Plot: Although Superman (Christopher Reeve) has tried to step back from human affairs, he finds himself pulled back in when a child writes to him in the Daily Planet, asking him to make the world safe by eliminating the nuclear threat. So he springs into action and takes on the global nuclear arms crisis, meanwhile Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is able to escape from prison and begin his latest nefarious caper. Luthor sees the nuclear crisis as ripe with potential for serious profits, but not if Superman continues to throw all the weapons into the sun. He plans to steal a single strand of Superman’s hair, then use the genetic material to create his own super powered minion, who can eliminate Superman once and for all. But can such a wild plot actually have a chance to work and will Luthor finally conquer the Man of Steel?
Entertainment Value: I still can’t believe that Cannon Films made a Superman movie, but here it is and of course, Superman IV has all the usual Cannon elements and is just beyond ridiculous. To some, this makes this the worst of the Superman series, but to me, it is an outlandish, fun, and over the top ride. The story is overly serious, which makes the non stop lunacy all the more outrageous, as this kind of movie magic only happens when a film tries to be sincere. I’ve read this was Christopher Reeve’s anti-nuke effort and that makes things even funnier, as Superman IV envisioned as a political statement is an absolute treasure of an idea. I wouldn’t put this on the same level as some of Cannon’s most insane movies, but it does have cut rate special effects, a fever dream of a villain, some wooden performances, and just radiates the kind of offbeat, what just happened vibes that embodied Cannon Films. I can’t defend Superman IV as good in the traditional sense, but I think it is immense fun and has a metric ton of b movie appeal from start to finish. So if you appreciate mind melting cinema or just need to see Cannon’s spin on Superman for yourself, I think this superhero curio has more than enough wackiness to warrant a look.
As with most of Cannon’s motion pictures, Superman IV has some odd performances that run the gamut of thespian skills. Christopher Reeve held the premise here close to his heart, but in the years after the movie released, he distanced himself and had no desire to even discuss his involvement. His performance is a strange one, especially compared to the previous three turns as Superman and to me, that’s quite odd since he is said to have had some sway over the material. Some of the scenes he’s lively and others he is stiff as a board, so despite his involvement in the script, Reeve seems to feel a little off in his performance. But would be feel like a Cannon Superman movie if Superman himself wasn’t on the quirky side? Gene Hackman is solid, but doesn’t have a lot to do here and sadly, the outlandish Mark Pillow isn’t around much as Nuclear Man. His character is o-zone levels of insane, so I would have loved more of his madness, especially since Pillow didn’t act much after this. The cast also includes Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Mariel Hemingway, and Jim Broadbent.