Continuing our Comic Book Movie month here at Flickering Myth, Jack Morris explains why Superman III scarred him for life…
Superman III was my first foray into comic book movies. I was shown it by my cousins who had it on VHS when we went to visit them in Leeds and it has forever stuck with me and scarred me for life! Not scarred in the way that movies like X-Men Origins: Wolverine or Superman Returns have, in that I never want to watch them again, but in a way that even at 24 the image of Annie Ross’ character Vera getting sucked into the computer and transforming into a cyborg can still terrify me.
Whilst many may overlook the latter two sequels in the Superman franchise (and I personally cannot deny that Superman IV: The Quest for Peace doesn’t deserve the time of day), Superman III doesn’t deserve the flack it often receives. After finally seeing Superman and Superman II as I grew older, the third always stuck in my mind. The second now ranks quite highly in my favourite comic book movies of all time (especially the extended Richard Donner cut), but I often find myself drawn to the third if I ever fancy watching a Superman film. This could be because I am quite biased when it comes to anything starring Richard Pryor, being a lifelong fan of his stand-up; his role in this certain film has him playing against his usual portrayal on screen. Whilst he is still available for the comic relief that he was so often used for, the fact that he was cast against his usual loveable rogue stereotyping and shown as one of the antagonists is just another reason why this film is brilliant.
Superman is often shown in his films and comics and comics as ‘The All American Hero’, standing for ‘Truth, Justice and The American Way’, but this film allows for something a little bit different to be shown. After he is poisoned by the kryptonite that Richard Pryor’s character of Gus Gorman fails to recreate properly (he adds tobacco when he can’t find the last missing ingredient), he becomes two different versions of himself. One, the usual Clark Kent that the audience has come to know and love over the years, and the other being all the bad things that can be found in a person. This was quite deep subject matter for a Superman movie in my opinion, because we are used to seeing the character as someone who is always striving to do the right thing and protect the people, but when he splits in two, it shows the duality of man that even a superhero can find inside lurking inside of them. The showdown between the two of them in the junk yard is one of the stand out in scenes in the whole movie.
As I mentioned earlier, the one scene that has stuck with me throughout the years is the final confrontation between Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) and the Man of Steel, in which he has to fight against Gus Gorman’s supercomputer. I couldn’t think of anything more terrifying when I was a child as seeing someone get sucked into the machine and becoming part human/part computer. Looking back at the scene now, some may laugh at the overacting and the rather unimpressive special effects (by today’s standards), but once an image like that has been ingrained into your mind it can take some getting rid of!
Superman III may not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to Superman movies or even comic book movies as a whole, but for me it will always have a special place in my collection. Not only because it was the first even comic book I watched and opened up a whole world of films for me to enjoy, but because it has forever made me wary of machines that can learn and evolve and want to protect themselves (so take that Terminator!).