Monday, July 4, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part IV: The Quest for Peace

Time, on the internet, is relative. Of course, time everywhere is relative, but even relative time is relative when it's on the internet. It is, simply stated, relativity squared.

We offer this example. You, dear reader, are no doubt reading this a day or two after our discussion of Superman III. As such, you may be under the impression that we in The Middle Room watched Superman III, waited a proportionate amount of time, and then put on Superman IV.

This would be incorrect. No, our commitment to this endeavor is greater than that: we watched Superman three and four back-to-back, with only a short reprieve between films.

Such is the passage of time conflated and warped by the internet.

Superman IV (or 4, four, 5 - 1, or -e raised to the pi times i power divided by .25, depending on your preferred nomenclature): The Quest for Peace is an incredibly bad movie, except when it's not. There are very few instances where this exception applies, but we were surprised to find a few moments that seemed not awful.

Clark's visit to the family farm, for example, was fairly well handled, as was his conversation with Lois, when she remembered the events of Superman 2. That the scene ended with him wiping her memory once more undermined any impact, but in a movie this bad we don't expect anything good to last and take any such moments, no matter how fleeting, wherever we find them.

Likewise, we were impressed with some of how the movie approached Superman's internal conflict as he decided whether or not to rid the world of nuclear weapons. While it's tempting to dismiss this movie out of hand, this did touch upon themes that play out in several of comics' most significant stories: namely, what responsibility superheroes have to change the world, rather than just upholding the status quo, and where the line exists between hero and conqueror.

Unfortunately, the movie only touched on such themes, toying briefly with these ideas, then tossing them aside. Far more time was invested in Superman having to fake a double-date, with Clark seeing one woman and Superman the other, a sequence that tried to be intentionally funny, failed, and yet was so stupid as to be unintentionally hilarious anyway.

All of this, of course, was just setting the stage for a new Luthor-created supervillain, named "Nuclear-Man." Why the filmmakers went with so idiotic a creation rather than using an established idiotic Superman villain is baffling, to say the least.

The fights - indeed all of the effects - were bad; the blue-screen work among the worst ever made. Even the costuming is painful to look at: the stitching on the 'S' logo on Superman's cape is shoddy beyond belief.

Add to that an unparalleled level of absurdity and illogic - Superman fixes the Great Wall of China with his eyes, then later rescues a woman in the depths of space (no space suit, no air; he just catches her and returns her safely to Earth) - and it's easy to see why this is numbered among the worst superhero movies ever made.

To its credit, at 90 minutes, we found it easier to sit through than Superman III.

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