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ScottRE

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I am working my way through these in reverse order. It's very satisfying that way - get the lesser efforts out of the way first.

Now that I've watched the last two, it's interesting to compare them. I've had debates with a couple of friends of mine over which is the "better" film: Superman III or Superman IV. It may sound like a ridiculous argument but they're both successful (and not) in different ways.

Superman III is a well made film. It's obviously expensive and a lot of skill, craftsmanship and talent went into it. The pacing is good, and some of it is charming, even exciting. And, in the right mood, the movie is funny. It does what it sets out to do. It's just wrong-headed and ill-conceived from the start. Most of the humor works and make no mistake - Richard Lester knows how to stage comedy. While the slapstick opening may be cringeworthy to some fans, it is still an excellent example of that style of humor. In 1983, my father - who was brought up on Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and others of that era - laughed long and loud. He couldn't stop talking about that sequence. Humor is subjective and not every joke will land, but I personally only found two sequences that went too far for a laugh: the crosswalk signs fighting (come on) and Gus falling off the building. They broke the fragile reality of the film. In order for Superman to work in these movies, everything around Superman has to, at the very least, be plausible. Those two gags were utterly impossible to accept as something that could possibly happen even in the framework of this film. Taken as simply a comedy (or as someone else said "a Richard Pryor movie which happens to have Superman in it"), it's fine. It's just not a Superman movie.

Superman IV is a Superman movie. Its heart is in the right place. The intentions by the people actually in the trenches making it were good. The actors were fine, the music was on point and the story was solid. But the ability of the director and creative judgement were lacking. Not to mention Golan and Globus were more flashy salesmen than creative producers. It's a poor film. It's badly paced, missing crucial scenes, written down to children and absurdly cheap. Even at its original budget, it never would have looked like a Salkind film. Yet, I like it more than Superman III. First, it's shorter so at 90 minutes, it comes and goes quickly. I also like the story. Superman breaks a cardinal rule and interferes. He takes control and gives nobody a choice. This is a fascinating idea. And Reeve delivers a powerhouse speech at the UN and regardless of how SOMEONE would have objected to his unilateral decision to destroy all nuclear weapons, the performance and the masterful scoring make this a high point in the franchise. In the hands of a talented writing/directing team, this could have been a thought provoking film. However, in the end it is what it is: a bad movie.

So honestly, I don't know if there is an answer to which is "better" or "worse." I find Superman IV to be a better and more appropriate Superman story - it's about Superman; his own personal crisis and the consequences of his decision. It's a better story, but Superman III is the better film.

Anyway: I love how Superman III looks in 4K. The colors are vibrant, the image sharp as I've ever seen it. You can see all of those little tricks they used to hide wires with traveling mattes and paintings. Still, I'm impressed at how high Reeve let himself be hoisted in some scenes. While I get a little sad when some effects I always loved don't hold up (as he triumphantly takes off from junkyard, Superman is more "transparent" than he used to be), one scene is still great: the moment Superman enters the Grand Canyon. First we seem him come in from the left, he banks and goes between the rocks. We switch to the reverse angle as he's searching and weaving. It's is absolutely perfect. No matte lines or obvious trickery. It really looks like he's flying. I live for those moments. This is as good as it got in these films, but Supergirl - as awful as that film is - has the best Salkind era flying scenes.

The sound is punchy and vibrant. I don't have an Atmos setup, but the overall soundscape is very pleasing. Ken Thorne's orchestrations are thin, the sound is tinny and less expansive than even the previous film. I still enjoy the score, but man they really decided to skimp in this area.

Onto the first two films...(I may or may not skip the Donner Cut since I really am not a fan of it beyond the initial curiosity I had when it was first released).
 
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