Continuing with the exploits of the Last Son of Krypton, we come to today’s somewhat infamous entry into the franchise. Now this is a movie that honestly left a lasting memory in me back when I was a kid, mainly because one scene really creeped me out. To date, this has been the only Superman movie I have seen in theaters, not that I haven’t had opportunities to see any of the more recent movies in theaters. Anyways, let’s get on with today’s movie, Superman III.
The plot: Gus Gorman, a chronically unemployed man, is at the unemployment office and learns that his benefits have run out after his being out of work for 36 months. When he asks a man in line for a light, he sees an ad for a computer programming school and decides to enroll, where he discovers he has a knack for computer programming. Meanwhile, Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet and as he speaks with Perry about going to his high school reunion and doing a story on it, he learns that Lois is going to Bermuda for a story. Meanwhile, after finishing the programming school, Gus gets employment at Webscoe but when he is disappointed in all of the taxes that are taken out of his paycheck, he decides to embezzle from the company by rerouting the fractions of cents from all transactions into his account. Elsewhere, Clark is on a bus to Smallville with Jimmy Olsen when the bus is stopped due to a nearby fire at a chemical plant. As Jimmy sneaks in to take pictures of what is going on, Clark changes into Superman and asks the fire fighters how he can help. After rescuing some workers from the roof, Superman heads inside to ensure everyone is out and finds one man staying behind to look after the canisters of Beltric acid, saying if they heat up they will release an acidic cloud that could eat through anything. As the fire continues to rage, Superman rescues Jimmy, who had broken his leg when the ladder he was on broke. When the water runs out from the fire trucks, Superman heads to a nearby lake, freezes it, then carries it back to the fire, where the heat from the fire melts the ice and turns it into rain, which puts out the fires. At the reunion, Clark sees his high school crush Lana Lang and goes to talk with her, and she takes him out to the dance floor to avoid dealing with her drunken ex-boyfriend Brad Wilson. Clark stays in Smallville for a few more days, continuing to hang out with Lana and her son Ricky. Meanwhile, Gus’ actions are discovered by company owner Ross Webster, who blackmails Gus into helping him destroy the coffee crops in Colombia, as the Colombian government refuses to do business with him in his bid to control the coffee market. Ross and his sister Vera want Gus to use the Vulcan weather satellite to create a storm that will take out the crops and when Gus suggests they access Vulcan through a low level computer so it won’t be traced back to them, Ross sends him to Smallville, where a Webscoe subsidiary Wheatking is based. When Gus gets there, he convinces Brad, who is the night security guard, to let him in by bribing him with liquor. After Brad passes out drunk, Gus heads to the main computer room and after a couple of attempts, accesses the Vulcan satellite and has it create a hurricane to attack Columbia. Ross, Vera, and Lorelei Ambrosia, Ross’s psychic nutritionist, see the news about the hurricane and Ross starts celebrating but Gus shows up and tells him that Superman had stopped the hurricane and saved Colombia. Ross is upset that Superman might interfere with his oil plan but Lorelei mentions Kryptonite and he comes up with a plan. Ross has Gus use the Vulcan satellite to analyze the remains of Krypton so he can discover what Kryptonite is made of so that their labs can manufacture some to use against Superman. When Gus analyzes Krypton, he finds one of the elements is an unknown substance so he substitutes tar as the substance in the report. Superman agrees to show up at Ricky’s birthday party but the town of Smallville decides to hold a festival in his honor. During the festival, Gus, disguised as an Army officer, shows up and awards Superman for saving the town from the chemical fire and hands him the synthetic Kryptonite but Superman suffers no effects from it. Later, at Lana’s house, Superman starts acting strangely, choosing to flirt with Lana and delaying going to help with a traffic accident. Superman then straightens out the Leaning Tower of Pisa and blows out the Olympic Flame, causing the nations of the world to censure his actions. With Superman no longer being complete good guy, Ross feels that he will no longer be a hindrance to his plan. Ross has Gus order all of the oil pumps to start working and reroute all of the oil tankers to a spot in the middle of the ocean. Gus refuses at first unless Ross agrees to build him a supercomputer based on his own designs. When Ross agrees to build it, Gus uses the computers to do as Ross asks but one of the tankers refuses to follow the new orders. Realizing this, Ross has Lorelei seduce Superman and convince him to turn the tanker