Resurrection

Resurrection (1999)

Today, I’m going to take a look at Russell Mulcahy’s bizarre 1999 crime drama Resurrection.

The plot of Resurrection is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Chicago homicide detectives John Prudhome and Andrew “Andy” Hollingsworth are assigned to investigate a gruesome murder, and both become entangled in the plot of a serial killer whose goal is to recreate the body of Christ.

Resurrection was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who is best known for The Shadow, Highlander, and Highlander II, as well as for his extensive work directing 1980s music videos like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.”

The screenplay for Resurrection was credited to Brad Mirman (Highlander: The Final Dimension), who also received a story credit alongside the film’s star, Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Highlander II, Mortal Kombat, Fortress).

Beyond Lambert, the cast for the movie features Leland Orser (Taken, Very Bad Things), Robert Joy (CSI: NY), Peter MacNeill (A History of Violence, Frequency), Barbara Tyson (Final Destination, Ernest Goes to Jail), and famed director David Cronenberg (Jason X, Nightbreed).

The cinematographer for Resurrection was Jonathan Freeman, who has shot numerous episodes of acclaimed television series such as Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, as well as the film Hollywoodland.

Among the numerous special effects workers for Resurrection were Charles Belardinelli (Red State, Saw, Dogma, The Mask, Suburban Commando, Killer Klowns From Outer Space) and Michael Kavanagh (American Psycho, The Boondock Saints, The Dead Zone, Deadly Eyes, Three Men and a Baby).

The prosthetic supervisor for the film was Louise Mackintosh, whose other credits include Wrong Turn, Cube, Bless The Child, and the Netflix show Hemlock Grove.

Resurrection received a theatrical release in a number of international markets, but never hit screens in the United States. It was instead released straight to DVD. However, the DVD version is somewhat edited down from the version that hit theaters overseas, notably to tone down the violence.

The reception to Resurrection was generally negative. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 6.2/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 17% from critics and 51% from audiences.

Resurrection, to start with, is undoubtedly a Christopher Lambert vehicle. From what I can tell, he was hugely instrumental in getting the movie made, so it makes sense that he is a prominent centerpiece. That said, outside of Highlander, he has never been much of a lead role sort of guy: he just doesn’t quite hold a movie together on his own. Part of the reason why that’s true is, unfortunately, because of his distinct and thick accent, which he’s never been able to shake for roles. In Resurrection, there is at least a slight attempt to try to explain Lambert’s accent, through making his character cajun and a New Orleans transplant.

There is only one reason that Resurrection has stuck in the back of my head for so many years, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Christopher Lambert. Resurrection, to be generous, is  one of the most egregious and shameless ripoffs that I have ever seen. This movie absolutely reeks of Se7en: the style, the plot, the characters, the twists, the content, the effects, the everything. Basically, if you removed all of the star power and David Fincher’s craftsmanship from Se7en, what would be left over would be very similar to Resurrection: a gritty detective cat-and-mouse story with heavy religious overtones and brutal violence.

As far as positives go, surprisingly, the comic relief sidekick character is arguably one of the strongest aspects of Resurrection. Leland Orser’s wisecracking, cheesy levity could easily have been out of place in this darkly-toned movie, but it winds up working pretty well. Mostly, this is because the movie tears him down as the stakes get higher, so he acts as a sort of barometer for the state of affairs for the movie as a whole. It is also worth noting that Orser is a genuinely talented character actor with a lot of range, and uses that range to turn his comedic character into a panicked, tortured one with the flip of a switch.

Something that stood out a bit to me on this rewatch of the movie is its general lack of polish. Structurally, it feels like it starts out of nowhere, like it is a tv program that only briefly needs to catch the audience up on the previous episode’s events. The setup for the plot and characters seems like an afterthought, and feels forced in and awkward. I think, from reading a little bit about the movie’s inception, that this was probably due to a rushed screenplay.  It sounds like Lambert and Mulcahy were immensely excited about the film’s concept, and bumped other projects out of the way to do it, which probably led to them glossing over some screenplay issues due to rushing. I think that there is definitely a nugget of a compelling film here, but it needed some more time and attention to be really good.

