Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Misinterpreted: 5 Reasons Superman III Should Be A Cult Classic

They couldn't even get his cape right for the poster.
          I know what you're thinking. I thought it, too. How could one possibly misinterpret Superman III?  It seems like a pretty easy tell. But, as I'm sure you've guessed, there's more than meets the eye. Here's the reasons:

5. Lester Hates Melancholy

Told Ya
          Richard Lester, having won the battle of the Richards for Superman II, went on to make his first (and last) full directorial effort of a Superman film with Superman III. Lester decided to continue on with a more comedic tone, like his scenes in the second film, and figured that Richard (yet another Richard) Pryor would help him achieve it. Richard Lester takes all of the happiness and lightheartedness one can hope for from a comic book film and injects it with even more silliness. After all, Richard Lester did direct A Hard Day's Night. 
          Unlike Richard Donner, whose Superman film begins with a 1 hour tribute to the sadness of everything forever, Richard Lester crafted a movie that was able to end with a crazed robot woman fighting Richard Pryor as Superman is zapped by a green kryptonite laser from a supercomputer that doesn't understand acid.

4. Richard Pryor's Funny Hat

A Real Screenshot from Superman III
        One does not just place Richard Pryor into a superhero film and expect miracles to take place. Especially if he is being placed into the film as some sort of villain figure. This just could not possibly work. And it doesn't. Except for the hat, that is.
          Pryor is stuck in a sanitized film where he is not free to explore his character or share his signature, brilliant use of expletives. Instead, Pryor plays a computer criminal/unemployment scam artist. The film begins with a lengthy scene where Pryor, at the unemployment office, is told that he has scammed the government too many times and that he will not receive another check. Immediately following this news, he finds out that he can take a class on computers. Within days, Pryor has learned how to generate tornadoes in Colombia, South America via satellite
        It's safe to say that Richard Pryor's character adds, simultaneously, nothing and everything to this movie. Without him, we would have had a dull, meandering tale where Superman kind of falls in love with a single mother after attending a high school reunion. With Richard Pryor we get a dull, meandering tale where we believe that Richard Pryor can fall off of an 80-story building on skis and live. I pick Pryor. And his scenes, while disarmingly un-Pryor-esque, are still absolutely the most interesting and entertaining sections of the film. Well, almost...

3. Superman Gets Extremely Drunk

          There is a scene in Superman III where Superman gets very drunk, flicks cashews at a bar mirror, and tells a kid that he hates him. Also, he straightens out the leaning tower of Pisa just to piss off the guy selling the souvenirs out front. Yep, Superman turns into exactly how you would act if you were from Krypton. His hair gets streaks of gray, his cape gets darker, and he tells a woman who is about to jump off of a building that she "should go ahead." Apparently he's not in the saving lives business anymore.
          The best part about all of this, other than everything I have told you so far, is the explanation behind this sudden change in character. Apparently, Superman becomes a total douche because he is given Kryptonite that only damages his sense of morality. Because that totally makes sense. It's sort of like how when poison doesn't kill you, it makes you hit people in the face. Whatever the reason, that ten minute period of the film might be the best thing ever.

2. Computers Are Magic

AT-AT Cockpit
          Superman III's writers had no idea of how computers worked when they wrote the screenplay. To them, Richard Pryor could use a basic word processor to contact a satellite to create a tornado in Colombia, South America. They also believed that a word processor could manipulate cars, traffic lights, international oil tankers, airplanes, and various spacecraft. In the world of Superman III, a simple weekend seminar on data processing can teach you how to control everything on the planet by typing the word "list" and hitting enter.
         Once you get past the hilarity of believing in the existence of Superman more than the plausibility of the computers in this film, you should sigh a deep, deep sigh of relief. This is because you are watching a movie that literally believes that computers are magic. And that is refreshing. There was once a time where computers were these magical plot devices that only existed to do unbelievably evil, and unbelievably awesome, things to everybody. Well, technically, this was a plot device that was revisited in Live Free or Die Hard, but I think that movie at least acted like those things were plausible-- Olyphant using the internet, and not a normal word processor, after all.

1. Superman Beats the Crap Out of Clark

In the Ear!
           What is better than that? Whenever you see Clark unable to open a bottle, stop himself from asking out Lois, or allow himself to be treated like a human doormat, what do you want to do? Hit him in the face. Not because he sucks, but because that is genuinely what he needs. The guy is Superman. His alter-ego does not need to be 100% lame in order to throw people off of the scent. Any regular dude next to Superman is going to be lame--Clark is just pathetic. So when we see Superman give Clark a beat down, we raise our hands in triumph.
           Yes, I know that Clark isn't real. He's even more not real than Superman, but he still reflects the human side of Superman. And the human side of Superman is a wet blanket. When we see Clark die in a horrible junkyard automobile compactor incident, we rejoice. It is as if the hand of God has backhanded Clark into a premature death because he is just an embarrassing man to watch. However, once Clark breaks out of his Fortress of Gimpitude, he unleashes a furious assault on evil Superman ends with him vaporizing Superman with his choke hold.
          The only thing manlier than vaporizing Superman with your choke hold is ordering all the bacon and eggs in the entire restaurant because your steak isn't big enough.

           I think you should all give Superman III another shot. Because, strangely enough, it is actually kind of awesome. It may not be the epic epicness of Donner's efforts, but it is really, really not trying to be. Instead, it is just a bunch of short films tacked together to create one infinitely hilarious cult classic.


  1. I know what you just heard is I want a lot of bacon and eggs- but thats not what I said...

    haha As great as this review was; you have successfully made me not want to watch SupermanIII.

    maybe when I'm in better humor

    ; )

  2. Superman III is the best Superman put to film if you're a fan of the comics. Given the budget and technology at the time, the battles were epic. The part where Clark goes to his high school reunion in Smallville was also very good. It was nice to see that Clark was also attracted to a nice, attractive woman at one point in his life. I could do without most of the Richard Pryor slapstick stuff, but it's easy to overlook given what else is going on.

  3. Cameron, I could NOT agree with you more my friend!
    Not only was this the best of the series for sure but Pryor's timeless performance was only enhanced, if that's possible, by Reeve's dominence in his dilligent duality! Superman as a brooding drunk is so well done I wished that he had remained Dark Superman fo much longer in the film!

  4. Christopher Reeve is the best Superman, but they made Superman 3 into a farce, and it should not have been like that