Superman III (1983) Review

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.

Overview:

Unemployed loser Gus Gorman enrolls in a computer course as a last resort and discovers that he’s a prodigy at computer programming. Finally securing a real job with Webscoe Industries, Gus decides to use his new computer skills to award himself a major bonus using all of the ½ cents left over from rounding off employee paychecks, and no one will ever know because the ½ cents existed basically in limbo and not in any company bank account.

Anyway, in the next scene, company CEO Ross Webster is informed that someone embezzled tens of thousands of dollars by siphoning off the ½ cents from everyone’s paycheck. Webster realizes this person may be the world’s greatest computer hacker, and he orders Gus to hack into a weather satellite and use it to cause a massive storm destroying Colombia’s coffee crop, thus giving Webster a worldwide coffee monopoly.

But Webster and Gus didn’t plan for Superman, who flies to Colombia and fights the weather, saving the coffee crop and countless lives. Clearly if Webster is going to continue his dastardly schemes, he’ll have to kill Superman first. Using the same weather satellite, they scan Kryptonite fragments in space to determine the composition so they can manufacture it themselves. The scan, however, is incomplete, and the cobbled together Kryptonite fails to kill Superman; instead, it turns him evil!

Best Parts:

Superman III has two great scenes that resonated with me as genuine Superman-style moments. The first is when Superman fights the fire at the chemical plant, which looks great with lots of well-shot explosions and moments of Superman saving people. The second is when Superman fights Clark Kent at the junk yard. I have long maintained that Clark Kent is not a fake persona that Superman wears to fool people, but instead Clark is who Superman truly is at his core. He came to Earth as a baby and was raised by the Kent family as their son throughout his formative years, only learning he was “Kal-El” much later. Superman is Clark first and foremost, and this scene demonstrates that by having Clark Kent defeat the Kryptonite-poisoned “evil” Superman in order to restore his true personality.

This is ostensibly a comedy, and though many of the “funny” scenes don’t work for me, I did laugh out loud several times.

The climax of the movie involves Superman taking information from the beginning of the movie (there is a chemical that appears harmless but once heated it becomes deadly) and using it to defeat a Supercomputer that can scan anything for threats and overcome them. This is not a brilliantly-written scene or anything, but it actually makes some kind of sense, unlike the climaxes of the previous films (e.g. reversing the Earth to reverse time; throwing his “S” logo as a weapon).

I like that the “blonde bimbo” character Lorelei is secretly a genius.

“I ask you to kill Superman, and you’re telling me you couldn’t even do that one simple thing.”

“How can he say that Pure Categories have no objective meaning in Transcendental Logic? What about Synthetic Unity?”

Worst Parts:

A lot of things just happen in this movie for no particular reason. The entire opening credits is an extended slapstick sequence that has only the most tenuous connections to the rest of the movie, and it’s not funny enough to justify spending so much time on (especially at the very beginning of the film).

Another example is when Gus flies to Smallville in order to hack into the weather satellite. You’d think the filmmakers plotted out this trip to Smallville in order for Gus to have a meaningful interaction with Clark Kent, also in Smallville at the time, but their only interaction is a throwaway. Superficially Gus goes there because it will somehow be harder to catch him hacking into the satellite from a small Webscoe office versus a large Webscoe office, though all the computers are apparently networked, and then even this shabby justification is undercut when in a subsequent scene he hacks into the same satellite from the New York office. This entire detour does nothing to further the plot or illuminate character and I can’t understand why it’s in the movie. This may seem like nitpicking, but this is just one example. You could apply this level of scrutiny to most of the movie and get the same questionable result.

A very long scene of Richard Pryor pretending to be an Army officer giving Superman a “gift” of Kryptonite seems to go on forever and ever and isn’t funny.

We seem to be setting up a romance between Clark Kent and Lana Lang, based on the premise that Lois Lane has always preferred Superman, but Lana seems to prefer Clark. This would tie-in thematically to the great scene where Clark Kent triumphs over Superman at the junk yard. But the big moment never comes, and the romance fizzles out.

Missed opportunity for someone to say the word “Brainiac” (for any reason) when the Supercomputer has turned Vera Webster into a robot lady.

It’s a kind of a dick move for evil Superman to have sex with Lorelei and then later good Superman pretends he doesn’t even recognize her. He fixes the destruction that evil Superman did, so clearly he remembers what happened while he was poisoned. No, he’s just a dick.