around but when he stops the tanker from continuing towards Metropolis, he ends up causing an oil spill. Meanwhile, Lana gets tired of dealing with Brad and realizing she needs a change, decides to move to Metropolis with Ricky. When they get into town, they see Superman getting drunk at a bar and causing a commotion and Ricky pleads with Superman to go back to being a hero as he flies off. Superman ends up heading to a junkyard and screaming in frustration, scaring off the workers. Suddenly, Superman separates into his good self, in the form of Clark, and his current evil self. The two personas begin fighting in the junkyard, with Clark eventually winning as he strangles the evil self until it disappears. Clark then changes into Superman and flies off towards the ocean, where he returns the oil to the tanker and repairs it. Superman than heads to Lorelei’s apartment, where he sees a video message from Vera inviting him to come get them. Superman flies to Glen Canyon, where Ross had the super computer built, but comes under fire from the computer’s defenses. As Superman heads inside the cave where the computer is, the computer analyzes him and is able to create a Kryptonite beam to use against him. Not wanting to be known as the man who killed Superman, Gus manages to cut the power to the computer but the computer becomes self aware and begins absorbing power from the nearby power lines to continue attacking Superman. Gus uses a fire axe to disable the beam projector but the computer blasts him away, knocking him unconscious. Superman recovers and flies away while Ross, Lorelei, and Vera try to escape the computer but Vera is captured and transformed into a cyborg. Vera attacks Loelei and Ross when Superman returns, carrying a container of Butric acid, and saves them. The computer doesn’t register the acid as a threat as it attacks Superman but as it drags Superman inside it’s core to try and turn him into a cyborg, the heat from the super computer heats up the acid and it ends up destroying the computer. Superman frees Gus and takes him out of there to a nearby coal plant. Superman grabs a piece of coal and crushes it into a diamond, then tells the workers that Gus would be a good hire but Gus opts not to work there and decides to walk to the nearest bus stop. In Metropolis, Clark heads to Lana’s apartment, telling her Superman can’t meet her for dinner but asks if she would like to go to dinner with him instead, to which Lana happily agrees. Clark then gives Lana the new diamond ring, which he had made to replace the one she was forced to pawn, when Brad shows up, having followed Lana to Metropolis. Brad attacks Clark in a drunken, jealous rage but Clark is able to dodge him and Brad ends up falling onto a room service cart and rolling into the elevator. The next day, Perry is congratulating Lois on the story she wrote while on vacation and as Lois is talking with Clark about his story and offers to take him to lunch, Clark tells her he is going to lunch with Perry’s new secretary, Lana. Later, Superman flies back to Pisa and restores the Leaning Tower back to it’s original position then flies off to orbit the Earth to look for new adventures.
Superman III was panned by most of the critics, holding a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “When not overusing sight gags, slapstick, and Richard Pryor, Superman III resorts to plot points rehashed from the previous Superman flicks.” Both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder expressed their disgust over the firing of Richard Donner, with Reeves considering not returning for the movie, but he was eventually convinced to return when he was offered the ability to make some rewrites to the script while Kidder’s role was reduced to only a few minutes of screen time. Despite the bad reviews, the movie was a mild hit at the box office, earning $80.2 million off of a $39 million budget.
I am 50/50 on my feelings towards this movie. On the one hand, there are a couple of good scenes that are in this movie but overall, it’s kind of a let down. The acting was ok, with Christopher Reeve (Clark), Annette O’Toole (Lana) and Richard Pryor (Gus) doing great jobs in their roles. The story was a bit of a mess, and I think part of that was that they tried to put too much slap stick elements in it in an attempt to lighten the mood some, but it hurt the overall story. That being said, there were some good elements in this movie. The synthetic Kryptonite angle, which mimicked aspects of Red and Black Kryptonite, and the fight between Superman’s good and evil personas was definitely the best part of the movie. Meanwhile, the scene where Vera was turned into a cyborg is still a little unnerving but I felt like childlike memories might have made it more vivid than it really was. The special effects actually seemed better than in the second one but there were a few aspects that could have been better. All in all, it has a bit of a bad rep but this can be entertaining to watch.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5