Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn, Margot Kidder, Gavan O'Herlihy
Written by: David Newman, Leslie Newman, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Directed by: Richard Lester
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 125
Date: 06/17/1983

Superman III (1983)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Superman

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After taking over Superman II, Richard Lester (A Hard Day's Night) returned to direct this sequel, which is an odd and ultimately awkward and uncomfortable mix of broad comedy and darkness.

The legendary comedian Richard Pryor of all people was second-billed, playing the bungling Gus Gorman, who -- somehow -- turns out to be a computer whiz. (His casting seems more like a stunt than a necessary element to the story.) He goes to work for an evil CEO, Webster (Robert Vaughn), and helps create a synthetic Kryptonite to destroy the Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve). It only makes Superman depressed and angry; he goes around vandalizing things (he straightens the Leaning Tower of Pisa) and drinking, and his uniform gets dirty. Finally, the good Superman fights the evil one, and he teams up with a regretful Pryor to save the day.

Clark's Smallville girl, Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole), is the love interest in this one, and she's delightful, adding a cute little nervous giggle to some of her line readings. And Pamela Stephenson is fun as Webster's gorgeous blonde girlfriend, seemingly dumb but smart when it counts.

However, not much of the rest of it works; Pryor isn't particularly funny (he later said he thought the script stunk and did it only for the money) and some of the slapstick comedy scenes have aged badly, though Reeve is given a chance to stretch a bit, exploring a dark side that otherwise wasn't available to his character.

Margot Kidder is only in a couple of scenes as Lois Lane. Giorgio Moroder -- of all people -- contributed some songs, and there's a kind of off-kilter version of John Williams's memorable Superman score. This was followed by the also-awful Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which at least has the excuse of being a low-budget "B" movie. This one was not so lucky.

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