“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
It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil, or if not quite that, then at least the ultimate battle between cheerful and cranky. I don’t know if anybody’s in the market for one of those, but here it is happening anyway.
Three Kryptonian supercriminals from the other side of a twirling parallel hell have descended upon New York City, where they’ve challenged Earth’s greatest hero to a game of three-on-one grab-ass, hurling each other into things and engaging in general endangerment.
Caught between glam rock and a hard place, Superman has been knocked off the playing field for a moment, so the nearby movie New Yorkers — once again demonstrating that they’ll do anything for a good time — have turned on their snooty overlords, armed only with sticks and traffic cones.
And then the villains start to blow.
Continue reading Superman II 2.46: The Blowdown
Did you just go pssht?
I wish I had, Mr. Luthor, before we left.
Not that pssht, that pssht!
Don’t go pssht when I go pssht!
Continue reading Superman II 2.13: The Great Escape
Let us speak, then, of comedy.
When people talk about the difference between Richard Donner’s work on Superman: The Movie and Richard Lester’s work on Superman II, they often say that Lester was a comedy director, and that he turned Superman II into a comedy. There’s some truth to that — there is a different sensibility between the two directors — but it’s not the difference between serious and comic. It’s the difference between two different kinds of comedy.
Donner’s comedy was mostly verbal. Basically, as soon as the film sets foot in Metropolis, everyone starts wisecracking and never stops. Everyone at the Daily Planet is funny, all of the villains are funny, the big scene between Superman and Lois is a romantic comedy sequence. Everybody talks fast, and they talk a lot.
Lester’s comedy is more visual than verbal, and the best example that I have is the scene that just happens to be coming up right now, when Superman crosses the road and causes a traffic accident. In many ways, this scene embodies Lester’s approach to the film, and the fact that it sucks does not bode well for the future of the franchise.
Continue reading Superman II 2.7: To Get to the Other Side