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Richard Lester
Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn
Writing Credits:
Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters), David Newman, Leslie Newman

If the world's most powerful computer can control even Superman ... no one on earth is safe.

Christopher Reeve returns as the Man of Steel, this time battling maniacal businessman Ross Webster and his computer-expert assistant. Webster hatches a plan to control the world economy and uses Red Kryptonite to split Superman into two beings, one good, one evil ...

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$13.352 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$56.950 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/1/2001

• Cast and Crew Filmographies
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Superman III (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 24, 2007)

Call it the “Third Film Curse”, but of the two major superhero movie franchises, their third entries have marked definite declines. Granted, some would argue this tendency in regard to the Batman series. Many folks loathe the second flick, 1992’s Batman Returns and think that 1989’s Batman is the best of the bunch. While I really like Batman, I feel that BR was the most consistent and compelling of the four.

For me, it was the third picture that started the decline. For 1995’s Batman Forever, Tim Burton ceded the director’s chair to Joel Schumacher, and the films would never be the same. Frankly, Forever was a decent little movie, but it didn’t compare to the pleasures found in its predecessors.

The only subject upon which most parties agree is that the fourth film - 1997’s Batman and Robin - was the worst of the bunch. I like the characters enough to make that flick watchable for me, but I have to agree that it’s mainly a dud.

Within the four Superman films, similar lines become drawn. Most people prefer the first movie in the series, 1978’s Superman. However, the first sequel, 1981’s Superman II maintains a substantial audience of partisans, and quite a few folks believe it’s the best of the bunch.

I’m sure someone feels that either 1983’s Superman III or 1987’s Superman IV is the most satisfying entries in the series, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find them. SIV is a matter for another day. The consensus seems to find it to be easily the worst of the four, but I’ll not deal with that until I get to the DVD. As for SIII, I didn’t think that the movie was a total disaster, but it seemed to be generally weak, especially when compared with the first two flicks.

SIII introduces a fairly large roster of new characters; of the four films, it most substantially rewrites the cast slate. Old favorites like Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), Perry White (Jackie Cooper), and Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) make brief appearances, but they play only small roles in the story. We also find no trace of our Superman’s (Christopher Reeve) previously established archenemy Lex Luthor (portrayed by Gene Hackman in the first two flicks).

Instead, SIII focuses on a totally new list of friends and villains. The plot splits along two lines. On one side, Clark Kent - Superman’s alter ego - wants to go to his high school reunion and write a feature article about it for “The Daily Planet”. Editor White agrees, and though Olsen initially accompanies him, a convenient accident gets him out of the way. Once he returns to Smallville, Clark encounters past acquaintances, the most significant of whom is Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). Clark maintained a serious crush on her during high school, and it now looks like he might have the chance to get to know her better.

One wonders why he apparently no longer cares about Lois, the established love interest for Superman from the first two films, but whatever the case, Clark and Lana start to develop a modestly romantic relationship. While this occurs, we follow a second plot in which we meet unemployed goofball Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor). After his benefits end, he goes to a computer trade school and there discovers a true talent for the machines. From there he gets a job with a huge corporation owned by vicious tycoon Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn). When Gus cleverly embezzles a modest amount of money, Ross declines to punish him as long as Gus will use his skills to help enhance Ross’ wealth.

As such, Ross forces Gus to manipulate a weather satellite so that it’ll ruin the coffee crop in Colombia. Unfortunately for them, Superman steps in and prevents the damage. Thus foiled, Ross swears revenge on the Man of Steel, and he makes Gus create a synthetic form of Kryptonite to kill Supes. This doesn’t work as planned because a small portion of the analyzed sample was “unknown”. Gus substitutes tar instead and lets it do its job.

The faux Kryptonite doesn’t kill Superman, but it does alter his personality. Suddenly Supes becomes a member of the “me first” club and he refuses all attempts to do good. Eventually he snaps out of this, of course, and he sets his sights on Ross and Gus. In the meantime, Gus has created a Ross-financed supercomputer that will attempt again to kill Superman.

Got all that? Good - now throw it out the window. None of the story makes any difference whatsoever, as the entire film is nothing more than an excuse to stage some ineffective action sequences. Superman III ultimately felt like it was cobbled together out of a vague concept: Computer vs. Superman. The rest of the story was thrown against a wall and sorted out from there, but no one bothered to develop the characters or create anything of much interest.

Actually, that’s not totally true, as SIII offers a few minor moments of fun. I must admit that the shots of Nasty Superman were a modest hoot. Reeve seemed to relish the opportunity to play the Boy Scout as a scumbag, and while Nasty Supes never became truly vicious, he still could be quite entertaining. Unfortunately, these scenes were almost negated by a truly ridiculous segment in which the two sides of Supes - during which Clark represented his good part - faced off against each other. “Man vs. Superman” was nothing more than a weak piece that seemed inane.

