Sunday, July 31, 2016

Superhero Media: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

This film has a horrendous reputation, it is famed for being one of the "death-blows" of superhero cinema. Now, before  go on to defend it for a little, I'll describe exactly why it's so god damned bad. Superman remains a shining gem of superhero cinema, but it was expensive and difficult to make, so much so that Richard Donner, the director, was fired partway through the sequel. Consequently, Superman II, as much as I love it, got a bit more camp and silly than the original, with more studio oversight and heavy editing. Continue this trend for two more films and you can understand how campy and dumb Superman IV got. It may be down to the idea, that never seems to go away completely, that superheroes are for children and, thus, jocular and simplistic are core watchwords of plot. Whilst I'm not inclined to compare comics too closely to other forms of art, Superman, at least, was a hit will all ages. Still the series devolved, and we're left with Superman IV as the final reminder of what started out as a great series. 

So, is there anything redeemable about Superman IV? Well, some of the ideas could work as the basis of much better story-lines. Superman (or, more likely, Hyperion or Invincible) decides to disarm the world by force? How would the USA react? Or Israel? Or North Korea? Each hero is the body of the "American Way", so could this be construed as Western Imperialism or a straight-up act of war? With nuclear weapons gone, would the 'hero' start on tanks, planes and/or guns? Could the planet Earth soon be under a totalitarian regime where knives and pointy sticks are whisked away by an omniscient ubermench? How could ordinary people fight back, and how would other heroes react? Iron Man would be pretty pissed when someone tried to take the suit out of his bones and Black Panther never reacts well to a border violation. Hell, there's a good RPG or narrative scenario right there, Black Panther has to take down the Man of Steel gone rogue.

Don't get me wrong, unless you're a few drinks in, don't bother with Superman IV. It's a dull mess that makes no sense and is best forgotten. The fights fail to be interesting and there are too many sub-plots that go nowhere. To be fair, there was no chance of this being good after Superman III, but it didn't need to be this bad either. Only bother with it if, like me, you're a completionist. Still, it was far more entertaining than Super Buddies

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