This movie is horrible. Not only are the effects terrible (“outdated” would be an insult to other films of the time; even 1978’s Superman has better effects) and the story boring, not to mention a… villain? I think that dude is supposed to be a villain. Nuclear Man. Wow. Even the name is inspired. No one enjoyed making this movie. Not even the man who helped put the story together, Christopher Reeve, wanted any part of this movie. I feel for Gene Hackman, who carried the entire film by himself, without any effort, relying solely on a badass ability to appear like the most arrogant douche on the planet. But still, not even he really cared where this movie was going.
After Warner Brothers helped destroy Superman III (somehow held together by Christopher Reeve), the Salkinds gave up on the Superman franchise. So Cannon Films (who?) picked up the option for a fourth instalment, dropping the budget from an already low $35 million to $17 million (less than less than half the budget of the first two films), and re-editing the film about 17 million times to create a horrible piece of garbage worse than Schumacher’s Batman and Robin film. At least B&R had heart, and the cast were interested, unlike whatever this is.
Some guy, Lenny Luthor, breaks his uncle Lex out of prison, and immediately Lex concocts some ridiculously difficult plan to kill Superman, this time by creating a solar-powered evil clone of Supes named Nuclear Man, even though he knows Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, and he breaks into a museum to get some to make this douche of a villain. But you know, of course it’s easier to steal some of his DNA, make a clone that only works in the sun, and somehow lure Superman into fighting him. All from “the greatest criminal mind of our time.” Meanwhile, some evil guy has taken over the Daily Planet to make money, fires Perry White and places his daughter in charge. After learning about some nuclear-oriented conflict between the US and Soviet Union (you know, the Cold War, which had only been going on for forty years already) on the news, Superman decides to rid the world of nuclear weapons. So he grabs them and stuffs them safely away in a giant net in space. Where no one will ever see them. Ever. Then comes Nuclear Man, as believable a villain as Nelly is a rapper, some guy in tights who can’t operate outside of sunlight and is apparently as awesome as Superman. Unless, you know, they fight inside a building.
Apparently Chris Reeve agreed to this film because he liked the subject matter. Nuclear war that is, not like, you know, Superman being awesome or anything. Reeve, like everyone else, plodded through this film like it was the worst experience of his life. It probably was. The amazing charisma and Supermanness he had in the first two films are all but gone, he just seemed like he was forcing the differences between Clark Kent instead of living them; just pushing this horrible movie along because he had to. Gene Hackman was good as Lex, not as good as before, but he definitely stands out as the only one who seemed to be having any fun, although you could see within how much he hated this movie; he still only put in the bare minimum, he’s just so awesome he manages to make it work.