It took me a while to finally watch Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. I had heard horrible things about it of course and the main opinion seemed to be that it was an abomination. When I did finally watch it I was surprised to discover that I actually enjoyed parts of it.
Make no mistake. This isn’t a good movie. It kind of qualifies, IMO, in the so bad its good category but even that might be stretching it. I think the movie has potential, but squanders a lot of it.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Christopher Reeve is Superman. There’s no doubt about that. He’s just as amazing here as he is in the other films. He handles the Clark/Superman dichotomy extremely well, and he’s still good at the physical gags.
His speech at the end about how he tried to bring peace to humankind but realized that he can’t do that because it is up to humanity to do it was great. You really believed him. I also loved that he took Lenny to a boy’s school at the end. Corny, maybe, but Superman is all about second chances.
Margot Kidder does great here as Lois Lane. I loved that she remembered that Clark was Superman (though was angered when he gave her the amnesia kiss again) and it was nice to see Clark go to her to figure out his problems. Lois was Clark’s rock here and also stood up for journalistic integrity which was nice to see.
I’m sure not many will agree with me, but I liked Nuclear Man. Sure, his Lady Deathstrike-esque nails were extremely stupid but he was an effective villain in that he could go toe to toe with Superman. The two battles between the Man of Steel and Nuclear Man were well done, for the most part.
Superman’s decision over whether or not to get rid of nuclear missiles was a good idea for the movie, but it wasn’t used as well as it could have been. I liked that Superman agonized over whether geting involved or not was the right thing to do. He lost one planet that might have been saved had something been done so maybe he should do something now on Earth to stop nuclear Armageddon. At the same time, he doesn’t want to interfere with the natural course of humanity.
I liked that the letter from Jeremy was basically used to make a sensational news story. Superman wasn’t swayed to get rid of the weapons just because one school boy asked him to. He received a lot of pressure after the new Daily Planet owners turned to letter into a sensationalistic news story about how Superman said no.
Speaking of, I liked the idea of the Daily Planet getting taken over and turned into a tabloid. It gave Clark, Perry, Lois, and Jimmy a threat outside of Lex and Nuclear Man. The movie just didn’t do much with it.
Giving Clark a romance with Lacy was a nice idea. Here is someone who loves Clark instead of Superman. It reminded me of the character of Mayson Drake from Lois and Clark season 2. She was attracted to Clark but hated Superman.
The double date scene was fun, with Clark/Superman coming up with reasons why the two of them could never be in the same room together.
I also liked that we saw Superman saving people throughout the movie. He saved the astronauts, the subway, the people on the Great Wall, the people about to be crushed by the Statue of Liberty, the people around the Daily Planet building as Nuclear Man attacked, etc.
Can I say how happy I was that Lex didn’t have another land scheme here? Instead he wants to make money by pushing for more nuclear weapons after Superman gets rid of them all. I also liked Lenny. If Lex is going to have an annoying servant around at least it’s Jon Cryer.
On to the bad stuff. The special effects were so bad. The special effects in the original Superman movie may not hold up completely now, but they still look really good and made you believe a man can fly. The special effects here make you believe a man can be hung on some wires and shoved around, maybe. The flying in space scenes were probably the worst.
That super kiss. I hated the amnesia kiss in Superman II and I hated it here. I was happy that Lois said she remembered and then Clark went and kissed her again. I believe that Lois still remembered after that but kept it to herself.
While I like the idea of the Daily Planet being taken over, nothing is done with it. We don’t really see how the Planet is worse off now than it was before. Yes, Perry is gone but everyone else is still there.
I disliked Superman “dying” the same way. He gets clawed by Nuclear Man, gets sick, and then immediately cures himself in the span of 10 minutes or less. There wasn’t time to really understand how bad the situation was. It would have been like if in Spider-Man 2 Peter quit being Spider-Man and then only a few scenes go by before he’s back at it. Or if in Dark Knight Rises Bruce healed from his broken back within 10 minutes. It completely undercuts the drama, which is what happened here.
Since when can people survive in space? Nuclear Man flies Lacy into space and she’s just fine. She also survives the heat of re-entry intact.
I was going to complain about Superman’s new vision power that allows him to rebuild the Great Wall of China but this film series gave Kryptonians some odd powers. Superman flies around the planet and turns back time. His S-shield randomly turned into a flimsy weapon. Zod, Ursa, and Non have weird finger powers. If I accepted those, I can accept wall rebuilding vision.
The movie feels thin, which at just under 1 hour 30 minutes is no surprise. There’s just not much to it. It doesn’t have the same epic feel that Superman and Superman II had.
The DVD came with 30 minutes of deleted scenes and while I think most of them needed to be deleted (the first Nuclear Man was truly an abomination) there were a few I thought could have made the movie slightly better.
One scene saw Clark having a nightmare about the destruction of Krypton. This would have tied in nicely with his fears about Earth facing similar destruction due to nuclear weapons. Another deleted scene showed a deteriorating Clark in his apartment after Lois visited him. This would have been nice to show just how bad things are getting for our hero.
Another scene shows Lex going to both the Americans and the Russians and sowing fear about nuclear disarmament. He says they can’t be 100% positive Superman destroyed all the nuclear missiles. He’s sure that both sides kept a few back, just in case. It’s a good scene that shows that neither side got rid of all their weapons, and it also shows just how devious Lex can be.
There are a few that feature Nuclear Man. Two show him causing more destruction in his first fight with Superman. The next shows that he plans to start a nuclear war so he, and presumably Lacy, will be the only people alive. This leads to both America and the Soviet Union getting ready to launch weapons at each other.
It also explains something that bothered me. In the movie Nuclear Man sees a photo of Lacy and goes to the Daily Planet to kidnap her. Superman is already there and tells NM he can’t have Lacy. It bugged me to no end because how did Superman know who NM wanted? In the deleted scenes she gets kidnapped and taken to Lex’s penthouse and then rescued by Superman, which causes NM to go to the Daily Planet to find her again.
During Superman’s final speech we see scenes of people going about their lives and it made the speech that much better since Superman is talking about how he wishes we could see the planet the way he does. There’s also a scene that brings closure to Lacy’s character and her relationship with Clark while also showing what might happen to the Kent farm.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is by no means a good film and I completely understand why a lot of people hate it. I’m sure I would have to had I watched it when it was first released, and not many years later when there have been more Superman movies, TV shows, cartoons, and books. This isn’t a movie I’d just pick up and watch for fun but it’s also not a movie I would dread watching during a marathon either.