You’ll Believe a (Super)Man Can Flop, Part II

48 Scenes That Show Why Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Is a Solid Contender for the Title of Worst Superhero Movie Ever Made

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

13. Boy, it’s a wonder how anyone in Metropolis is still alive, the way everything turns into a death-trap on a dime.

Lois Lane, displaying that charm that has won her Pulitzers aplenty, is reading aloud from a French textbook as she descends to the subway platform and practices her French (badly) with whomever is unfortunate enough to be standing by her. Clark, wearing a stylish fedora and trenchcoat combo familiar to most porn-theatre operators, just misses the subway doors as they close with Lois on the other side. D’oh! But just as well, because as Lois continues her conjugating commute, the subway driver — dun dun DUN!— suffers some kind of seizure and passes out at the controls. Now, if this were any of the dozens of subway trains I have ridden in the past, this would not be an issue because there is more than one driver on any given train and the passengers have access to emergency brakes and the transit system’s central control centre has its own methods of stopping runaway trains. But no, this is Metropolis (city motto: “Superman Will Save Our Ass, So Why Bother?”), so the heart palpitations of one working stiff apparently means Instant Death for a trainload of people.

14. “This has been a public service announcement.” Uh… thanks, Superman.
As Lois and the rest of the passengers panic and scream, Kent enters a subway phone booth and steps out in his trademark suit (and can I just ask, in this smartphone age, where most superheroes go to change their clothes now?). Long story short: Superman steps on third rail, brings subway to spark-flying halt. (By the by, behind him you can very clearly see posters saying “New York” and “Keep the torch lit,” the latter an obvious reference to the Statue of Liberty restoration efforts that took place around the time this film was shot. So, we’re clearly in New York City, even though the caption just said Metropolis.) Then — and this is the part that floors me every time — as the cops and firefighters spring ninja-like out of the shadows to help the startled passengers (like, nice timing, first responders), Superman makes a public statement on behalf of subways everywhere: “I’d like all the people back there to know our subway system is still the safest and most reliable means of public transportation. Thank you.” Um, Supes… who the hell are you talking to? Do you see a TV camera that the rest of us can’t? Or was this the only way the producers could get their thrilling three minutes of on-location footage, by offering a little public-service message on behalf of the New York City transit system? Have to say, it’s really odd and sad and hilarious all at once, like watching Kathie Lee Gifford float by during the last ten minutes of Titanic to remind us how much fun a Carnival cruise can be now that cruise ships have installed all those handy lifeboats.

15. So that’s where Rupert Murdoch got all his ideas…
The Daily Planet. Kent wonders where everyone is. Cut to scene of old guy in suit surrounded by Planet staffers as he flips through pages of newsprint. “Boring… tedious… abominable,” he grouses. Wow, it’s not often a movie takes the time to review itself while you’re watching it. (Oh, and Jimmy? Lose the bow tie. Dork.) Lois tells Clark the old guy is David Warfield, the media baron. “That tycoon who owns all those sleazy tabloids?” Clark exposits as Rupert Murdoch’s libel lawyers start breathing heavily. Of course, being one of the Planet’s intrepid reporters, Clark would have no idea the paper he works for just got scooped up by one of the industry’s most powerful people. Because big business deals like that? Happen overnight all the time.

16. Psst. Sometimes media people distort the news. Pass it on.
“The name of the game is making money,” proclaims a soft-focused young blonde sporting manhole cover-sized glasses and a sequined blazer pilfered from the Vegas production of Oh, Sophia! The Golden Girls Musical. Lacey Warfield, the new Planet publisher and Daddy’s little capitalist in training, shows mockups of the paper’s brand-new layout; one displays a cheesecake swimsuit model and the headline “SUMMIT KAPUT: IS WORLD AT BRINK?” Clark protests the headline… but not, interestingly, the choice of photograph. Isn’t that a tad irresponsible, Clark asks. “Maybe,” Daddy Warfield says, “but it’ll sell a hell of a lot of newspapers.” Until a certain Internet comes along, but we’ll worry about that when we get there…

