Superhero Films – Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)


A review of the 1987 superhero sequel Superman IV: The Quest For Peace starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Mariel Hemingway

Superman 4 Christopher Reeve

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace did begin with the best of intentions by star Christopher Reeve.

After declaring his refusal to don the red cape again after his disappointment by Superman III, Reeve would find himself lured back to Metropolis for one final cinematic bow.

However, instead of the hopes of his fourth adventure to reclaim the glory of the first two entries and make up for number three, The Quest For Peace would be the final embarrassing blow to the Superman franchise and leave the character absent from the big-screen for nineteen years.

Original Superman producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind would sell their movie rights to the Man of Steel after the disappointing Supergirl fiasco. Those movie rights would ultimately fall into the hands of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of the Cannon Group. A lot of money, an agreement to finance a film of his choosing and being granted more creative control would lure Reeve back for a fourth super adventure.

Things didn’t work out the way Reeve had hoped. Despite a topical storyline involving Superman and the nuclear arms race and the return of series regulars Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper and Marc McClure, The Quest For Peace would be a cheap, embarrassing project that would leave fans disappointed and Reeve frustrated and angry.

Cannon would slash the once promised big budge in half before production began. After an abysmal preview screening the film itself would be recut in half. What would be left is one of the most notorious, universally panned, head shaking superhero films of all time. It was not a great note for Reeve to leave his role on.

Co-starring Mariel Hemingway, Jon Cryer and Mark Pillow as the unforgettable Nuclear Man, I take a look at Christopher Reeve’s swan song as the Man of Steel – Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

Superhero Films – Chap. 29: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace from HaphazardStuff on Vimeo.

7 thoughts on “Superhero Films – Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)

  1. I'm glad you uploaded this, a really great video. The first time I saw this was on good old VHS at a friend's house. I remember this vivdly because it was one of those ex rental video boxes and also the fact that I didn't even know this was even made. I remember laughing at Nuclear Man because the mother of my friend compared him to a chippendale dancer (i.e. a male stripper)

    I then saw it a few months ago when it was broadcast on TV, at 1am and it was absolutely awful. What really made me laugh was not the terrible story, nor the effects, nor Nuclear Man. No, what made me laugh was the locations used for this film. Being born and raised in London, the Metropolis subway was so obviously a London Underground station (most probably a station on the Piccadilly Line since the train used was identical to a Piccadilly Line train circa. 1980s) But what really made me laugh was the fact that the filmmakers chose to house the UN in Milton Keynes, which is a place that all Londoners laugh at as being a trash dump.

    Superman 4 just doesn't work. The returning actors try and do the best they can, and most probably did, but with Cannon, and especially Menham Golan, at the helm you knew something was going to happen. It's a shame to see Sidney J Furie end up working at Cannon, especilly since his earlier films included the Michael Caine spy classic The IPCRESS File.

    Cannon really were the infamous scholock meisters of the 80s. Sure there were many film companies (New World being one prime example) that pandered towards the then big home video market, but Cannon took matters further by churning out film after film that were made on the cheap and on the lurid. There is a documentry released late last year called Electric Boogaloo that tells the story of the rise and fall of Cannon Films. Pretty much all the interviewees agree that whilst Golan and Globus had their charms, overall they were close minded and were more obsessed with keeping a hand on the money purse then spending it towards films. Golan comes off worst, a megalomaniac who believed he was a scorned director. Seriously the guy thought he was God's gift at making films, when clearly the guy didn't know what he wanted. It was widely known that guy would edit and re-edit all the films his company was making and releasing. When Cannon started moving towards big budget even films, that started with Stallone's Over The Top, the company began to lose their way. But one thing I never understood is why did they hedge their bets on Masters of The Universe and Superman, an already established franchise?

    Anyhow I was surprised to learn that the Salkinds purchased the rights back and it looked like that Reeve would have been Superman for the fifth, and possible last time. With the advent of CGI, a fifth Superman film would have been interesting to see, but sadly it was not to be. During the mid to late 90s there was active development on a Superman film that was supposed to have been based on The Death of Superman, with Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage being linked to it for the majority of its tenure.

