- Movie Rating -

Superman III (1983)

| June 17, 1983

Superman III is an ugly, mean-spirited movie with barely a hint of the grandeur or the humanity that made the other two films special.  It not really Superman’s movie; while Christopher Reeve finally gets top billing, the movie shoves him aside for long periods of time in favor of an embarrassing role for Richard Pryor as a bumbling computer hacker.  He’s a racial stereotype here, a bumbling, bug-eyed con artist whose main trait is humiliating himself.  At one point he falls off of a very tall building on skies while wrapped in a pink table cloth.  Pryor should have protested.

The story here is all over the place.  Pryor works for one of those multi-million dollar global mega-corporations that control everything from oil to natural gas to corn and even the weather itself.  He uses the boss’ computer network in a slicing scam to steal from the company; a scam that the boss Ross Weber (Robert Vaughn) immediately catches onto.  Using this knowledge, the boss blackmails Pryor into building him a supercomputer that will allow him to destroy the coffee crop in Columbia for five years thereby allowing him to control the market.

Clark Kent, meanwhile, is on his way to Smallville for a class reunion where he meets up with his old girlfriend Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole) and the two fall in love.  Yes, they have a romance.  Forget Lois and all that stuff that had been building in the last two films because she is shoved out of this movie after a brief introduction.

Notice that I’m not talking about Superman.  That’s because he has very little to do with the actual plot of this movie.  It’s not really about him.  He comes in at the beginning to rescue a man who is drowning in his car (don’t ask) and then disappears for half an hour only to show up to save a burning chemical factory by freezing a nearby lake and dropping it onto the flames.  The physics of this could make for a hundred college essays.  Then he disappears again for long periods of time only to show up later to be given some bad kryptonite.  This movie is so uninterested in Superman that when he rescues the coffee crop in Columbia, we hardly get to see it.  It is only told if flittering flashbacks by Pryor who relates the story to the boss.

The movie does have some fun with Superman late in the film when he is given some bad kryptonite that turns him evil.  But it only results in a lot of spot gags in which he straightens the Leaning Tower of Pisa and blows out the Olympic torch.  Nothing is really done with the bad Superman and his story is resolved without really being resolved.

I recalled back to the grandeur of the original film.  I remember the moment when Clark had to leave Smallville to go and find his beaconing destiny.  I remember the wheat fields of Kansas with Clark and his mother looking out over the horizon.  I remember the swelling emotion of that moment.  Those moments are long ago and far away.  Superman is a prop here.  This is a movie with a lot of bad feeling.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Comedy