Superman III is the first insulting movie made about the Man of Steel, but sadly not the last. As the first two installments are really the only universally beloved Superman movies. My parents always told me how bad the latter Christopher Reeve Superman movies were. So I avoided seeing Superman III when I was younger. Years later I can understand why. Richard Pryor practically hijacks the movie with never ending failed stand up bits and wacky slapstick. I get that Pryor was huge in the 80’s, but this is a Superman movie for crying out loud. Then again the entire campy feel of Superman III can be blamed on Richard Lester’s direction. Without any kind of Richard Donner involvement, Lester was free to be as comedic as possible.
Right from the opening we see a ridiculous series of slapstick bits in Metropolis. The Daily Planet is only briefly seen. As are Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and even Lois Lane get sidelined. Instead Clark Kent returns home to Smallville where he attends his class reunion. Making his childhood crush Lana Lang his new love interest. Along with Reeve, Annette O’Toole is one of a few bright spots in the movie. She’d later go on to play Ma Kent in Smallville. Despite a whole rogues gallery of DC supervillains to choose from, Superman III makes the terrible decision to create an original villain. Some guy named Ross Webster who’s clearly a stand in for Lex Luthor.
Pryor is Gus, a computer genius that inadvertently helps Webster take over the world with a supercomputer or something. Although it should have been Red Kryptonite, Superman turns evil as part of their master plan. His evil acts include straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, drinking, blowing out the Olympic torch, and refusing to save then sleeping with Webster’s busty girlfriend. While the fight between evil Superman and Clark is interesting, Superman III makes too many mistakes to make it work.