The following review contains spoilers.

Overview:

Unemployed loser Gus Gorman enrolls in a computer course as a last resort and discovers that he’s a prodigy at computer programming. Finally securing a real job with Webscoe Industries, Gus decides to use his new computer skills to award himself a major bonus using all of the ½ cents left over from rounding off employee paychecks, and no one will ever know because the ½ cents existed basically in limbo and not in any company bank account.

Anyway, in the next scene, company CEO Ross Webster is informed that someone embezzled tens of thousands of dollars by siphoning off the ½ cents from everyone’s paycheck. Webster realizes this person may be the world’s greatest computer hacker, and he orders Gus to hack into a weather satellite and use it to cause a massive storm destroying Colombia’s coffee crop, thus giving Webster a worldwide coffee monopoly.

But Webster and Gus didn’t plan for Superman, who flies to Colombia and fights the weather, saving the coffee crop and countless lives. Clearly if Webster is going to continue his dastardly schemes, he’ll have to kill Superman first. Using the same weather satellite, they scan Kryptonite fragments in space to determine the composition so they can manufacture it themselves. The scan, however, is incomplete, and the cobbled together Kryptonite fails to kill Superman; instead, it turns him evil!

Best Parts:

Superman III has two great scenes that resonated with me as genuine Superman-style moments. The first is when Superman fights the fire at the chemical plant, which looks great with lots of well-shot explosions and moments of Superman saving people. The second is when Superman fights Clark Kent at the junk yard. I have long maintained that Clark Kent is not a fake persona that Superman wears to fool people, but instead Clark is who Superman truly is at his core. He came to Earth as a baby and was raised by the Kent family as their son throughout his formative years, only learning he was “Kal-El” much later. Superman is Clark first and foremost, and this scene demonstrates that by having Clark Kent defeat the Kryptonite-poisoned “evil” Superman in order to restore his true personality.

This is ostensibly a comedy, and though many of the “funny” scenes don’t work for me, I did laugh out loud several times.

The climax of the movie involves Superman taking information from the beginning of the movie (there is a chemical that appears harmless but once heated it becomes deadly) and using it to defeat a Supercomputer that can scan anything for threats and overcome them. This is not a brilliantly-written scene or anything, but it actually makes some kind of sense, unlike the climaxes of the previous films (e.g. reversing the Earth to reverse time; throwing his “S” logo as a weapon).

I like that the “blonde bimbo” character Lorelei is secretly a genius.

“I ask you to kill Superman, and you’re telling me you couldn’t even do that one simple thing.”

“How can he say that Pure Categories have no objective meaning in Transcendental Logic? What about Synthetic Unity?”

Worst Parts:

A lot of things just happen in this movie for no particular reason. The entire opening credits is an extended slapstick sequence that has only the most tenuous connections to the rest of the movie, and it’s not funny enough to justify spending so much time on (especially at the very beginning of the film).

Another example is when Gus flies to Smallville in order to hack into the weather satellite. You’d think the filmmakers plotted out this trip to Smallville in order for Gus to have a meaningful interaction with Clark Kent, also in Smallville at the time, but their only interaction is a throwaway. Superficially Gus goes there because it will somehow be harder to catch him hacking into the satellite from a small Webscoe office versus a large Webscoe office, though all the computers are apparently networked, and then even this shabby justification is undercut when in a subsequent scene he hacks into the same satellite from the New York office. This entire detour does nothing to further the plot or illuminate character and I can’t understand why it’s in the movie. This may seem like nitpicking, but this is just one example. You could apply this level of scrutiny to most of the movie and get the same questionable result.

A very long scene of Richard Pryor pretending to be an Army officer giving Superman a “gift” of Kryptonite seems to go on forever and ever and isn’t funny.

We seem to be setting up a romance between Clark Kent and Lana Lang, based on the premise that Lois Lane has always preferred Superman, but Lana seems to prefer Clark. This would tie-in thematically to the great scene where Clark Kent triumphs over Superman at the junk yard. But the big moment never comes, and the romance fizzles out.

Missed opportunity for someone to say the word “Brainiac” (for any reason) when the Supercomputer has turned Vera Webster into a robot lady.

It’s a kind of a dick move for evil Superman to have sex with Lorelei and then later good Superman pretends he doesn’t even recognize her. He fixes the destruction that evil Superman did, so clearly he remembers what happened while he was poisoned. No, he’s just a dick.

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