    Can't wait for the next chapter, is it going to be Batman?

  2. You have to wonder what was going through Reeves' mind when he decided to place his trust in a company whose business model was "invest $1 mil to make $5 mil primarily in the video market, and do it ten times a year." Was he really so desperate to redeem the trademark after Superman III that he could con himself into believing that the same company was going to invest $40 million or do something resembling a good job? Only Golan-Globus could manage to make "Superman III" look half-decent by comparison. "Superman V" probably would have included Chuck Norris and Sly Stallone with Superman having to win a kickboxing and arm-wrestling contest to save the world from Hulk Hogan.

  3. A very good review.

    This movie had an epilogue of sorts. When the internet started to gain a foothold in the public conscience, amateur movie review websites soon followed. And inevitably every one of them has vented their spleen at "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace."

    In fact, you could probably find a consensus on the web on what doesn't work in this film. From Lex Luther's strange taste in hookers to Lacy breathing in space to the fact that "Nuclear Man" seems to run on solar power.

    I challenge you to find ANY movie site that doesn't include this film. Even the Nostaglia Critic and AgonyBooth took a swing at this film. The only one I can think of that didn't is Red Letter Media and I"m sure that situation will be remedied sometime soon.

  4. Amusingly, the comic to the movie does some things more logical: Nuclear Man is born naked and gets it's costume when he arrives at Luthors home. He and Lacy are in the air, when the solar eclipse occurs. I have the suspicion that the part of the effects-team that created the "Flying-Lacy"-sequence had an sky-background in mind and instead of that some guys added space because… they thought it looks more awesome or something…

  5. Will be waiting patiently for Hap's full audio commentary track of him and his nephew on SUPERMAN IV! Sure, the one with screenwriter Mark Rosenthal is great, but yours would be even better no doubt.

    I've been a devoted fan to the SUPERMAN movie series, though not for comic book reading reasons but for technical/inspirational reasons. SUPERMAN IV is the absolute worst of the series, although I would still watch it any day of the week over MAN OF STEEL. Cannon is largely to blame here, as they make the Salkinds look like Gods (as opposed to Zods) in comparison. The Salkinds may have been "producing pirates" who ultimately failed at budgeting, but at least they gave Superman the budget it deserved and chose the right people to helm the project. Cannon, however, was riding on the SUPERMAN name alone to sell this cheapjack movie and Reeve, as well as the audience, deserved a lot more; whenever the Kryptonian "Betrayed" Bastard comes on screen, it constantly alludes to Cannon's betrayal of Chris (thus it's hard to laugh even though it's all laughably bad). Don't get me wrong: I still like some of Cannon's shlock, notably 1985's KING SOLOMON'S MINES as well as the teen masterpiece THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, but they few and far between.

    This was a great review which pointed out a few things I never noticed before, such as Nuclear Man's "N" logo being on Luthor's hat when they take Superman's hair. Reading spaceodds' assessment the film even more hilarious from a location perspective. The only thing that makes SUPERMAN IV tolerable is the deep sincerity and good intentions from the cast, if not the crew or the producers. As controversial as the whole nuclear topic is concerned, I agree with Hap in that I don't think it's off limits so much as how it's executed…and this film is poorly executed on almost all fronts. By the way, the closing tags are always great, but Hap couldn't have chosen the more perfect quote that sums up how epically wrong the movie is.

    Still, why would I watch SUPERMAN IV over MAN OF STEEL? At least in this film Superman is still the Boy Scout he was created as; we shouldn't love and root for Superman just because he's HOT and can BREAK PEOPLE'S NECKS. The scene between Lois & Clark when he is ill and recovering from his defeat by Nuclear Man is more emotionally effective than anything in MAN OF STEEL. But then again, that's not going to be next SUPERMAN movie Hap will review, and I will be waiting patiently for Hap's perceived EPIC REVIEW on it. 🙂

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