Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is, as the title indicates, the fourth installment in the Superman film franchise starring Christopher Reeve. The first one was released in 1978, while this one is from 1987. I’d like someone to explain to me how the special effects in The Quest for Peace are worse than the ones in Superman. In fact, this film looks so awful that it looks like most of it was shot in someone’s basement against a green screen. You notice this in the first scene. It prepares you for the disaster that is Superman IV.

It says a lot about the film that it’s only 90 minutes in length. The previous three chapters were all either around or over the two-hour mark. This one is boring after the first half hour, meaning the final two-thirds will bring absolutely no excitement. One might think that seeing another Superman — this one called “Nuclear Man” (Mark Pillow) — fight against our caped hero would be fun, but it is nothing of the sort. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the film is that it will work as an effective sleep aid.

Superman (Reeve) decides early on in The Quest for Peace that the nuclear arms race should come to an end. He vows to rid the planet of all nuclear weapons once and for all, presumably unaware that people would probably just build more. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) villain of the first two film, is swearing revenge. He manages to create the aforementioned Nuclear Man, who will eventually get into a fist fight with the titular hero. That’s about all these two superhumans can do: beat each other up with their fists.

There’s also a subplot involving the Daily Planet newspaper becoming a tabloid entity, but that doesn’t wind up mattering a whole lot. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is here because she was in the last films; she and Superman barely share time together, and when they do it doesn’t result in anything. She’s no longer the potential love interest to the Man of Steel. There is no emotional connection between the two characters.

It’s surprising how cheap Superman IV looks. Despite being released almost a decade after the first installment, it looks the worst by far. Sure, you could tell in the earlier films that the characters weren’t really flying through space, or even through the city of Metropolis — it’s the lighting; it’s always the lighting — but at least there was an effort put in to try to make it feel as if it they were. Here, no attempt to disguise the fact that they’re shooting in front of a green screen. It’s like the filmmakers didn’t care, as they figured a Superman movie would make money regardless of its quality.

The apathy continues when it comes to the actors. Christopher Reeve could carry the movie on his shoulders, but even he seemed tired by this point. Gene Hackman winds up being a lot less fun without Ned Beatty by his side — Jon Cryer plays the goofy sidekick, and it just doesn’t work. Margot Kidder, Jackie Kooper and Marc McClure are all back, but they all appear to be cashing in a paycheck.

The biggest problem here is that it’s all so boring and easy. There’s no originality, creativity, or even energy. Everyone is going through the motions, doing the bare minimum just to get by. The visuals don’t look finished. The actors don’t seem to care. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense. Moments seem to be improvised just to get the writers out of a hole. Superman gains powers he never previously had — although that’s kind of consistent with earlier films, isn’t it? And it’s all so dull that it’s hard to even keep your eyes on the screen.

It’s not even the type of bad that you can laugh at and get some enjoyment that way. It’s just too stupid and boring to enjoy in any way. At least, that’s how it was for me. Maybe some of you will get a kick out of scenes like when Nuclear Man grabs a woman, flies her into space, and her body is perfectly okay with that. There’s a reason that astronauts wear spacesuits, but according to this movie, they really have no need for them. You can breathe fine in space.

Even though Superman III wasn’t very good, Christopher Reeve was a highlight. I figured that no matter how bad a Superman film got, if he was still good in the lead role, it would remain watchable. His enjoyment of the character would ensure that we continue enjoying it. If he was still having fun, it didn’t translate to the screen. He looks bored most of the time, and the one sure thing wound up being just as bad as the rest of the production. Even Gene Hackman was bad in Superman IV. How does that happen?

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is an awful film. You are better off re-watching any of the previous Superman installments. Even the third one is significantly better than this chapter in the Man of Steel’s film franchise. Nothing about this movie works. The script is awful, the acting is poor, the special effects are worse than they’ve been in any of the previous episode, and the whole thing is just so boring and uninteresting. There’s no fun to be had here and no reason to waste your time or money to sit through this waste of film.

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