This brings me to another huge issue with the film. As mentioned previously, there was clearly a focused effort to imitate the style of Se7en with Resurrection. Unfortunately, the mimicry isn’t done very well, and ultimately acts as a disservice to the film. The frequent use of distorted images, the washed out, color-drained palette, and rapid, jarring edits all combine to make an ocular nightmare of a film that is “hard to watch” for all the wrong reasons. Things that Fincher can make work can easily go awry in the hands of someone less meticulous, which is exactly the problem with Resurrection.

Overall, I think Resurrection provides an interesting case of style mimicry going dramatically awry. And, for better or worse, this obscure knockoff has stuck in my mind for years, which must count for something. That said, the handful of positive aspects, like Orser’s performance and the effects work, are overpowered by an under-baked screenplay and an absolutely wretchedly edited final screen product. Unless you are driven by a wild curiosity or an infatuation with the canon of Chrstopher Lambert, you are better off skipping Resurrection.

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Waterworld

Waterworld

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Today, I’m going to take a look at one of the most notoriously expensive films of all time: 1995’s Waterworld.

The plot of Waterworld is summarized on IMDb as follows:

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.

Waterworld was directed by Kevin Reynolds, who also helmed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Tristan + Isolde, and 2002’s incarnation of The Count of Monte Cristo.

The film’s screenplay was ultimately credited to two individuals: David Twohy, who provided screenplays for Critters 2, Pitch Black, and Riddick, and Peter Rader, who went on to direct a handful of episodes of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan. However, apparently, the screenplay for Waterworld went through 36 different drafts and 6 different writers, including Joss Whedon, who spent much of the 1990s as a script doctor.

The cast for Waterworld included Kevin Costner (Mr. Brooks, Dances With Wolves), Dennis Hopper (Super Mario Bros, Space Truckers, Speed, True Romance), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct, The Firm), and Sean Whalen (Twister, The People Behind The Stairs).

waterworld3The cinematographer for the film was Dean Semler, who also shot 2012, The Alamo, Stealth, Last Action Hero, Super Mario Bros, The Road Warrior, and Razorback

The credited editor for Waterworld was Peter Boyle, who has shot such movies as 1408, The Hours, The Postman, and the 2011 remake of The Thing.

The music for the film was provided by acclaimed film composer James Newton Howard, whose extensive list of credits includes Green Lantern, Nightcrawler, The Last Airbender, The Happening, The Dark Knight, Michael Clayton, and The Sixth Sense.

Kevin Costner apparently insisted on having Reynolds direct in order to be involved with the production. In contrast, the studio reportedly wanted Robert Zemekis for the director’s chair.

Interestingly, Reynolds ultimately walked off late into the production, specifically due to issues with Costner. He was quoted as saying that:

“Kevin {Costner} should only star in movies he directs. That way he can work with his favorite actor and favorite director.”

At the time of the movie’s filming, Waterworld was the most expensive movie ever produced. Though the record was broken only a few years later by Titanic, the cost of the film created a bit of a media frenzy. The ever-inflating production budget earned the film the nicknames of “Kevin’s Gate” and “Fishtar” by journalists and speculators, references the immense flops Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar.

One of the most costly aspects of the film was its primary set:  a massive floating rig constructed for the shooting in Hawaii, which apparently took up all the available steel on the islands, and then some. Despite its meticulous and expensive design, there were no bathrooms on the massive set, which meant that cast and crew had to be constantly ferried to the mainland.

Prior to Waterworld becoming a massively-budgeted monster of a production, Roger Corman was initially interested in making a low budget version for less than $3 million, which might have been a more natural fit for the material. However, once he heard more about the vision, he correctly predicted that the budget would massively inflate.

waterworld2Ultimately, the production budget for Waterworld landed at $175 million, on which it took in a worldwide lifetime theatrical gross of $264 million, though most of that came in from international markets. Ultimately, it made a profit over time after video sales and rentals clocked in, despite its high budget and less-than-expected revenue.

Waterworld has received mixed-to-negative reviews over the years. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 6.1/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 42% from critics and 43% from audiences.

When it comes to Waterworld, I think it has always been a bit hard to look at in an objective vacuum. The mass publicity around its budget and problematic production is impossible to look beyond for many, and it colors almost every aspect of the film. Basically, the well was poisoned by rumors and negative anticipation before the movie was even cut together.

One of the aspects of the movie that got the most flak from tabloids and critics was the elaborate, floating Hawaii set. For what it is worth, I actually think it looks pretty damn cool: despite the high price tag, I think they got what they paid for. Honestly, it is kind of hard to imagine what the movie would have looked like without it. The production probably shouldn’t have gotten the greenlight to start with because of the potential costs, but it is kind of fascinating that this set got built, and the movie got made.

