Superman III is a 1983 superhero comedy, action film that was directed by Richard Lester, and it serves as a third installment in the much-beloved Christopher Reeve Superman franchise. The film stars Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn, and Margot Kidder.
Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), a chronically unemployed loser, gets a job working for Robert Webster (Robert Vaughn), who secretly wants to take over the world. Meanwhile, Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) convinces his boss at the Daily Planet, Perry White (Jackie Cooper), to allow him to return to his hometown of Smallville so he can attend his high-school reunion.
Webster tricks Gus into giving Clark a lump of crude Kryptonite, which causes Clark to start behaving erratically. As Superman, he soon does a bunch of strange things like straightening up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, blowing out the Olympic flame and causing all sorts of chaos around the world. Superman falls into a severe fit of depression before the effects of the Kryptonite causes an evil clone of Superman to form and engage in a fight to the death with Clark Kent.
Clark eventually manages to kill the evil Superman and regain his identity. Superman then confronts Webster, only for a supercomputer that Gus helped Webster construct to go berserk and start attacking him. Gus, realizing that Webster used him for his own nefarious purposes, helps Superman fight back against the computer and destroy it. Webster and his goons are arrested, while Superman takes Gus to West Virginia, where he helps him get a new job at a coal-mining plant.
Superman then fixes up the problems that he had caused earlier, before flying off into the sunset for further adventures.
Not-So Super Qualities
- The story is weak and completely ignores the events of Superman and Superman II. None of the events from the first two movies were mentioned, Lex Luthor is completely absent and he isn't mentioned at all in this movie.
- Who in the Blue Hell thought that it would be a good idea to give Richard Pryor a starring role in a Superman movie?!
- Lois Lane is only in 2 scenes, one at the beginning and one at the very end, and does nothing, which is a huge letdown after her major role in the previous film. In fact, you can cut Lois out of the film and the plot wouldn't even be affected in the slightest either.
- There are no well-known villains from the Superman comics, just an evil unscrupulous owner named Ross Webster and his wife Vera who are never based on the comics.
- Speaking of Robert Webster, he is a poorly developed main villain and isn't intimidating in any way compared to Lex Luthor, shape or form except for one good scene (see GQ #9).
- The movie is overloaded with comedy themes which it doesn't even fit the film at all, making it feel more like a present-day Marvel-esque film. In fact, the film would've been better if it had had much less comedy, much like in the first two movies. Christopher Reeve himself even considered this movie as a Richard Pryor comedy movie with Superman as a supporting character. Also it feels like it was made by someone who have never read the comics or just wanted to tell a story of different way.
- Most of the acting is awkward and bizarre at some of the points throughout the film.
- Poor special effects, especially in the scene where Webster's sister is turned into a robot by the supercomputer.
- The film goes nowhere at times and is, at certain moments, slow-paced. Some of the scenes have subplots that have nothing to do with the rest of the film. In fact, this film doesn’t even feel like an actual superhero film (Which is what it’s supposed to be.).
- The opening is like an unfunny comedy routine with all sorts of mishaps. As the Nostalgia Critic said in his "Top 11 Dumbest Superman Moments" episode, there isn't nearly enough "wah-wah" music to get through the opening.
- The concept of having Superman being turned evil is completely wasted, because he only commits some slight mischief (e.g. straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, blowing out the Olympic Torch and shooting peanuts at a mirror). There's even one scene where Superman gets drunk at a bar, and he goes outside and yells "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, HUH?!" at some random people, which Superman would never do.)
- Then again, he was drunk and Ricky even tries to stop Superman from getting worse before he lands in the junkyard.
- Countless plot holes: A particularly memorable one is when the evil Superman hangs out with a prostitute and states that he doesn't save the day anymore.
- Some of the dialogue is laughably bad, such as Superman's "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, HUH?!" line.
- John Williams' iconic opening score that was heard during the openings of the previous films is used at the beginning of this film and the co-composing by Giorgio Moroder was good, which is one reason why Superman III is now considered by most fans to be a decent film in the original series.
- The idea of an evil clone of Superman is pretty interesting which was not featured in the previous entries.
