Superman IV

Superman IV

The Quest for Peace

DVD - 2006 | Deluxe ed. --
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Lex Luthor creates a Nuclear Man to fight Superman in a battle involving the use of nuclear weapons on earth.
Publisher: Burbank, Calif. : Warner Home Video, [2006]
Edition: Deluxe ed. --
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (90 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.

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oatmeal_crispy Nov 11, 2017

Superman IV is one of those films that you love to death as a kid but as you grow older its many, many flaws and limited production thoroughly undermine your enjoyment of it.

Just look at that cover! There’s Superman flying up, up and away, with an activated nuclear warhead in hand, that he ca... Read More »


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oatmeal_crispy Nov 11, 2017

Superman IV is one of those films that you love to death as a kid but as you grow older its many, many flaws and limited production thoroughly undermine your enjoyment of it.

Just look at that cover! There’s Superman flying up, up and away, with an activated nuclear warhead in hand, that he cased from a military base to save the world. Yes, Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder gave good performances. Yes, the Moon battle was most excellent. However, good taste and the natural sciences tells us that regardless of those merits, and even within the bounds of a superhero film genre, parts of this film were simply ludicrous.

How does Superman rationalize the defeat of Nuclear Man versus the extinction of all life on Earth when he shoved the Moon out of its orbit? How does Mariel Hemingway's character survive in the void of space between the Earth and the Moon? Why weren’t the subplots about the transformation of "The Daily Planet" into a sleazy tabloid or the selling of the old Kent Family farm were given their dues? Why does the UN Headquarters look like an industrial park in England? Who did the wardrobe design for Jon Cryer’s Lenny Luthor, that was inexcusable even for 1987?

While the financial difficulties of Cannon Group were well known, even in the 1980s, the further cash-strapped and even sentenced for cancellation third season of the original Star Trek taught audiences that good stories can sometimes balance out a shoe-string budget. For instance, the first eleven episodes of season three, minus “Spock’s Brain” and “The Paradise Syndrome.” Unfortunately, audiences lucked out with Superman IV, with its mangled plot, inconsistent tone, and the disinterested direction despite the epic vision and the solid cast at hand. The film’s execution was just not good.

Well, unless you’re a child or a child-at-heart. I highly recommend this to kids.

Three decades later audiences and fans are left to wonder which was worse: Superman IV or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I won’t. Instead, Superman IV was a cultural artifact with a vision that was grander and with a message more necessary in its time: the final phase of the Cold War.

Talks to eliminate all ballistic missiles at the Reykjavik Summit in October 1986, between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, collapsed as neither side wanted to give up their right to domestic missile defence, much less the domestic support they enjoyed through chest-pounding rhetoric or by saying “nyet” to the West. This, in concert with the Chernobyl disaster of April 1986, further underlined the dire threat of nuclear power, militarized or not, for the future of the human species. And with neither superpower willing to give ground, naturally some people yearned for a third actor to break the stalemate. And Reeve believed that Superman, an idol of children all over the world, should try to make that first step, as a cultural figure that leads regardless of borders.

Sure, Superman IV failed at the box office in July 1987, but the socio-economic and political winds of the world had changed. In December 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev had signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, that banned all land-based short to medium ranged missiles. The INF Treaty opened the way for START I in 1991 and before that year was out the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. Of course, Superman IV probably had no role in contemporary geopolitical affairs, but like that seminal Prince album, it was a Sign o’ the Times: the Cold War could no longer be sustained or afforded by rational minds.

The 1980s spelled the beginning of the end of the Cold War, marked end of the Christopher Reeve Superman films and the glorious idealism that helped to dispel ’70s cynicism and make, along with Woody Allen and CBGB, New York City cool again. If “greed is good,” the uncertainties and the materialism of the '80s had no place for a superman.

But then Superman returned…

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