After two successful films, the Superman franchise was unable to sustain momentum with Superman III. Superman III continues the series slide that was slightly evident in the otherwise solid Superman II from a mix of drama, action and sly self-referential humor to more slapstick oriented, silly entries. Superman III almost wants to just be a comedy, and the film's dramatic elements are fairly lacking.
As Superman III opens, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) is headed for a high school reunion in Smallville where he crosses paths with an old crush of his, Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole, who years later would essay the role of Martha Kent in the series Smallville), who is divorced and living in Smallville with her son Ricky (Paul Kaethler). Clark rediscovers his attraction to her and they begin what seems to be the road to a relationship. At the same time, Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), an unemployed man who discovers he has a knack for computer programming, gets a job with Webscoe Industries and performs some hacking to inflate his paycheck. The company's head, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughan), discovers Gus' "creative accounting" but instead of firing him, decides to use his abilities to attempt to take control of the world's energy supplies. When Superman thwarts' Ross' plans, he has Gus use satellites to analyze the location of Krypton and determine the elements that make up Kryptonite, Superman's weakness, and plans to synthesize a version of it.
Gus is unable to replicate all the elements and substitutes tar was the missing item, which produces Kryptonite that doesn't kill Superman, but instead alters his personality, causing him to be come evil and selfish. With Superman no longer helping people, Ross' plans go forward and Gus makes a request: he has designed a supercomputer that he wants Ross to build for him that will allow him to control all the computers in the world.
With the presence of Richard Pryor, it is unsurprising that Superman III has a more strictly comedy directed bent, but frankly, turning the Superman series into a much more campy variety of film just doesn't work. After the first two films were able to be somewhat tongue in cheek without losing their dramatic strength, Superman III doesn't even really try to match those films. Almost everything in Superman III is played for laughs, and not even good laughs. A majority of the humor falls flat, and the whole experience proves relatively lame.
A significant loss is the virtual removal of Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) from the film. She makes a brief appearance at the very beginning of the film and the very end, but is missing from the rest. She had a disagreement with the producers over the firing of Superman director Richard Donner on Superman II and so they all but removed her from Superman III. In her place they introduced Lana Lang, and Annette O'Toole is capable in the role, but the Clark/Lana relationship doesn't have the chemistry of the Clark/Lois relationship in Superman and Superman II.
Superman III also suffers from lackluster villains. Ross Webster is a rather bland adversary, with Robert Vaughan attempting to channel Gene Hackman but coming up a bit short. His performance isn't terrible, but it's not great either. Gus Gorman isn't a villain, per se, more of a misguided soul, so the film somewhat vacillates between making him a bad guy and thus sucks any possible menace from him. That plus he is portrayed by Richard Pryor, who is a capable comedian, but has absolutely no ability to play a villain. He's just too nice a guy.
About the only places Superman III still hits are with the still solid performance of Christopher Reeve as Superman, who manages to mostly escape unscathed, and the film's visual effects are still up to par. Otherwise, Superman III under whelms on almost every level. Not so Super, indeed.
Action / Adventure / Comedy / Sci-Fi
Action / Adventure / Comedy / Sci-Fi
Wealthy businessman Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn)discovers the hidden talents of Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), 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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April 02, 2019 at 04:59 PM