Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 24% (Critics) / 39% (Audience)
Directed By: Richard Lester
Written By: David and Leslie Newman
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O’Toole and Robert Vaughn
Studio: Focus Features
Synopsis: Wealthy businessman Ross Webster discovers the hidden talents of Gus Gorman, a mischievous computer genius. Ross decides to abuse his talents, in a way to help Webster with his plans for economic control. When the man of steel interferes, something must be done about Supes. When Gus’ synthetic Kryptonite fails to kill Superman, it turns him into an evil incarnation of his former self. The tar-laced Kryptonite pits man against himself, setting up the Clark vs. Superman battle.
Christopher Reeve is still my favorite celluloid Superman/Clark Kent and his performance in this movie did nothing to change that. Even when playing the darker side of Superman I enjoyed him in the role. The introduction of Annette O’Toole as Clark Kent’s childhood friend was a welcome addition too. It was especially satisfying because it meant that we wouldn’t be subjected to the horrendous Margot Kidder version of Lois Lane. Kidder’s dissatisfaction with the role led to her only appearing in a few minutes at the beginning of the movie and quick scene at the end. She was not missed by me at all.
There were two gigantic weaknesses in this movie: pedestrian villains and the director’s bizarre fixation on goofy comedy elements. The comedy got ratcheted up with the casting of Richard Pryor as computer genius Gus Gorman and as much as I love Mr. Pryor, he was so out of place in this movie that it was distracting. Ross Webster and his sister Vera were just awful villains too. Robert Vaughn is a fine actor but he paled in comparison to Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.
After being exposed to a synthetic version of kryptonite that turned him “evil”, Superman went on what had to be the lamest villanous streak ever. He committed petty vandalism, stopped shaving and showering, drank in the middle of the day, and had sexy times with Webster’s girlfriend. Lame is not even a good enough word for these scenes.
And the extremely long fight scene between evil Superman and Clark Kent was confusing as all get out.
Final Verdict: The wear on the franchise was very evident in Superman 3. Almost everyone involved seemed to be phoning it in to some extent with director Lester’s schtick becoming very stale by this point. The storyline was weak, the action was boring and special effects were chintzy even for the times. Richard Pryor was woefully out of place but Reeve and O’Toole worked well together and the potential of Superman/Clark Kent and Lana Lang as the new romantic focus of the franchise was strong. Too bad everything else was dreadful.