Countdown to “Man of Steel”!
“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” is an abomination of the character known as Superman for the reasons that Superman fans know. Superman, above all else, is not supposed to decide the course of human events. Sure, he can stop a bank robbery, or save a drowning child, but he’s not supposed to be stop wars. He can’t stop them, interfere with them, nor can he decide which side he wants to battle on to help win a war beside humanity. The minute Superman fights for nuclear disarmament he no longer becomes a hero for the people, and now becomes a partisan tool. The minute Superman decides to fight for one group, he alienates everyone else.
Most of all, playing God is not a duty Superman has to take. Superman must be the swift avenger who helps humanity, but can not twist humanity to his liking. Which is why spinning the Earth backward to save Lois from death in the first film is a major faux pas and abuse of his power. He’s not supposed to change the course of humanity. And his general purpose in “The Quest for Peace” is a contradiction of everything the character is built on. He can’t have an opinion on nuclear disarmament. He can’t be on the side of America, only. He can’t ally with one cause only. And he can’t be allowed to take every warhead on Earth and dispose of it. Doing so is an act a God would make, and would be a slow decline for the character from an act of good intent, to a bonafide being with a God complex. Who is to say that the minute “Quest for Peace” ended Superman didn’t take it upon himself to begin making more decisions to fix the planet?
And who would he be fixing it for? Changing one thing affects other people. It’s an endless chain of good deeds causing a consequence. That’s just one of the many blunders “The Quest for Peace” is known for, beyond killing the series for a very long time. “Superman IV” makes all the wrong moves, recycling footage from previous cinematic installments, giving Clark Kent a brand new love interest, offering audiences a horribly dull and uninteresting villain who is the epitome of bad eighties fashion, and worst of all, turning Lex Luthor in to a father figure. Rather than attending to his affairs while the blundering Otis runs around, Luthor is now a doting uncle who chases after his obnoxious nephew Lenny Luthor.
Jon Cryer does what he can in this role. Since Cryer was one of the big names of the eighties, his presence is pandering at its absolute worst, so it’s embarrassing to see Luthor reduced to such a horrible broad comedy gag rather than remain an imposing villain. Mariel Hemingway is merely in the film to fill in for the lack of Margot Kidder whose presence is slim to nil. She fulfills the role of romantic obstacle for Clark, while also becoming the object of affection for the villain Nuclear Man. Nuclear Man is of course a vague metaphor for the Nuclear Arms race who proves to be a literal foe for Superman beyond a political one. The symbolism is often so heavy it chokes the audience with its sanctimonious preaching about war and weapons of mass destruction.
To make matters worse, characters are introduced and disappear, while Superman suddenly garners super abilities that were never shown before. He’s able to rebuild a wall using eye beams adopting some kind of telekinesis that’s never remotely explained. The worst fumble is of course the scene that many fans laugh at where Nuclear Man carries Hemingway’s character in to space beyond the atmosphere, where she’s able to breath and move around with ease, while Nuclear Man’s cape flaps in the wind. “Superman IV” is a failure thanks to the studios and by no real fault of the cast and crew. It’s a shame that “Superman” had to leave the eighties in such a disgraceful fashion, because there was potential for the series to last longer if the studios allowed more free space for creating and did less cutting corners to provide audiences with an incomplete mess of a movie.