Another thing that is often the butt of jokes about Waterworld is Kevin Costner’s “Mariner” character design: notably, the presence of gills. Personally, I don’t think they look bad, and the concept makes plenty of sense for the setting, so I’ve never understood the issue people take with it. Admittedly, the racial correlations with Costner being shunned by other humans is a bit heavy-handed and unnecessary, but it wasn’t ultimately terribly distracting.

The most infamous sequence of Waterworld is by far the opening, in which Costner is shown going through the process of reclaiming water from his urine. While the sequence is a bit odd, it does establish a few important things that are important later in the movie. First, fresh water is immensely scarce, to the point that urine reclamation is commonplace. Secondly, it establishes that Costner is a bit of an inventive tinkerer: the reclamation unit is clearly hand crafted and cobbled together, and foreshadows some more crucial inventions and innovations that pop up later in the flick. Last but not least, this sequence eases the audience into what “business as usual” looks like in this outlandish setting. Xenophobia and mistrust is high, resources are scare, and boats are sort of personal bubbles, where the minutiae of life still carry on.

Dennis Hopper, as you would expect, is absolutely wonderful as a scenery-chewing villain. This was always one of his more natural strong suits in movies, particularly later in his career, and I feel like it saved more than a few movies with his crazed performances. Costner, on the other hand, is just awful in this movie. He straight-up flubs the deliveries on a number of lines, and just seem off-balance and totally a-charismatic throughout the film. His stoic manner and often dickish behavior to his friends makes it even harder to get behind him as the lead, which is probably more of a writing issue than a performance problem.

Speaking of which, there is some really bad dialogue in Waterworld, and the writing is almost certainly the weakest link in a production with its fair share of weak links. The frequent references to the title of the movie (“Nothing’s free in Waterworld”) stick out like dramatically inflamed thumbs, and a number of the actors seem to struggle with their lines as they are written. For as much time and money went in to the sets, effects, and actors, you would think that the producers would have made damn sure that the screenplay was strong, regardless of how much work it took. My guess is that they eventually suffered from fatigue from the numerous rewrites, and settled for a version of the screenplay that wasn’t quite fit to shoot, and put the pressure on the director to figure things out on set.

Nowadays, I think that people for the most part look back on Waterworld positively, or least not as negatively as it was initially received. Kevin Costner made far worse movies during the 1990s that lack the charming aspects or ambitious vision of Waterworld, but this flick was definitely the big, easy target at the time.

Overall, I think that Waterworld is a real mixed bag of a movie. It is poorly paced, laden with bad dialogue, and has some unnecessary and uneven comic relief sprinkled throughout. However, it also has a cool vision behind it, some fun set piece moments, a delightfully hammy Dennis Hopper, and a nifty post-apocalyptic production design. I’d recommend giving it a shot if you either haven’t seen it, or don’t recall the last time you saw it. It might just be worth your while.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending

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Today, I’m going to be delving into one of the strangest products from the Wachowski siblings: 2015’s Jupiter Ascending.

The plot of Jupiter Ascending is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young woman discovers her destiny as an heiress of intergalactic nobility and must fight to protect the inhabitants of Earth from an ancient and destructive industry.

Jupiter Ascending was directed and written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the visionary sibling duo known for movies like The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, and Speed Racer.

The notable cast for the film includes Channing Tatum (Hail Caesar, 21 Jump Street), Mila Kunis (American Psycho 2, Black Swan), Sean Bean (GoldenEye, National Treasure), and Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, The Theory of Everything).

The cinematographer for Jupiter Ascending was John Toll, who has shot such films as Braveheart, Iron Man 3, Cloud Atlas, Tropic Thunder, The Thin Red Line, Vanilla Sky, Gone Baby Gone, and The Last Samurai,
among others.

The editor for the film was Alexander Berner, whose other credits include 10,000 BC, Cloud Atlas, Resident Evil, Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, and AVP: Alien vs. Predator.

The music for Jupiter Ascending was composed by Michael Giacchino, who has also provided scores for Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia, Jurassic World, Up, John Carter, and Sky High.

Initially, Natalie Portman was cast in the lead role of Jupiter Jones, but ultimately pulled out of the project. Reportedly, Rooney Mara was then considered before Mila Kunis was ultimately cast.

jupiter3According to the Wachowskis, the initial draft of the screenplay was 600 pages long, which would have made for an approximately 10 hour film on screen.

