In defence of Superman III:

Released: 1983
Director: Richard Lester
Screenplay: David Newman III and Leslie Newman

No, it's not the best movie ever made, and yes, it's probably the worst of the 4 Superman movies. But it has several redeeming features.

First of all, let's get the faults out of the way: The slumming bad guy is Robert Vaughn, not Wagner, but yes, his acting is not exactly up to Oscar standards. However, if you want to blame someone, blame Richard Lester, and the crazy Salkind producers, who for some reason decided that comedy and computers were the way to go. The lame scenes that involve the baddies and/or computers were a mistake. Involving Richard Pryor was also a bad idea - the producers were so taken with his comedy stylings, they tried to make the film funnier, and beefed up his part. Pryor is usually hilarious, but not in this movie. The bit where he falls off the roof on skis wrapped in a towel was embarrassing even when I was a kid.

The dodgy computer effects: Okay, fair enough. It was 1983, and although Tron had come out only a year before, there weren't the facilities that there are today. Microsoft were just about to release the first version of Word, so it wasn't as if they could just call up the nearest effects house and ask for 12 minutes of CGI dinosaurs, like most movies seem to today. The missile sequence was actually a game Atari were making, which explains why it had those sound effects referred to in the above writeup. The game was never released, which is probably just as well. Computers were just taking off, so you can't really blame them for jumping on the bandwagon. But you can blame them for the scene where the woman is turned into a cyborg - that was just shit.

The absence of Lois Lane is a bit of a stinker - Margot Kidder was pissed off at the producers' shoddy treatment of Richard Donner (he was fired from the second movie), so she didn't want to have anything to do with it. She'd probably read the script, too. She only turned up for a contractually obliged appearance for the sake of the plot, less than 5 minutes of screen time. The producers weren't too worried, after all, the kids are paying to see Superman, comedy, and things blowing up, right?

Okay, now for the good parts: The normal, "Clark Kent is quite clumsy" comedy, and in particular the opening sequence. I love this opening, it's very well put together, cleverly choreographed, and very funny. The 40's style screwball aspect of it fits perfectly, as there is something very old fashioned about the Superman movies. If you ever get a chance to see it, the making of Superman III is interesting, if only to see the squillions of takes needed for Christopher Reeve to "accidentally" backhand the pie into that guy's face. Then of course you have the car filling with water, Clark's determined face as he runs off, good old Supes appears, and all is well with the world.

The whole Lana Lang thing - it was really sweet, really sad, and nicely handled. Poor old Clark can never have a proper relationship, but at least he can feel a bit normal for a while.

The idea of the villains trying to synthesize Kryptonite is quite clever, especially the idea that they don't get it quite right. This also introduces the best part of the entire movie - Evil Superman. Oh my God, as a kid I was so shocked to see Superman sitting in a bar, drunk, unshaven, pissed off and nasty, flicking peanuts at the mirror and shattering it. To see him staggering down the street, parents pulling their children away from him, still gets me, even now. The look on his face scared the shit out of me. I remember turning to my sister in horror and gasping "Superman's mean!" When he finally rips into two separate entities, it's an incredibly intense moment. The fight is raw, brutal, and nasty. Superb. And straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a nice touch, although I thought back then, and still do now: why were they so angry at him for fixing it? Fucking thing's going to fall over soon, isn't it?

If they had ditched the whole computer/cyborg/whatever waffle subplot, changed it to something a bit more realistic, and made the good/evil Superman part the main thrust of the story, I think this would probably be considered the best of the series. It's a really dark journey he goes on, and I love it. It's for these scenes alone that I can still watch this patchy, shoddy movie, forgiving its faults, and why I still defend it now.