Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Fixing Movies: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace
Once again, in honor of Man of Steel coming coming, I thought we'd look back at the Superman movie franchises. Last time we tackled Superman Returns. Now we are going to hit the worst of the Superman movies: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace.
For those who haven't seen it, a young boy writes Superman a letter asking him to get rid of all nuclear weapons. He decides the boy is right, and tells the nations of the world that he will destroy their nuclear stockpiles. Lex Luthor creates a super villain called Nuclear Man, who happens to be so solar powered that he falls into a coma if he walks into the shade. That isn't a joke. Cover this guy in SPF 150 and it would be like kryptonite. Anyway, Nuclear Man then fights Superman for, I guess, the right to make more nukes.
Now, the DNA of the film is salvageable. What I mean is that the essential concept is fascinating: what would happen if Superman said "No more nukes?" However the rest of the film is trash. Every part of it. So rather than a usual numbered point-by-point list, I will throw out the whole thing. I will start with the main plot and try to incorporate as much of the original's ideas as possible.
Instead of a little boy's letter and a runaway subway as our opening, picture this: two small nations who happen to have nukes declare war. Superman, who usually does not get involved in geo-political matters, tries to stop mass genocide. One side launches and the other retaliates. He is able to stop all the missiles except one. That missile destroys a heavily populated area killing all the people. He is only able to find one survivor who is dying from the radiation. He decides to take that one survivor to the fortress and use his sunstone crystals to heal him. This goes against the fortresses' programming and warns Superman that effects could be disastrous. He ignores them and does it anyway. In the process all of the sunstone crystals are destroyed except for the original green stone from the first film.
Superman, shaken by the destruction, decides that nuclear weapons are too dangerous for earthlings to have. Some, like Jimmy Olson agree. Others, like army brat Lois Lane, disagree. This leads to some healthy debate. But Superman cannot get past the devastation and the two nations are still bristling. So Superman relieves them of their nukes. Then he goes to the UN and tells all the nations that he will rid them of their nukes.
This sends the nations of the world into a tailspin. Superman has now dictated how nations should act. Some respond by sending an army of Braniac-like robots against him.
While fighting them, Superman gets injured. But the man he rescued with his sun stone as not only fully recovered, but has developed Krytonian-like powers like Superman, but he has chalky-white skin and his face is scared. He is a lot like Superman, just a little more "bizarre." Together, they seek to rid all the nations of their nukes, despite their protest. And they are successful.
Superman's new ally applies this new philosophy of peace to not only nuclear weapons, but all dictators. He proceeds to overthrow the dictator who sent nukes to his homeland. Superman talks him out of killing and holding democratic elections. The ally agrees, grudgingly. However, the level of violence by conventional arms around the world escalates and border disputes are becoming more common. The ally goes to the UN and states that he and Superman will decide the nations borders. This leads to a philosophical argument between Superman and the ally about the use of power. Superman says that the people need to make their own choices. The ally says that he is only following the logical conclusion of Superman's premise that only the two of them are can make the right choices for humanity (thus becoming Nietzschian Supermen).
After the dictator who the ally spared is named president in a democratic election. The ally goes and unceremoniously kills the new president and declares that the people have wasted their one chance to make their own decisions. Superman goes and confronts him and they have a knock-down, drag out fight, that nearly kills Superman, who slips away, leaving the ally to declare himself dictator of earth, for the good of the world.
Superman's life is saved by none other than Lex Luthor. Luthor still hates him with a passion, but sees the ally as a bigger threat. The two agree to join forces to defeat him. Luthor reasons that only way to defeat the ally is to use whatever Kryptonian tech is left in the Fortress of Solitude.
THE FINAL BATTLE
Superman lures the ally there and they fight in spectacular fashion with any and all resources the fortress has. Superman is able to defeat the ally and almost convinces him to learn from the error of his ways. He tells him that they cannot place themselves above humanity, but have to remember that even though they have more power, that doesn't make them wiser. But Luthor double crosses Superman and sets off a trap in the fortress that is meant to kill both super-powered beings. The ally is killed and Superman is almost killed as well. But he uses the power of the last remaining sunstone to save his life. He escapes and finds Luthor and brings him to justice.
Superman submits himself to the world court for trial, saying he is prepared to accept whatever punishment the people of Earth give him. However, footage of his fight with the ally in the fortress (filmed by Luthor and obtained by Lois), has spread throughout the world. They can see that Superman has learned his lesson and was willing to die to make up for it. They let him go and Superman pledges to put himself above the people of Earth.