Superman II had no input in the third Superman movie. Executive producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had a feud with Donner and even fired him during production of Superman II. They turned to their buddy Richard Lester to complete that movie.
Now that they were running the show completely without Donner, they proceeded to ruin Superman by turning Superman III a comedy. It wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded if the movie was funny. Quite the opposite, it was moronic and embarrassing to watch. How bad was it? I put it on a few weeks ago when it was on cable to watch with my seven-year-old nephew. After a few minutes (right around that stupid scene where the traffic light figurines fight with each other), he told me to change the channel because “Superman III is dumb!”
What is hard to believe is that there are actually defenders of this film who hail its dumb comedic bits, including Richard Pryor’s casting! Talk about misfires! Superman III heralded the downfall of Pryor’s reputation in the movies. Once the guy was seen as a comedic genius and had several hit movies under his belt. Then the poor comedian made a comment in a talk show about how he loved Superman II. Fate turned out to be cruel because the filmmakers behind the Superman films got wind of this comment and decided to put him in Superman III. It was a ballsy move, but it didn’t work. Pryor was known for his racy humor, which had to be toned down for the kid-friendly Superman film and instead he became a bumbling, unfunny buffoon in the movie. His character wasn’t much of a villain, just a misguided dupe forced to help an evil tycoon (Robert Vaughn), and of course, he helps Superman in the end. Ho hum.
Superman (and actor Christopher Reeve) took a break and didn’t appear again until the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. By this time, the Salkinds washed their hands of the Man of Steel and sold him off to the schlocky film studio Cannon Films, famous for the zero-quality Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson action flicks.
The fourth film, the new filmmakers promised, was supposed to be bigger and better. Instead, the budget for it was severely slashed leaving an extremely cheesy mess. But the worst part was the script where Reeve supposedly had input on. Lord almighty. Superman gets rid of all the nuclear weapons without thinking of the consequences. But the movie doesn’t even cover that or have any serious discussions about that idea. The only thing that happens is that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) schemes with some generals and creates a sort of Superman clone called Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). The two superhumans fight and talk in space(!) and Superman pushes the moon to create a solar eclipse to defeat him. It was strictly for kids. Alright I’m stopping. Let’s just say this wasn’t one of Superman’s better films and as much as people like to riff on director Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, at least that movie didn’t have gross scientific inaccuracies.