Superman IV: The Quest For Peace


IMDb Rating 3.6 / 10

Tagline: “Nuclear Power. In the best hands, it is dangerous. In the hands of Lex Luthor, it is pure evil. This is Superman’s greatest battle. And it is for all of us.”


Superman: The Movie’s tagline was ‘You’ll believe a man can fly’.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace sees that very same man face plant onto concrete faster than a speeding bullet.

Superman: The Movie was glorious, groundbreaking and hugely influential.

Superman IV looks and feels like an unfinished TV Movie made by vicious pranksters.

It is so baffling and cringeworthy, you wonder whether director Sydney J Furie and his editor were bundled into the back of a van half way through filming by unknown assailants, and freed only after the movie’s release.

The genesis of Superman IV partly explains why the whole thing is such a debacle. With the rights to Superman secured by notorious producers Golan and Globus, Christopher Reeve was lured back into the blue tights with three promises:

1)   A hefty paycheck

2)   A promise from the producers to fund one of his pet film projects.

3)   An offer of creative input into the story and script of Superman IV.

You don’t need super-hearing to register the alarm bells ringing loudly.

Whereas the budget for director Richard Donner’s original 1978 masterpiece was an enormous $55m, 9 years later, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace had its budget slashed by half to a mere $17m just before production began. A blow not even the Man of Steel could withstand.

The film wastes no time in flaunting its reduced circumstances.

The famous opening credits look familiar, but resemble a version designed by junior school pupils for an IT project using a Commodore 64 computer. Composer John Williams’ iconic theme is seemingly performed here by that same school’s orchestra, rather than the London Symphony.

It’s a magnificent klaxon warning of the lunacy to follow.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Man of Teal

With the Cold War raging, and the arms race accelerating, mid-80s Superman is guilted into action by a letter written by a poorly dubbed, insufferable schoolboy who deserves to have his lunch money stolen, rather than enjoy the attention of the Man of Steel.

Kal-El is so moved by the brat’s mournful whining, he decides to march to the UN Headquarters (on a Buckinghamshire industrial estate) to announce he is going to confiscate all of the world’s nuclear weapons, store them in a giant net he’s acquired from….a local giant net emporium,  and throw the whole lot into the sun.

As a plot theme, this is problematic.

Superman is supposed to inspire mankind, not police them. By involving himself in the nuclear question while ignoring humanity’s many other issues, he is apparently condoning famine, poverty, sex trafficking, child slavery, genocide, apartheid, repression, terrorism, and the indiscriminate wearing of legwarmers.

And then there’s Nuclear Man.

Pure terror in back-combed 80s hair metal form.

Superman’s latest nemesis is created by Lex Luthor in a manner so scientifically questionable, even Stephen Hawking would get up and walk out in protest.

Superman has donated a strand of his indestructible hair to a museum. Lex Luthor steals it by cutting it with a pair of kitchen scissors.

Museum asking for their money back not pictured.

Luthor plants the hair in a nuclear bomb, launches it into the sun, and lo, Nuclear Man is born.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Nuclear Man: Hard as nails

He looks super-ridiculous. A super-villain powered by hairspray. He resembles an angry Billy Idol tribute act whose favourite tanning bed is already occupied.

Harnessing his strength from bright sunlight, Nuclear Man powers down in darkness. So the equivalent of his kryptonite is…going indoors.

Or clouds.

Or Manchester.

The fight scenes between the spandex-clad Nuclear Man and Kal-El are camper than a Village People video marathon.

Nuclear Man has viciously long electric gold nails that he uses to scratch the Man of Steel’s neck.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

“Ooh, you little bitch”

It’s like a prissy altercation in the Heaven Nightclub toilets. Like the edgy video Bucks Fizz never got to make.

With the shooting budget so low, every aspect of the film suffers.

Whereas in previous instalments Superman caught a plunging helicopter one handed in mid flight, or saved Paris and the Eiffel Tower from a hydrogen bomb, in the Quest for Peace, his most dramatic rescue is slowing a trundling tube train. It’s a set piece that harnesses all the tension and drama of weekend engineering works on the Northern line.

It’s less a rescue and more a tug on the emergency brake. He probably got fined £250 for misuse.

Superman’s green screen flying effects look like they were filmed on a second hand camcorder. Don’t worry if you can’t believe what you’re watching- they use exactly the same shot repeatedly, just to confirm your worst fears.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Green screen if you want to go faster

The whole film is lazy and inept and embarrassing and sad.

And inexcusably charmless.

Superman uses his memory-erasing kiss on Lois Lane again in this movie. She visits Clark’s apartment. He’s in a fug. She looks concerned. He cheers up. He reveals his identity (again), takes her flying (again), then kisses her so she forgets everything. But not for her benefit this time- for his. He got the intimacy he craved and she has no memory of the incident. It’s rohypnol, Krypton-style.

And it’s super-creepy.

The dialogue, which sang in the first two movies via the pen of Tom Manckiewicz, is horribly stilted here.

Lois: “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Superman: “The city is beautiful. The whole world is beautiful”

Lois: “I’ve always felt that moments like this should be shared with someone that you care a lot about”.

Kiss me Superman, so I can forget I ever heard that exchange.

45 minutes of footage were removed from the film before release which largely contributes to the confusion. It is boring, relentless chaos. Like being an adult chaperone at an over-sugared four year old’s birthday party.

All involved knew the movie was terrible long before the film was completed. Christopher Reeve admitted “Superman IV was a catastrophe from start to finish. That failure was a huge blow to my career.”

The film looks cheap, dull, and is weirdly erratic- like that replica watch you bought on holiday.

For Superman fans, it makes for heartbreaking viewing.

Superman IV is such a stuttering, misfiring shambles that Marvel Comics Inc should have been questioned as to their whereabouts during the period of the crime.

Nuclear Man is defeated by…an eclipse and a power plant. Or a hairspray shortage. Or something.

Lex Luthor is returned to jail, but most chillingly, his ‘comedy’ nephew sidekick Lenny Luthor is left by Superman with a Catholic priest at ‘Boys Town’ reform school.

No crime deserves the fate that probably awaited him.

Though after another viewing of The Quest for Peace, we are having second thoughts.


One Comment

  1. A wonderfully witty review that all but killed Cannon. Nothing exceeds like excess. 🙂

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