17. You can tell the screenwriters spent months in actual newsrooms to get a feel for what really goes on in those places. Not.
Naturally, Perry White is apoplectic: “If you think I’m going to let you turn this grand old lady into one of your bimbos…” But Lacey’s all, “May I point out that Daddy holds all your contracts?” as she holds a bunch of papers bound in red ribbon. Two things. First, I’ve yet to work in a media outlet (and believe me, I’ve gone through a lot of them) where red ribbon of any kind signified something akin to indentured servitude. Second, “Daddy?” During a business meeting? Oy. More blather about changes being made to cut costs, no more overseas trips for reporters, etc. Post-meeting, Kent speaks directly to Lacey. “We’ll do our best to co-operate,” he says, “but a reporter’s first allegiance has to be to the truth. The people of this city depend on us and we can’t let them down.” Lacey to Lois: Is he for real? Lois: “One hundred percent, and I like him that way.” Oh, Lois. Why can’t we have a movie all about you instead of nuclear men made from snot?

18. And now, let’s tune in to a conveniently timed press conference with the President…
Olsen bursts in to say the president is on TV announcing the breakdown of talks with those godless Commies, which means the U.S. “must strive to be second to none in the nuclear arms race.” Sure, it sounds funny to you Starbucks-sipping, tweeting youngsters, but take it from us old-timers who grew up in the era of Red Dawn and Rocky IV: back then, when the words “mutually assured destruction” were part of the common lexicon and a senile ex-movie star had his trembling finger gingerly propped over The Button, that was the kind of presidential prattle we were used to hearing. The same broadcast is being watched by a bunch of middle-school students and a teacher who is obviously just out of college, because she still embraces that cute “we can change the world if we really care enough to write letters” attitude. She says the students must “think positively” and suggests writing their member of Congress as a constructive way to save the world. Sure, why not — I hear that’s how they got Family Guyback on the air. She then calls on Jeremy, who’s gazing out the window. “I’d tell you who I’d write a letter to that’d do some good,” he says, savoring his moment in the sun. “Superman!”

19. Fun! Whoo! Yeah! Stretch that strand, baby!
Cut to a giant statue of Superman himself, the big famewhore. Inside a museum, a tour guide exposits that the big guy, the subject of their newest exhibit, “has graciously donated a strand of his hair to the museum so we can all have the fun of seeing how strong he really is.” Said strand of hair is weighed down by a large ball that says “1,000 lbs.” and if you can’t trust something that has its weight stenciled across it, then what’s the point of living.

20. Super Flying Toupee would have made for a far more interesting villain than we get in his movie, I’ll tell you that for a dollar.
Luthor and his lackey, Lenny, lurk about until the tour group has passed by before making their move. “Do you know what I can make with a single strand of Superman’s hair?” Luthor asks his young sidekick. “A toupee that flies?” Lenny responds. As it turns out, Luthor is going to steal Superman’s hair to harvest its genetic material and use it to make a powerful clone that will kill Superman and answer only to Luthor. Sure, that’s not needlessly complicated, especially since there are, like, all these rocks I hear can kill Superman dead if YOU JUST HURL THEM IN HIS GENERAL DIRECTION. God!

21. Yeah, I call a kid a moron in this one. Not one of my finer moments, but I stand by my statement.
Daily Planet. Lacey puts the moves on Clark, blah blah blahcakes, wants to do a series on Metropolis’s nightlife and who else but Kent, Mr. Excitement himself, to write it. All of this goes nowhere, really, and is merely a set-up for Lois to run in and say she got a letter from some kid who hopes Superman will get rid of all the nuclear missiles in the world. “Superman can make sure we won’t blow ourselves up quick and easy…” Interesting, I just noticed now how the letter is supposed to be to Superman and yet Jeremy refers to Superman in the third person. Moron. Lacey wants to run with it and make the kid a media celebrity, kind of like that real-life American girl who wrote a letter to a Soviet premier in the early ‘80s and got a free trip to Moscow out of it. But then: Spinning newspaper headline! I love those. “Superman says ‘Drop Dead’ to kid.” Sigh. How many ways is this so very wrong?

