July 24, 2017
Starring the late, great Christopher Reeve in the title role, this movie suffered badly from a seriously anemic special effects budget that makes it look slightly more akin to the George Reeves TV series than the three prior Superman movies.. The movie also stars the brilliant Gene Hackman as the wonderfully playful Lex Luthor. Jon Cryer, hot off his role as Duckie in “Pretty In Pink” plays another hapless, playful loser, this time as Luthor’s nephew, Lennie. Jackie Cooper is the boss at the Daily Planet newspaper company, who is not quite as hilarious a newspaper boss as J. Jonah Jamesson at the Daily Bugle, but he’s respectable. Marc McClure is the incurably good-natured Jimmy. Margot Kidder makes a brief return as tough Lois Lane.
The magnificently tall Mark Pillow strikes a powerful image as the new supervillain, the gigglingly-badly-named Nuclear Man. (No need for a secret identity like “Clark Kent” here. He’s just “Nuclear Man”.) He growls and struts and grimaces his way through his scenes with aplomb, and works to direct attention away from the sad effects. The supervillain’s weakness is overly obvious, and is so detrimental and immediate, that this villain doesn’t really ever seem like a real threat to the hero. There is one time that this bad guy scratches Superman with some sort of titanium fingernails while Superman is in the middle of trying to do some good. Nuclear man must not do the manicure thing, because the scratch is somehow infected, and Superman falls ill. Clark Kent must call in sick into the newspaper and everything. However, a televised broadcast showing kids asking for Superman inspires the hero anew, and he shakes off the illness like a cartoon shaking off a dropped piano.
The cast addition that I really enjoyed was Mariel Hemingway. She plays the part of a media heiress who’s family buys out the Daily Planet, to turn it into a silly, but more profitable little tabloid rag. This new character develops a crush on Clark Kent, which leads to some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. My favorite is when there is an “interview date” situation, where Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and this character are all to meet up at an apartment for an interview with Superman. Well, that would require that Superman and Clark be in the same room at the same time, right? Superman, as Clark Kent, does wonderfully at playing his secret-identity character’s good-natured clumsiness to the maximum effect, taking him, literally, out of the picture, so that he can whip around and fly in as Superman. He finishes his interview with the girls and flies off, immediately whipping around and appearing at the apartment door, having just missed the interview opportunity that would have boosted his whole career. Most of this enjoyment comes from Christopher Reeve’s charm, but there’s a really nice interplay here, combined with a slapstick humorous bait-and-switch. Look for Clark’s fun little non-chalant line when Lois Lane advises him to compliment the heiress on her dress.
I also enjoyed where this heiress takes Clark to a very 80s-style gym to work out. Clark is hilariously and enjoyably hapless, and there’s a certain cute chemistry between them.
This movie is heavily flawed, but is still a fun watch. I give it one cape up out of two.