As students of the cinema will readily appreciate, the difference, auteur-wise, between the Donner-directed Superman movies and the Lester-directed Superman movies is that Richard Donner gave a shit and Richard Lester clearly did not.
That’s why the flying scenes in Superman III are so disappointing. In the original movie, Donner was willing to spend untold months and millions perfecting the technology, while Lester figured you could just put a shot of Christopher Reeve holding his arms out on top of a picture of the landscape, problem solved.
But if you really want to see the full extent of Lester’s that’ll-do pragmatism, just look at the pathetic little patch of weeds that he chose as the location of the film’s picnic scene.
Continue reading Superman III 4.23: Sure, the Picnic
For almost one minute of screen time, the Superman III soundtrack is Roger Miller singing “They Won’t Get Me.” Why?
Continue reading Superman III 4.22: The No Comprendo
Okay, somebody secure the bankbook, we’ve got incoming. Brando’s famous paycheck for the first movie was $3.7 million at best, and now the Salkinds are paying $4 million for the services of superstar comedian Richard Pryor. So far in the movie, he’s just been typing in the background, but here — in his first sequence with Ross Webster — is the moment where Pryor is out of the chair and bustin’ loose.
Except they forgot to write him any jokes.
Continue reading Superman III 4.21: The World According to Attila the Hun
And meanwhile, forty years later, Warner Bros. decides to throw away a perfectly good Superman who’s drop-dead gorgeous and full of crowd-pleasing potential, because they want to scrap everything they’ve been doing and embark on a new ten-year plan made up of twenty-seven serialized blockbusters. This is an utterly lunatic thing to do, and yet our entire system of pop culture entertainment has ground to a halt so that we can predict, discuss, analyze and make fun of this plan.
Now, I know that I haven’t been posting very much lately — the blog has slowed down to about Superheroes Three or Four Times a Month, which means we’re not getting anywhere. We’ve just been hovering around the Superman III bowling sequence for ages, which is a terrible place to abandon the people that I love.
It’s just that I’ve been on a roller coaster ride for the last few months about whether I’m ever going to see Henry Cavill play Superman again, and it’s been hard to focus. I mean, technically, I don’t actually like either of Cavill’s Superman films, so honestly what a third Cavill outing means to me in a material sense is a nice movie poster and another couple cover stories in mens’ fitness magazines. But still, it would have been nice, and this has been a trying period for me.
Continue reading Superman III 4.20: The Coming of Gunn
And besides, what is Ricky supposed to get out of this incident? What lesson has he learned? What lasting advantage has been bestowed upon him?
The problem that Clark Kent, alias Superman, is supposedly trying to deal with is that young Ricky here is being bullied by his classmates. They don’t want him on their bowling team, for a very good reason: the kid has no skills, and brings nothing to the organization.
If the miraculous intervention on Ricky’s behalf makes it appear as if he has suddenly and temporarily acquired an inhumanly destructive right hook which blows bowling pins to fragments, then what? Even if this moment of triumph, which he did not earn and does not deserve, imbues him with masterful confidence heading into his next time at-bat, he still sucks at bowling and that deficit has not been corrected.
And as for the bullying, if you think that the only problem the other kids have with him is his bowling skills, then you need to take another close look at Ricky.
Continue reading Superman III 4.19: Still About Bowling
Okay, I promise, this is the last post that I’m going to write about this villain intro scene. The topic on today’s agenda is the fraught relationship between Superman III and women in general.
Continue reading Superman III 4.18: Cats
White, black, gray, silver, transparent and stainless steel, in every combination and everywhere: this is the non-traditional design sense of villainous corporate recluse Ross Webster. He likes his ornamentation any way he can get it: in swoops, angles, circles, puddles or piled up in heaps. When Ross Webster decorates someplace, it stays decorated.
So I don’t know what to do with this lunatic set. There’s so much of it, and it makes so little sense.
Continue reading Superman III 4.17: The Great Indoors
The first thing that you notice about Ross Webster, as a Superman villain, is how chill he is. Well, technically, the first thing that you notice is that he’s the guy from the old spy show, and then you notice how chill he is.
And as a predatory corporate raider in 1983, he has reason to be chill. He’s only a couple years into the Reagan administration, an era when concepts like “I want to control all of the oil” were back in vogue as acceptable topics of conversation.
Continue reading Superman III 4.16: The Man from The Man from UNCLE
So let us speak of Lana Lang — once the Queen of the Prom, and now the leading lady in a movie that technically doesn’t need one.
She’s not Lois, we’ve covered that, and she’s not even really Lana, in the original sense of the word. This is a brand new Superman III original, constructed entirely out of the idea that somewhere in the world there must be a girl who likes Clark Kent.
And they’ve decided that she should be funny, which makes all the difference.
Continue reading Superman III 4.15: The Man Who Loved Mayonnaise
Now, the first thing that I’d like to point out is that Superman III is extremely judgmental about the consumption of alcohol for the purposes of adult refreshment.
It’s something that only the baddies do, and they do it performatively to show how bad they are. At the beginning of the seduction-of-the-innocent sequence, Webster makes a big show of accessing his enormous in-office liquor cabinet, and giving Gus a drink. Later, Gus uses Brad’s interest in thirst-quenching beverages to gain access to the company computer. And what is the last straw for Dark Superman, when you know that he’s really gone rotten? He goes to a bar and has a drink.
So I think that’s important context to establish, before I present my analysis of the film’s anti-Brad agenda.
Continue reading Superman III 4.14: King of the Prom