supermanIV-fortress22. And now let’s listen to my favorite country song, “How Can I Say Goodbye to My Blowed-Up Planet When They Won’t Shut The Hell Up?”
Kent, deep in thought, heads off to his Fortress of Solitude for a deep heart-to-heart with his crystals. Disembodied old-fart heads representing the collective wisdom of Krypton remind him he is “forbidden to interfere” in humanity’s progress. “If you teach the Earth to put its fate in any one man, even yourself, you’re teaching them to be betrayed,” the head head says, punctuated by a Jacob Marley chorus of “Betrayed! Betrayed! Betrayed!” I bet these guys are wicked fun at keggers. (And, now that I think about it, if Jor-El didn’t have a lot of time to send his son to Earth, and if everyone else on Krypton thought he was just plain nuts for suggesting Krypton was going to explode… well, who the hell are these guys?)

23. Best take on the whole Super-Amnesia Kiss thing: that one skit on Robot Chicken’s DC Universe Special. Seriously, go check it out.
Kent’s swingin’ bachelor pad. As he listens to a Russian newscast reporting on the arms race (and where, pray tell, would he get a station like that on his American TV dial, in 1987?), Lois arrives to pick him up for the press awards dinner. Kent leads her out to the balcony, where he takes her hand, casually steps off the ledge with her and still somehow switches to Superman mid-fall. He then flies with her all the way to San Francisco(!) and back(!!) in a manner of minutes(!!!). He needs to ask her what she thinks he should do re: the stupid kid situation (my “stupid,” not his). When they get back to his place, he pulls the same super-contrived hypno-kiss stunt he did back at the end of Superman II to make her forget the whole thing (leaving her, no doubt, to wonder during dinner why she’s picking flies out of her teeth). OK, let’s talk timelines. Since Lois has no idea what just happened, we have to assume the whole trip took less time than what it would have taken for her to wait for Kent as he got ready for the press dinner. So, let’s say about 10, maybe 15 minutes elapsed from the time she entered his apartment to the time they left. Within that timeframe, they flew more than 3,000 miles from Metropolis (assuming it’s on the east coast of the U.S.) to San Francisco and back again, averaging 300 or so miles a minute, or 18,000 miles per hour. I know nothing about the limits of human endurance in high-speed situations, but I’ve seen those films of astronauts in the centrifuges getting their faces all smooshed — don’t you think that trip would have produced some effect on Lois’s body, at the very least mussed her hair? Nothing makes sense here, but then, it’s only in keeping with the rest of the movie. Best not to dwell on it, I suppose; like Lois tells Kent as they leave, “Too much thinking wears down your batteries.”

24. Yeah! “Kid Buying Hot Dog” — that’s Pulitzer gold, baby!
Next day. Dorkwad… uh, I mean Olsen is taking pictures of Jeremy doing typical Metropolis things like ordering a hot dog from a stand when Superman flies down to say hello. With extras in tow, they walk over to the Don’t Call it the UN Building so that Superman may address the general assembly. Because when you want anything done in a jiffy, your first stop has got to be the UN (official motto: “WE ARE PRESENTLY IN COMMITTEE TO DETERMINE A SUITABLE TIME TO DISCUSS THE PRE-PLANNING PLENARY OF OUR MOTTO”). He asks the secretary-general if he may address the assembly, including the gal sitting behind a sign that says “England” (uh, “United Kingdom,” anyone?). “For many years, I’ve lived among you as a… a visitor,” Superman says. Blah blah great joy in accomplishments, seen the folly of your wars, etc. etc. “The Earth is my home too… I can’t stand idly by as we stumble into the madness of possible nuclear destruction.” Answer? Effective immediately, he will personally rid the planet of all nuclear missiles — news that invites a round of applause from all the delegates.

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