Although the manner in which Lois was disposed of seemed to be illogical and callous - and apparently occurred due to a spiteful attitude the film’s producers held toward Kidder - I will acknowledge that the scenes with Lana were somewhat interesting. I liked this look at Clark’s past, and O’Toole maintained a simple, gentle charm that made her seem endearing. The manner in which the two plots coincide appeared silly, but during the film’s quieter moments, these sequences added emotion to the piece.

Otherwise, SIII fell almost totally flat. Director Richard Lester tried far too hard to invest the film with comedic elements, and these resulted in goofy slapstick that was out of place in this sort of film. Really, the entire Gus side of the story was a waste. By this point in his career, Pryor was in his “please love me” mode that resulted in tripe like The Toy. He used to have a spark and an edge to his work, but by 1983, he presented all of the risk of a teddy bear as he chewed the scenery.

The segments with Gus took up far too much of the film. At times movies that focus fairly heavily on villains can work. For example, the first two Batman flicks offered a lot of coverage of their baddies, and this didn’t harm the result. However, those pictures had a more competent director and they included better actors; Pryor was a fine comedian, but his acting - at least by 1983 - left a lot to be desired. Gus wasn’t even really a villain; he had to act bad to avoid troubles of his own. Clearly Gus received so much screen time because Pryor wouldn’t sign on to the film otherwise. Unfortunately, that meant we spent much of the movie with a character who was a dud.

Ultimately, Superman III managed to avoid becoming unwatchable, but the overall package was quite weak. A few fun moments are negated by loads of silly antics and forced comedy. Though neither Superman nor Superman II were perfect films, they look like works of genius compared to this dud.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Superman III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it showed a few concerns, I thought the movie presented a fairly satisfying picture.

Sharpness usually appeared to be reasonably crisp and detailed. During some wide shots, I detected a modicum of softness, mostly due to the presence of some noticeable edge haloes. However, these instances weren’t too frequent. As a whole, the image looked well-defined and distinct. I saw no examples of jagged edges, but some moiré effects cropped up at times; these occurred mainly due to the usual suspects such as grates and striped shirts. Print flaws also appeared to be rare. A few minor speckles occurred, and I also saw light grain during some special effects shots, but as a whole, SIII presented a surprisingly clean and fresh impression.

Colors also looked pretty solid. Granted, the hues could appear slightly drab at times. For example, the scenes at the high school reunion presented flat tones. However, most of the movie seemed to offer nicely vibrant and concise colors that accurately replicated the comic book appearance. Black levels also seemed to be fairly deep and dark, and shadow detail usually looked quite clear and appropriately opaque. Ultimately, Superman III offered a satisfying visual experience. I went with a “B” because of the distractions from the edge enhancement and occasional flaws, but this one almost got a “B+” even with those concerns.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Superman III provided an erratic affair, but it improved as it progressed. Virtually all of my concerns related to audio quality, which started out quite poorly. During the movie’s early sequences, dialogue sounded very thin and brittle, and I often had trouble comprehending what the actors said. Dialogue taken from the set was thin and distant, and re-recorded material didn’t fare that well either. Many lines were looped, and this was not done well, as some speech did not integrate cleanly with the action. However, this problem declined as the movie continued. Speech never became terribly natural, but the dialogue heard during the majority of the film seemed much improved over what I heard in its early stages.

Effects appeared to be more consistent, though they also displayed some concerns. These elements sounded a bit wan and lackluster for the most part, and their dynamics were not special. Highs lacked crispness, and bass response sounded deep but ill-defined. For this area, low end was quite loud at times, but it failed to deliver a tight and taut experience.

Dynamic range sounded stronger for the film’s music. Its score could become slightly muddy at times, but as a whole it appeared surprisingly robust and bold. Bass response was still a little boomy, but those elements seemed tighter and richer for the score.

As for the soundfield, SIII offered a moderately engaging experience. The forward channels demonstrated reasonably good spread, and audio blended together fairly well. I heard some good examples of panning between speakers, and the overall impression was that the front spectrum seemed to be relatively engaging and active. Surround usage largely restricted itself to general reinforcement of the front channels. Some scenes worked better than others. For example, the one in which Superman saved Ricky became nicely engaging and broad. However, as a whole the surrounds seemed to be moderately subdued. Ultimately the audio for Superman III worked acceptably well for its age, but some glaring concerns limited my grade to a “C+”.

Even less compelling are the extras found on Superman III. After the treasure trove that appeared on the DVD for Superman, we get almost nothing here. All we discover are the film’s theatrical trailer and Cast and Crew filmographies for Richard Pryor, Christopher Reeve, and director Richard Lester. Apparently the film’s television screening added a slew of deleted scenes; why aren’t these on the DVD?

The addition of some solid extras might have made Superman III a good package, but as it stands, the result is a dud. The movie itself had a few decent moments, but these were heavily outweighed by lame comedy and unexciting action. The DVD offered a surprisingly strong picture decent but the sound was less compelling, and we got almost no extras. Superman III should be left for the completists alone.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3 Stars Number of Votes: 20
4 3:
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