The road to movie hell is often paved with good intentions. Christopher Reeve could only be coaxed back into his supersuit if he was allowed a hand in the story this time around. An avid anti-nuke activist, he wanted a film in which Superman got rid of all the world's nuclear weapons. A nice idea. Not a good one for a movie plot, but a nice idea to ponder on a summer's day while looking up at clouds. You know would be cool?... What?... If Superman got rid of all the world's nuclear missiles.... Yeah, that would be cool... Hey, look, that cloud looks like Heather Locklear...
Unfortunately, after signing onto the picture, the rug was cut out from underneath Reeve when the producers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of The Cannon Group, slashed the film's budget to 17 million dollars, or a couple of million more than what Marlon Brando alone wound up making for his appearance in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. It was not nearly enough to produce the kind of grand entertainment the first two films offered, or even match the modest charms of SUPERMAN III. The previous film in the franchise, SUPERGIRL, may have died a horrible death at the box office, but it had far superior special effects and a more coherent storyline. The special effects in SUPERMAN IV, especially the flying sequences, are pretty awful - you can see the wires used for flying in several scenes, and some of the green screen process scenes are laughably cheesy. Reeve's anti-nuke message was watered down by a stupid script which has the entire U.N. cheering as Superman vowed to rid them of all their nukes, a process, we learn, which consists of gathering them up in a net and flinging them into the Sun.
That's not the stupidest part of the film either. During a fight in outer space, Superman's nemesis, Nuclear Man (yawn), carries around Mariel Hemingway, who, for some reason, can breathe on her own in outer space and does not explode from the lack of air pressure (must be that strong Hemingway fortitude she got from Grandpa Ernest). Superman can also talk to cosmonauts in space, despite the lack of air to carry sound waves. Oh, and to rob Nuclear Man of his power - which he gets from the Sun - Superman moves the moon to create a solar eclipse. Yes, that's right - he moves the moon to create a solar eclipse. I'm not exactly sure what would really happen if you moved the moon out of the orbit it's been on for the past 4 billion years or so, but I can't believe it's a good idea. It would probably set all the ocean tides out of whack and kill a whole bunch of people, but hey, I'm no scientist, what do I know? Oh, and get this: Superman not only has X-Ray Vision and Heat Vision, but Restore The Great Wall of China Vision. That comes in real handy when you have to restore the Great Wall of China, I'll tell ya.
I'd like to say that the return of Gene Hackman in the role of Lex Luthor is the best part about SUPERMAN IV, but it wouldn't be completely true. He is good, but the script lets him down, with hardly a single memorable line in the whole film. He still has fun with the part, but the actual highlight of the film is a short sequence near the beginning when Clark returns to Smallville. In negotiating the sale of the farm where he grew up, he refuses to sell it to anybody who doesn't want to keep it as a farm. There's a nice, nostalgic feel to this scene which could have easily been developed into a deeper story about Clark/Superman's longing for a return to simpler times when he didn't have to save the world, and Lois Lane, every five minutes. Unfortunately, it is just a meaningless scene that, like the Lana Lang story of SUPERMAN III, feels good but leads nowhere.
Even modestly budgeted at 17 million dollars, SUPERMAN IV bombed, sending The Cannon Group into a tailspin from which they would never fully recover, and ending the Superman movie franchise for the next two decades. Luckily for Superman fans, the saga sprang to life again on television in several ways, with Superboy, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (one of my favorite series of all time), a new and stylish cartoon series, and the teen drama Smallville. ½ - JBSuper Heroes The Secret Vortex