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Superman Summer - Superman 3 (1983)


Directed by: Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Robert Vaughan, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Annette O'Toole, Gavan O'Herlihy, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure

Computer wiz Pryor is hired by evil businessman Vaughan to build a computer capable of fulfilling his dreams of world domination.

If you've ever seen the producing team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind interviewed it's obvious why they chose to resurrect Superman as a movie property. They knew the series would be a cash cow with it's widespread appeal. Of course, they would have to make a quality movie for audiences to get on board and they did just that, in fact they made two quality films. By the time of the third installment however they clearly didn't care too much about quality. Superman was now simply an excuse to print money. 
Released the very same year as the awful third "Jaws" movie, "Superman 3" is up there with "The Phantom Menace" in terms of major cinematic disappointments. The tone takes a turn towards comedy of the broadest nature with the introduction of Pryor, a bum who discovers overnight he's actually the world's most talented computer whiz. He takes a job at a large corporation run by Vaughn and uses his skill to pull off a scam which sees half a cent of each employee's weekly wage transferred into his account. When Vaughn discovers this he takes him under his wing to develop a computer which will follow his every whim. 
The script is terribly written and confusing at times. Superman is turned into an evil version of himself yet somehow fights with Clark Kent. It's never made clear exactly what's occuring here. Did he split into two people? Why is one dressed as Kent and one Superman? Best not to think about it as no-one connected with the film seems to have given it much thought. The idea of Superman turning bad sounds in theory like a winner but it's just used as an excuse for cheap gags like straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa and blowing out the Olympic flame. Imagine what Richard Donner and Mario Puzo could have done with this scenario.
There are a few nice moments near the start when Kent returns to Smallville for his high school reunion. He reconnects with Lana Lang (O'Toole) who we glimpsed briefly as a teenager in the first movie. These scenes are closer in tone to the previous two films but the subplot is brushed aside so time can be devoted to the irritating Pryor plot. 
If you think this movie was made for any reason other than to make a quick buck then check out the hilariously blatant product placement for Kentucky Fried Chicken, back when they could actually get away with using the word "chicken". Pryor opens a door for no reason other than to reveal a bright red KFC bag which remains prominently onscreen for the following scene. Oh well, surely things would improve with "Superman 4" right? Er...
3/10