Category Archives: Superman III

Superman III 4.9: The Wizard

I mean, these days Gus Gorman would probably be the hapless head of a secretly bankrupt crypto exchange, breathlessly spinning imaginary plates and having no idea why people even believe in him.

“You start with a company that builds a box,” he would explain. “And of course, so far, we haven’t exactly given a compelling reason for why there ever would be any proceeds from this box, but I don’t know, you know, maybe there will be, so that’s sort of where you start.

“And now all of a sudden everyone’s like, wow, people just decided to put $200 million in the box. This is a pretty cool box, right? Like, this is a valuable box, as demonstrated by all the money that people have apparently decided should be in the box. And who are we to say that they’re wrong about that? Like, you know, this is, I mean boxes can be great. Look, I love boxes as much as the next guy.”

And there he flies, bold Icarus, flapping his waxen wings en route to the sky, and then the sea. We are strangely vulnerable to know-nothing hucksters, it appears, especially in tech, where people remake the world by typing things. And there’s Gus Gorman, fast-talking his way to illusory riches, and everybody marvels: look at all those pretty red flags, waving in unison.

As Gus Gorman and his fellow techbros know only too well, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some just kind of randomly have greatness that comes out of nowhere, as a plot device in a story that they probably think they’re the heroes of.

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Superman III 4.8: The Loss of Lois

She’s only got three minutes, and she lands four solid jokes, which is four more than practically anyone else in the movie. Lois Lane — up until this point, the single most important human being in the world — has been suddenly and mysteriously called away to Bermuda, for a surfside adventure that’s probably way more interesting than anything we’re going to experience in Smallville. She is with us, and then she is gone, like a forgotten promise, and Superman III has to stumble along without her.

Obviously, this is a dreadful mistake. If Warner Bros had asked people in pre-market testing whether they wanted Lois Lane to appear in the next Superman movie, 94% of respondents would have said yes, and the other 6% wouldn’t have understood the question, because it’s such a stupid idea that you’d think they must be asking about something else.

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Superman III 4.6: A Monsignor Moment

“There are some things about commercial film making that are in really bad taste,” Christopher Reeve told the LA Times in June 1983, passive-aggressively promoting his new blockbuster Superman film.

“For a film to be commercial,” he explained, “it must earn money, and that results in strategic planning in certain degrees — the goal being to earn even more money. When it comes to a showdown between quality and integrity and commercial expedience, guess which wins?”

Oh, and go see Superman III, he absolutely did not add.

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Superman III 4.5: Not Waving But Drowning

An unlicensed roller skater slips suddenly out of control, shoving a hot dog stand and interrupting three concurrent telephone conversations. Robot penguins, freshly sentient, see their chance for escape at last, and make a break for the open road. A woman is scattered across the sidewalk, surrounded by dented groceries. There’s mustard on Jimmy Olsen’s lapel.

In other words, downtown Calgary is a mess, and it’s no wonder Superman is a little choosy about which disaster he feels like addressing. I don’t know why we even came to this cursed burg in the first place.

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Superman III 4.4: March of the Penguins

“Given a relatively free hand,” writes Andrew Yule in The Man Who “Framed” the Beatles: A Biography of Richard Lester, “Lester decided to move the emphasis of III towards social realism, setting the first scene in an unemployment office and hiring the most naturalistic actor he could find — Richard Pryor — for a key role, all in an attempt to anchor the subject to a base of reality and reduce the mythic element he felt had already been thoroughly explored.”

Which just goes to show how wrong a person can be in a single sentence. If Yule had bothered to watch more than the first scene of Superman III before he started typing about it, he would have seen that the “social realism” of Richard Pryor in an unemployment office is immediately followed by five minutes of the most tedious fluff ever committed to celluloid.

One thing that occurs to me, as I look at this opening credits sequence, is that between the director, the writers and the executive producer, the number of successful films that they made subsequent to Superman III is zero. That seems to help, somehow.

Continue reading Superman III 4.4: March of the Penguins

Superman III 4.3: Enter Gus

“Next!”

It’s an appropriate word to begin Superman III, history’s first superhero sequel. Superman II doesn’t count, of course, because the original Superman movie was planned as a two-part story. So this moment — the beginning of film #3 — is the first time the filmmakers have to skip over the origin myth, and start a brand new story from scratch.

And it begins, naturally, with a negotiation over how much money we’re going to give to Richard Pryor.

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Superman III 4.2: It Was Ilya’s Other Idea

So, let’s say you’re a Salkind. You’ve been producing movies for your father for ten years now, including some of The Three Musketeers and a couple of Superman movies, but people still think that you’re just a money guy — specifically, your dad’s money guy.

But you’ve been working in the same building as creative people for so long, you’ve started to hallucinate that you’re a creative contributor as well. Since nobody has any idea what to do with Superman III, you sit down at the typewriter and write an eight-page treatment, which you send to the Warner Brothers and ask them for millions of dollars so you can make it.

In the years to come, you’ll tell people that Warner Bros thought it was too “sci-fi”, and too embedded in Superman lore. That is not the reason Warner Bros rejected your treatment. They rejected it because they were grown-ups who read movie treatments for a living, and yours is bugfuck insane.

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Superman III 4.1: The Sweet Smell of Shit

Richard Pryor wrote:

I went off to London, to play the villain in Superman III. And yes, the movie was a piece of shit. But even before I read the script, the producers offered me $4 million, more than any black actor had ever been paid.

“For a piece of shit,” I’d told my agent when I finally read the script, “it smells great.”

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