Saturday, January 20, 2007

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a 1987 film, the last of the Superman theatrical movies starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. In this film, Superman battled Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his creation, a solar-powered evil clone of Superman called Nuclear Man.

Unlike the previous three movies, which were produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the fourth movie was produced by Golan-Globus' Cannon Films, in association with Warner Bros.

In 1983, following the mixed reaction to Superman III, which nontheless made $60 million at the box office, Reeve and the producers, father and son team Alexander and Ilya Salkind, assumed that the Superman films had run their course. Reeve was slated to make a cameo in 1984's Supergirl but was unavailable; that film (technically the fourth in the series) was a box office failure. Four years later, Ilya Salkind sold the Superman franchise to Golan & Globus of Cannon Films.

According to Reeve, Golan & Globus Films did not have a script in mind when they first approached him about doing the fourth installment; they simply wanted him to reprise his role. Reeve himself admitted in his autobiography Still Me that he really wasn't sure that he wanted to do another Superman film, especially if it was going to be treated as a farce, which had been the case with the third film, an approach that Reeve felt was disrespectful to fans and the source material. The new filmmakers then offered Reeve a deal he couldn't refuse – in exchange for starring in the fourth Superman film, they would produce any project of his choosing, and also promised him story input (there was also talk of having Reeve direct a fifth Superman film in case the fourth one proved successful). Reeve accepted, and in exchange, Golan & Globus produced the gritty crime drama Street Smart.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

After reviewing various scripts, Reeve suggested the storyline of Superman becoming involved in the global political issue of nuclear warfare, in order to give the film a more serious feel to distance itself from the previous film. Unfortunately, Golan and Globus had so many other films in the pipeline at the time that their money was spread too thinly to properly accommodate what became Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, released in 1987, forcing the film's veteran director Sidney J. Furie to cut corners everywhere. The film was universally panned by critics and fans alike, who were disgusted by the film's cheap special effects, which paled in comparison to the earlier films, and performed poorly at the box office.

The movie was not well received by either the general public or movie critics. Some critics considered the film to be one of the worst of its year. The movie suffered from poor sound and visual effects, believed to be caused by Cannon using much of the film's intended budget on their other projects. Reportedly, Warner Bros. gave Cannon approximately $40 million to produce Superman IV but in the end, Cannon used only $17 million for Superman IV. Most feel that the first movie had superior effects when compared to the fourth film, despite being ten years old at that point.

Of the four Superman films starring Reeve, this one fared the worst at the box office, and the series, as it turned out, went dormant for 19 years. Reeve himself admitted that both this and the third installment were very poor and did not live up to the potential that had been established by the first two films, and his 1995 paralysis made the development of any further sequels involving him impossible. Time Warner let the Superman feature film franchise go undeveloped until the late-1990s when a variety of proposals were considered (see: Superman Reborn), including several that would reboot the franchise altogether with substantially different versions of the characters and setting, rather than attempt to follow up on this film.

The final words in this film, "See you in twenty," proved to be prophetic. The next Superman film Superman Returns arrived at cinemas in June 2005, nineteen years after this film premiered at the box office.

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