Saturday, November 2, 2013

Superman III (1983)

My take on this movie is pretty much the same as everybody's, I think.  It's not great - in fact it's really
awful in parts - but then again it's not as bad as the fourth film.

The awful parts - where to begin?  Richard Lester is still directing it as if he's embarrassed by the whole thing.  Not too embarrassed to cash the checks, I guess, but certainly not willing to invest the thing with any dignity.   And while my particular subject-position on all the superhero movies is that I'm not a superhero-comic reader, still I can tell that the villain here is not an integral part of the myth.  It doesn't surprise me to learn that he was written precisely as a not-Lex Luthor when Gene Hackman's services couldn't be procured.

Then there's Richard Pryor.  Now, I don't have a problem with the idea of putting Richard Pryor in a Superman movie.  I mean, I could probably accept him if the part was written right.  But the racial attitudes that underlie the writing of this part are just odious.  It's wrong on so many levels.  But that was the Reagan era for you.

But then there's the extended sequence with Clark Kent vs. Superman, or good Supe vs. bad Supe.  This is the scenic part of the Uncanny Valley. We're seeing things that just shouldn't be, and they're wonderful.  It works on all the levels that the rest of the movie fails on.  Visually, thematically, narratively.  The film is worth seeing for that.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Amen on that last paragraph. I found campdark Superman in this movie much more unsettling as a kid than any of the grimdark heroes of the 90s of beyond.

Personal hobbyhorse about this film: I feel like even Pryor's character's name is Lester's embarrassment with the series showing. There has to be a knowing wink on the record even just to let the traditional alliteration happen. (At the same time this is probably unfair; I bet there were at least a couple of Silver Age stories that revolved around Superman realizing that harmless Bob Robinson was actually named Robert and therefore the sinister "R.R." behind this week's plot to marry Jimmy Olson to a giraffe or whatever.)