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The third installment of Hollywood's Superman franchise and quite possibly the worst movie ever made.

Our story begins with a crazy chain reaction of events, presented in a sort of 1940's humor sort-of way. A bunch of people interacting causes some kind of accident where a car is filling up with water. Of course, Superman comes to the rescue and saves the day, and everyone is once again assured that he is the bomb.

Fast forward a little and we find that Lois has gone on vacation or something, and Superman is left without a love interest. But wait! Lest we forget Lana Lang, a pseudo-sweetheart of his from Smallville? Lana and Clark Kent cross paths, and Clark becomes a bit of a domestic boyfriend type. You know, having picnics in a hayfield while the little Lang boy almost gets sucked up by some huge farming machine, stuff like that. Enter Richard Pryor, the crazy crook who decides to take a computer programming class. Pryor's best friends become 1 and 0, and soon he has devised a nutty plan to skim interest out of people's bank accounts and place it into his. This catches the attention of Robert Wagner (who you may or may not remember from Baseketball), who owns the company that Pryor works for. He doesn't fire Pryor, however, instead he hires him on to work on a deviant plot to kill Superman. The idea is that there must be kryptonite floating around in space somewhere. If they can pinpoint a piece using high-tech satellites and analyze the contents, they could manufacture kryptonite and use it to subdue the Man Of Steel.

This seems all fine and dandy except that the majestic computers who do the analyzing can't figure out a small percentage of kryptonite's contents, so Richard Pryor decides that the missing element is "tar" (you know, the stuff found in cigarettes and asphalt). They give superman a piece of this Fool's Kryptonite, but it doesn't kill him.

Instead it turns Superman into a badass. He's boozing, picking up sluts and bringing them to the Statue Of Liberty, he even straightens out the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Everyone denounces him as a hero, and meanwhile, Robert Wagner is devising some crazy super computer. Superman ends up in a junkyard, where one of the lamest parts of the movie comes into play. Superman splits into two people (the Evil Superman and the Good Clark Kent) and they duke it out. I can see from this scene where Chuck Palahniuk got his notions for Fight Club.

So now Superman beat some sense into himself and he goes to stop Wagner at his secret supercomputer lair. Wagner has a computer screen with Superman on it, a sort of missile guidance system that somehow inherited the noises from the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man. Superman is successful in dodging the 8-bit missiles, and enters the lair, where he is hit by this big laser. Ok, now somehow, he fights this supercomputer, but Wagner's sister (who played the principal in the pirate radio movie "Pump Up The Volume") gets sucked into the computer's innards and gets converted into a Cyborg. A friggin' Cyborg. Yeah, and Superman wins and everyone is put to justice.

Worst Movie Ever.

In defence of Superman III:

Released: 1983
Director: Richard Lester
Screenplay: David Newman III and Leslie Newman

No, it's not the best movie ever made, and yes, it's probably the worst of the 4 Superman movies. But it has several redeeming features.

First of all, let's get the faults out of the way: The slumming bad guy is Robert Vaughn, not Wagner, but yes, his acting is not exactly up to Oscar standards. However, if you want to blame someone, blame Richard Lester, and the crazy Salkind producers, who for some reason decided that comedy and computers were the way to go. The lame scenes that involve the baddies and/or computers were a mistake. Involving Richard Pryor was also a bad idea - the producers were so taken with his comedy stylings, they tried to make the film funnier, and beefed up his part. Pryor is usually hilarious, but not in this movie. The bit where he falls off the roof on skis wrapped in a towel was embarrassing even when I was a kid.

The dodgy computer effects: Okay, fair enough. It was 1983, and although Tron had come out only a year before, there weren't the facilities that there are today. Microsoft were just about to release the first version of Word, so it wasn't as if they could just call up the nearest effects house and ask for 12 minutes of CGI dinosaurs, like most movies seem to today. The missile sequence was actually a game Atari were making, which explains why it had those sound effects referred to in the above writeup. The game was never released, which is probably just as well. Computers were just taking off, so you can't really blame them for jumping on the bandwagon. But you can blame them for the scene where the woman is turned into a cyborg - that was just shit.

The absence of Lois Lane is a bit of a stinker - Margot Kidder was pissed off at the producers' shoddy treatment of Richard Donner (he was fired from the second movie), so she didn't want to have anything to do with it. She'd probably read the script, too. She only turned up for a contractually obliged appearance for the sake of the plot, less than 5 minutes of screen time. The producers weren't too worried, after all, the kids are paying to see Superman, comedy, and things blowing up, right?

Okay, now for the good parts: The normal, "Clark Kent is quite clumsy" comedy, and in particular the opening sequence. I love this opening, it's very well put together, cleverly choreographed, and very funny. The 40's style screwball aspect of it fits perfectly, as there is something very old fashioned about the Superman movies. If you ever get a chance to see it, the making of Superman III is interesting, if only to see the squillions of takes needed for Christopher Reeve to "accidentally" backhand the pie into that guy's face. Then of course you have the car filling with water, Clark's determined face as he runs off, good old Supes appears, and all is well with the world.

The whole Lana Lang thing - it was really sweet, really sad, and nicely handled. Poor old Clark can never have a proper relationship, but at least he can feel a bit normal for a while.

The idea of the villains trying to synthesize Kryptonite is quite clever, especially the idea that they don't get it quite right. This also introduces the best part of the entire movie - Evil Superman. Oh my God, as a kid I was so shocked to see Superman sitting in a bar, drunk, unshaven, pissed off and nasty, flicking peanuts at the mirror and shattering it. To see him staggering down the street, parents pulling their children away from him, still gets me, even now. The look on his face scared the shit out of me. I remember turning to my sister in horror and gasping "Superman's mean!" When he finally rips into two separate entities, it's an incredibly intense moment. The fight is raw, brutal, and nasty. Superb. And straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a nice touch, although I thought back then, and still do now: why were they so angry at him for fixing it? Fucking thing's going to fall over soon, isn't it?

If they had ditched the whole computer/cyborg/whatever waffle subplot, changed it to something a bit more realistic, and made the good/evil Superman part the main thrust of the story, I think this would probably be considered the best of the series. It's a really dark journey he goes on, and I love it. It's for these scenes alone that I can still watch this patchy, shoddy movie, forgiving its faults, and why I still defend it now.

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