Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
|Superman IV: The Quest for Peace|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney J. Furie|
by Jerry Siegel
|Edited by||John Shirley|
|Box office||$36.7 million|
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a 1987 superhero film directed by Sidney J. Furie, based on the DC Comics character Superman. It is the fourth and final film in the original Superman film series, and the first film in that series not to be produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, but rather by Golan-Globus' Cannon Films, in association with Warner Bros. Gene Hackman returned as Lex Luthor, who creates an evil solar-powered version of Superman called Nuclear Man.
The film was both a critical and commercial failure, with many reviewers citing cheap special effects, inconsistencies, lack of originality, and plot holes. Critics have put Superman IV in the category of the worst films ever made.
Superman saves a spaceship of cosmonauts whose ship was thrown off course by debris, then visits his home-town of Smallville as Clark. Now that his adoptive parents have died, Clark has inherited their now-unattended farm. In an empty barn, he uncovers the capsule that brought him to Earth, and removes a luminescent green Kryptonian energy module. A recording left by his mother Lara states that its power can be used only once. After refusing to sell the farm to a mall developer, Superman returns to Metropolis, where he stops a runaway subway train after the conductor collapses at the controls.
After returning to the Daily Planet, Clark learns that the company has gone bankrupt and been taken over by David Warfield, a tabloid tycoon who fires Perry White and hires his own daughter Lacy as the new editor. Lacy takes a liking to Clark and tries to seduce him; Clark agrees to go on a date with her. Following the news that the United States and the Soviet Union may engage in a nuclear arms race, Clark is conflicted about how much Superman should intervene. After receiving a letter from a concerned schoolboy, Superman travels to the Fortress of Solitude to seek advice from the spirits of his Kryptonian ancestors. They recommend that he let Earth solve its own problems, or seek new worlds where war has been outlawed. After asking for advice from Lois Lane, Superman attends a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, announcing to the assembly that he will rid the planet of nuclear weapons. Various nations fire their nuclear warheads into space, which are collected by Superman into a giant net and then thrown into the sun.
Meanwhile, young Lenny Luthor breaks his uncle Lex Luthor out of prison. Returning to Metropolis, Lex and Lenny steal a strand of Superman's hair from a museum, and create a genetic matrix which Lex attaches to a U.S. nuclear missile. After the missile is test launched, Superman intercepts it and throws it into the sun. A glowing ball of energy is discharged, which develops into a superhuman. This "Nuclear Man" makes his way back to Earth to find his 'father' Lex, who establishes that while his creation is powerful, he will deactivate without exposure to sunlight. A vicious battle ensues between Lex's creation and Superman. While saving the Statue of Liberty from falling onto the streets of New York, Superman is infected with radiation sickness by a scratch from Nuclear Man's radioactive claws. Nuclear Man kicks Superman into the distance with such strength that Superman's cape falls off.
To Lois' disgust, the Daily Planet (which has been reformatted as a tabloid newspaper) publishes the headline "Superman Dead?" Lois indicates a desire to quit and seizes Superman's recovered cape for herself. Lacy is also upset and reveals to Lois that she cares for Clark. Lois ventures to Clark's apartment where she proclaims her love for Superman. Felled by radiation sickness, Clark staggers to his terrace where he retrieves the Kryptonian energy module and attempts to heal himself. Having developed a crush on Lacy, Nuclear Man threatens mayhem if she is not brought to him. The newly restored Superman agrees to take him to her to prevent anyone else from being hurt. Superman lures Nuclear Man into an elevator car, trapping him inside and then depositing it on the far side of the moon. As the sun rises, Nuclear Man breaks free due to a sliver of sunlight through a crack in the elevator doors and Superman is again forced to defend himself. At the end of the battle, it appears as that Superman has been defeated, as he is driven into the moon's surface by Nuclear Man.
Nuclear Man forces his way into the Daily Planet and abducts Lacy, carrying her into outer space. Superman manages to free himself from the moon's surface, he then pushes it out of its orbit, casting Earth into an eclipse, nullifying Nuclear Man's powers and leaving Lacy helpless in space. Superman rescues Lacy and returns her to earth, then recovers Nuclear Man and deposits him into the core of a nuclear power plant, destroying him. What had been Nuclear Man becomes electrical power for the entire electrical grid. Perry White secures a loan to buy a controlling interest in the newspaper, making David Warfield a minority shareholder and protecting the paper from any further takeovers. In a press conference, Superman declares only partial victory in his campaign, saying, "There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them". Superman also recaptures the fleeing Luthors. He places Lenny in Boys Town, telling the priest that Lenny has been under a bad influence, and returns Lex to prison.
- Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman
- Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and the voice of Nuclear Man
- Jackie Cooper as Perry White
- Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen
- Jon Cryer as Lenny Luthor
- Sam Wanamaker as David Warfield
- Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man
- Mariel Hemingway as Lacy Warfield
- Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
- Damian McLawhorn as Jeremy
- William Hootkins as Harry Howler
- Jim Broadbent as Jean Pierre Dubois
- Stanley Lebor as General Romoff
- Don Fellows as Levon Hornsby
- Robert Beatty as U.S. President
- Susannah York as the voice of Lara
Development and casting
In 1983, following the mixed-to-negative reaction to Superman III, Reeve and the producers, Alexander Salkind and his son Ilya, assumed that the Superman films had run their course. Reeve was slated to make a cameo in 1984's Supergirl but was unavailable; that film was a box-office failure. Two years later, Ilya Salkind sold the Superman franchise to Golan and Globus of Cannon Films.
According to Jon Cryer, who played Luthor's nephew Lenny, Reeve had taken him aside just before the release and told him it was going to be "terrible". Although Cryer enjoyed working with Reeve and Hackman, Cryer claimed that Cannon ran out of money during the production and ultimately released an unfinished film.
We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in Superman I, we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street. Richard Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don't think that we could ever have lived up to the audience's expectations with this approach.
Rosenthal's DVD commentary pointed to this scene as an example of Cannon's budget slashing. According to Rosenthal, Reeve and director Furie begged to be able to film that sequence in New York in front of the real United Nations building because everyone knew how they looked and the Milton Keynes setting looked nothing like them, but Cannon refused. According to Rosenthal, they were "pinching pennies at every step".
According to writer Mark Rosenthal's commentary on the 2006 DVD, in the gallery of deleted scenes included on the disc, there are approximately forty-five minutes of the film that have not been seen by the general public. They were deleted following a failed Southern California test screening. In fact, the Nuclear Man that appears in the film is actually the second Nuclear Man that Luthor created. Cut scenes featured the original Nuclear Man (portrayed by Clive Mantle) engaging Superman in battle outside the Metro Club and being destroyed by the Man of Steel. The first Nuclear Man was somewhat more inhuman-looking than his successor, and vaguely resembled in looks, and significantly in personality, the comic book character Bizarro. Luthor postulates that this Nuclear Man was not strong enough, and hatches the plan to create the second Nuclear Man within the sun as a result.
Not all deleted scenes made it to the deluxe edition of the DVD, including a scene depicting Clark Kent visiting the graves of his foster parents. This scene was to have preceded the film's theatrical scene where Clark returns to Smallville to meet the contractor in hopes of selling or leasing the Kent farm. A deleted scene about Lacy Warfield's and Clark Kent's romance, showing them dancing in the Metro Club, was also not released on disc.
The film was released July 24, 1987, in the United States and Canada, and grossed $5.6 million during its opening weekend, playing in 1,511 theatres and ranking #4 at the box office. It ended up with a total domestic gross of $15,681,020.
Of the four Superman films starring Reeve, The Quest for Peace fared the worst at the box office, and the series went dormant for the following nineteen years. Reeve regretted his decision to be involved in the film, saying, "Superman IV was a catastrophe from start to finish. That failure was a huge blow to my career." Plans were made to make a Superman V, but they never came to fruition. Reeve's 1995 paralysis made any further development of sequels involving him in the starring role impossible. Time Warner let the Superman feature film franchise go undeveloped until the late 1990s when a variety of proposals were considered, including several that would reboot the franchise with different versions of the characters and settings.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 12% of 41 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average score is 2.9/10. The consensus reads: "The Superman series bottoms out here: the action is boring, the special effects look cheaper, and none of the actors appear interested in where the plot's going."
The film received a poor review by Janet Maslin of The New York Times, although she wrote that Kidder's portrayal of Lois Lane was "sexy, earnest". It fared no better with Variety. The Washington Post described it as "More sluggish than a funeral barge, cheaper than a sale at Kmart, it's a nerd, it's a shame, it's Superman IV." Several critics disliked the special effects.
The film was voted number 40 on a list of 'The 50 Worst Movies Ever' by readers of Empire magazine. It was also nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, Worst Supporting Actress for Mariel Hemingway (lost to Daryl Hannah for Wall Street) and Worst Visual Effects (lost to Jaws: The Revenge).
Comic book adaptation
In late 1987, DC Comics prepared a comic book adaptation of Superman IV, scripted by Bob Rozakis and pencilled by Curt Swan and Don Heck. This edition included different dialogue than the film and incidents from the deleted scenes of the movie. In place of a voice-over from Lara in the early scene involving Superman finding the mysterious crystal, there is a projection of Jor-El himself, much like in the first film. The comic book features a battle with the failed prototype of Nuclear Man resembling Bizarro, and an around-the-world fight with the second Nuclear Man. The adaptation has an alternate ending with Superman and Jeremy flying above Earth, observing that the planet is, in reality, just one world, rather than the divided world one sees on a man-made map. In the adaptation, Jeremy is seen in orbit with a space-suit but in the deleted footage he is not wearing any protection of any kind, as was Lacy Warfield when she was rescued from the second Nuclear Man by Superman. The alternate ending appears in the Deluxe Edition DVD, incorporated in the deleted footage section. There was also a book novelization written by Bonnie Bryant, in which scenes based on deleted footage are included. The novelization was released in 1987, along with the premiere of the film.
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