- Christopher Reeve's performance as the evil Superman is awesome.
- His performance as the "good" Clark Kent side was also praised by fans and critics.
- The fight between the evil Superman and Clark Kent in the junkyard is pretty intense and easily the best scene in the entire movie.
- Bringing back Lana Lang and Brad Wilson, who were last seen in the first Superman, is a clever choice to explore Clark's crush on her since their teenager years.
- Ricky is likable in this movie.
- The scenes with Clark Kent and Lana Lang are pretty strong.
- Richard Pryor's performance as Gus Gorman, although was a bad idea to be involved in, can be very funny and entertaining sometimes.
- The scene where Superman helps firefighters extinguish a fire at the chemical plant is pretty exciting after he used his freezing breath to harden a lake since there was no access to get more water to put out the fire.
- It was later discredited along with Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, for Superman Returns along with also the comic continuation unrelated to Returns titled Superman '78.
- Despite Webster being a weak villain, the idea of having a computer genius as our main villain was a pretty interesting idea for the series since that wasn't shown in the previous films.
- There can sometimes be good and hilarious dialogue, even when Superman says, "You always wanted to fly Kent. Now's your chance."
Superman III was released on June 17, 1983, and received generally unfavorable reviews from critics, fans and audiences due to the campy tone and poor storyline (especially with the casting of Richard Pryor). At that time, it was considered the worst film in the series until Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released in 1987, which received even worse reviews than Superman III received. Superman III currently holds a 30% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 53 reviews, with an average of 4.5 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "When not overusing sight gags, slapstick, and Richard Pryor, Superman III resorts to plot points rehashed from the previous Superman flicks." Metacritic gave a film a 44/100 "Mixed or average reviews" while IMDB gives a film a 5.0/10 rating. Film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both added the film on their list of the worst films of 1983 during their Stinkers of 1983 show. Roger Ebert awarded the film a 2.5 out of 4 stars and described the film as "a cinematic comic book, shallow, silly, filled with stunts and action, without much human interest." Despite the mostly negative reviews of the past, most present-day fans of the first two films now consider Superman III to be better than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Superman III opened up at #1 on its opening weekend with a domestic box office gross of $13,352,357. It later made a total domestic gross of $59,950,623. The film made a worldwide gross of $80.2 million against its $39 million budget making it a moderate success.
- According to Ilya Salkind, the original script was going to involve Brainiac and Mr. Mxyzptlk (who would've been played by Dudley Moore) teaming up against Superman, who would also meet his cousin Supergirl, who was adopted by Brainiac. The three characters would've been involved in a love triangle, with a jealous Brainiac turning Superman evil and Supergirl agreeing to marry him if he returned him to normal. Superman would've then made a deal with Mxyzptlk to transport him and Brainiac to another dimension in order to settle the matter without superpowers, which they would've done by jousting in medieval armor.
- Christoper Reeve threatened not to return for this film due to a combination of protesting over Richard Donner's firing and hating the original script. With the film already in pre-production, the producers scrambled to find a new actor to play Superman. John Travolta was approached, but declined. Jeff Bridges and Kurt Russell were also considered, but they weren't interested. A few days before filming was set to begin, the Salkinds settled on Tony Danza as Superman. Richard Lester was mortified with this casting, so he pleaded for Reeve to return. Reeve agreed, but only if he was allowed to change the script, which the Salkinds agreed on.
- According to the writers, the original choice to play Ross Webster was Alan Alda. They wanted an actor who could be ruthless without losing any charm. Executive producer Ilya Salkind said in the film's 2006 DVD commentary that his choice was Frank Langella. Langella would go on to play Perry White in Superman Returns.
- Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) refused to appear in this film.
- Because Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) objected to the direction and production choices, she was given reduced screen time in this movie. In the DVD commentary, Ilya Salkind said there was little need for Lois in this movie after her relationship with Superman had ended in Superman II.
- The portrayal of Lana Lang as a sweet nice person in this movie is sometimes attributed as influencing further portrayals of the character. Lana Lang used to be depicted as a ruthless, borderline villainous love rival of Lois'.
- The scenes in which Superman straightens the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then leans it back in the end were originally planned for Superman II.