Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway, and Margot Kidder

DC Comics has been getting spanked by Marvel at the movies.  Just look at Iron Man 3 and how that kicks off Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  DC seriously needs to step up their game and leverage the abundance of comic book mythology at their fingertips.  As badly as they're losing to Marvel, there was a time when DC was on top at the box office bringing Superman and Batman to life.  They just weren't as creative or effective as Marvel.  Notoriously bad films like Flash Gordon, Batman & Robin, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace speak volumes.  As we get ready for Man of Steel in a few weeks, I inevitably must revisit the disaster that was the fourth and final installment in the Christopher Reeve Superman films.

After a trip to Smallville where he retrieves a green Kryptonian energy module, Clark Kent (Reeve) returns to Metropolis to find that his employer The Daily Planet has been taken over by tabloid tycoon David Warfield (Sam Wanamaker).  Longtime editor Perry White (Jackie Cooper) is out, and Warfield's daughter Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) is in.  Like her father, Lacy is looking for the next sensational story.  When reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) shows her a letter from a young boy asking Kent's alter ego Superman to intervene in the nuclear arms race, Lacy finds her story.  While Lacy and her father are creating a public conversation about whether the Man of Steel will intervene, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is plotting to take advantage of the situation by recreating life itself.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace may just be the worst comic book movie of all time.  Admittedly, there have been some pretty awful contenders for this title over the years, but there's so much that's wrong with this movie.  I just don't know where to begin with this review.  From the most ridiculous premise with which I've ever been tortured to a laughably bad villain at best, The Quest for Peace is nothing more than a sad quest on the part of Warner Bros. to ooze the last few dollars out of the Christopher Reeve Superman series.  The studio went nuclear with this one.

Apparently, our favorite Kryptonian has become a diplomat on a global stage.  He's now intervening in the nuclear arms race and tackling the matter of disarmament.  He's speaking to the United Nations as a mere visitor and doing what the governments are either "unwilling or unable to do".  Everything is just rosy as Superman does anything and everything in the name of truth, justice, and the American way.  It's just downright sickening. The film is so saccharine and issue-driven that it seems more akin to a horrible propaganda film than a comic book one.  The notion that every nation on the planet, regardless of whether they're pacifists or warmongers, will just hand over their nukes is childish.  Somebody is either going to hide some nukes with lead or build more to strengthen their standing in the world.  It's common sense, something sorely lacking from the premise of The Quest for Peace.

Sadly, this uninspired storyline is not the worst part of the film.  We're seriously lacking in the villain department, and the filmmakers have clearly gotten desperate.  Instead of introducing a new villain from Superman's comic book mythology, the powers that be decided to bring Gene Hackman to portray Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor for the millionth time.  Beyond Hackman, we're tortured with Luthor's annoying nephew Lenny (Jon Cryer) and Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), the worst excuse for a villain of all time.  In Luthor's attempt to defeat Superman, he uses a strand of Superman's hair to create a life form that's equally as strong.  Think Bane from Batman & Robin but blond.  This cheesy, mindless concoction by the filmmakers is reason enough for Superman V to have been cancelled after this film became a disaster at the box office.

Director Sidney J. Furie exacerbates the situation with one cheesy segment after another.  It's not enough that Superman is red, white, and blue in the most obvious ways.  Being the quintessential small-town white guy wearing red and blue tights doesn't cut it anymore.  Furie has to incorporate American landmarks for some of the cheapest pops I've ever seen in my life.  Superman and Nuclear Man battle over the Statue of Liberty (which shouldn't even be in Metropolis) during their first confrontation.  They then battle on the moon where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed.  Of course, the American flag gets knocked down in their scuffle, and Superman just has to plant the flag again.  National pride is somehow more important than saving the world in the movie.

To right the slight of Margot Kidder in Superman III, Lois Lane is back in The Quest for Peace.  I love Margot Kidder as much as the next person.  She's the best actress to have portrayed Lois Lane to date.  That being said, they don't give her character the respect she deserves.  Furie and his screenwriters toy with the well-done romance from Superman II as the Man of Steel takes his favorite reporter for a stroll through the air to let off some steam.  When he does so, she remembers everything.  With a kiss on the lips, she somehow forgets it all again (a recurring problem from Superman II).  If there's anything more disrespectful to its predecessors, I haven't seen it.  To make matters worse, Kidder's Lane and Mariel Hemingway's Lacy have the strangest double date with Clark Kent and Superman.  This attempt at a humorous setup fails on so many levels.

I've probably ranted enough about Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.  With loads of additional issues, I could continue talking about how catastrophic this movie truly is for days.  I haven't delved into Superman's ability to rebuild the Great Wall of China with telekinetic powers (an ability never ascribed to him in the comics), Lacy's ability to breathe in space where there's no oxygen while being carried by Superman, or the dozen other inexplicable plot developments.  It's a real shame that the Christopher Reeve series ended on such an unbelievably low note.  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace gets a wasted rating.  Have some kamikaze shots with this one.