Bitter Reality of Life (or Why I Should Never Have Watched Superman IV)

A friend was telling me the other day how he distinctly remembers, as a child, the very first time he came out of the cinema disappointed with what he had seen. This is an extremely unusual experience for a kid; they seem to happily enjoy anything they’re taken to see at the flicks. But this was an exception. It was the 1980s, and the film was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

If, like me, you remember pestering your parents to take you see the latest Hollywood blockbuster at the local fleapit (no shiny new multiplexes in those days, thank you very much), then you probably also remember being told: ‘No’. How cruel it seemed at the time. Why on earth would they not want to go and see that amazing new film being advertised everywhere? It’s clearly going to be the most amazing thing ever! Maybe it was because there was no time to be spared on trivial things like cinema, or maybe it was just too expensive to do on a regular basis. Or maybe, just maybe, they were trying to protect us (and themselves) from the whiff of a cinematic stinker.

Now I got taken to some pretty cool things in my youth: E.T., Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I was even taken to see the original Transformers movie, God bless my father – what a wretched waste of time and space that must have seemed to him. Even I must acknowledge that what seemed great then is now revealed to be a pretty lousy and cheap piece of animation. But as I have described in earlier posts, I lived and breathed Transformers. I begged and begged at the time to go and see it, and I actually got my wish.

The following year, I begged and begged to go and see Superman IV: the Quest for Peace. I loved Superman back then – they showed the films pretty frequently on tv. The original still stands today as the very model of a comic-book adaptation. And now there was a brand new one being advertised in the papers, with the familiar 3D logo emblazened on the cinema listings in the local paper. Fantastic! But try as I might, there was no persuading the holders of the purse-strings. I was doomed to grudging disappointment.

Fast forward to 2007 – twenty years later. I have just purchased the Chistopher Reeve Superman dvd boxset, and, having enjoyed the wonderful first two films, and the patchy (I’m feeling charitable) third one, it was time to finally see what Superman IV was really like. Somehow I had managed to avoid the various tv showings over the years, though I had became aware of the critical drubbing it constantly received in all quarters. Surely it can’t be all that bad, I thought – just expect a disappointing film, not a bad one.

Oh boy – there’s no getting around it, the film is a travesty. A complete travesty. From the terrible opening credits to the dire storyline to the abysmal special effects, the film is barely better than a school’s end-of-year play production. Christopher Reeve of course rises above the mess as always, proving to be the definitive Superman. But even he can’t save this stinker.

So my parents were right after all – they did me a favour all those years ago. A childhood dream may finally have been realised, but then again, perhaps some dreams are better off forgotten.

Published by Gavin Midgley

Freelance film journalist, blogger and geek.

One reply on “Bitter Reality of Life (or Why I Should Never Have Watched Superman IV)”

  1. My thoughts exactly. The first two are great, and the third film is actually fairly good If you assume from the outset that it’s a COMEDY not a Superman film. (This isn’t too hard, try counting the number of slapstick moments during the opening credits).I figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to make Superman IV better than 3 though… boy, was I wrong.

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