Reportedly, filming for the movie was completed in 2013. However, the extensive post production work required for the effects ultimately pushed the release date all the way out into 2015.

During an “Ask Me Anything” session on reddit, Channing Tatum was asked what exactly Jupiter Ascending was about. His response: “Good question. I have the same one myself.”

Jupiter Ascending was made on a production budget of $176 million, on which it grossed $183 million worldwide in its theatrical run. However, when additional costs beyond the production are taken into account, the movie almost certainly lost a significant amount for the studio, though less than most would have expected from its reputation. Interestingly, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, nearly 75% of the movie’s box office income came from international markets, which is in contrast to the traditional norm.

The reception to Jupiter Ascending was generally negative. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 5.4/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 26% from critics and 38% from audiences. It subsequently wound up with 6 Golden Raspberry Award nominations, which are given to the worst films and performances each year, and Eddie Redmayne took the award for Worst Supporting Actor for his role in the film.

Jupiter Ascending is a movie of extreme contrasts. On one hand, it has a stellar production design with exquisite costuming behind it, which reflects what I think was a really cool vision for a would-be science-fiction franchise. At the same time, the dialogue and performances are just awful, which comes in spite of what is an impressive cast of actors.

jupiter2Having seen the movie a number of times now, it has been interesting to think about what might have gone wrong with Jupiter Ascending. I think, first and foremost, the screenplay could have used some more attention and time, particularly given its initial outlandish length. While the world is set up pretty well (which is impressive), the dialogue just doesn’t roll off quite right, and that probably impacted the way the actors took on their performances. I feel like a number of them, like Redmayne, leaned in on the campy-ness due to the way their dialogue was written. That said, it is also totally possible they were directed that way, given that the writers and directors were the same people. Which, in itself, can be a bit of a problem for a production. It can be really difficult for writer/directors to know when to cut out or amend dialogue that was their own creation. It is more than possible that the Wachowskis were resistant to input and modification when it came to the screenplay, regardless of where the advice came from.

Overall, despite its issues, Jupiter Ascending is a visually-pleasing flick, that for the most part is pretty entertaining. The weird concepts and performances give it an interesting flavor, and I think it does merit its quasi-ironic cult following. Personally, I prefer this to most of the major Hollywood “bad movies” of recent years, like the DCCU outings or the countless Transformers sequels and pointless reboots. It has an original vision behind it, which is worth quite a lot.

At the same time, I’ve heard from a lot of people with wildly different opinions of this movie. Some find it boring, while others swear by it as a modern camp classic. So, as far as a recommendation goes, it is kind of hard to say. In general, I think bad movie fans should at least give it a shot, but your mileage may vary.

John Carter

John Carter

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Today, I’m going to cover what could have been the start of a massive science fiction franchise: 2012’s John Carter.

The plot of John Carter is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Transported to Barsoom, a Civil War vet discovers a barren planet seemingly inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter Woola and a princess in desperate need of a savior.

John Carter was directed by Andrew Stanton, who has also helmed the hit Pixar films Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and Finding Dory, and directed two upcoming episodes of the hit television show Stranger Things. Stanton also had a significant hand in the film’s screenplay. His previous writing credits date back to the early days of Pixar: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc, most notably. Interestingly, prior to John Carter, Stanton had never directed a live action feature.

The other writers for John Carter were Mark Andrews, the writer/director responsible for Brave, and Michael Chabon, who contributed to the story for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

John Carter is based on the first book in the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs: “A Princess of Mars,” which had been a target for a major film adaptation dating back to 1931.

johncarter2The cast of John Carter includes Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Spider-Man), Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3, Sideways), Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Dominic West (The Wire, 300), Mark Strong (Green Lantern, Revolver, Sherlock Holmes), James Purefoy (Hap & Leonard, High-Rise, The Following), and Bryan Cranston (Argo, Drive, Breaking Bad).

The cinematographer for the film was Dan Mindel, who has shot movies like Star Trek, Enemy of the State, Domino, Mission: Impossible III, Spy Game, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, among others.

The editor for John Carter was Eric Zumbrunnen, whose other notable works include Her, Adaptation, Where The Wild Things Are, and Being John Malkovich.

The John Carter musical score was composed by Michael Giacchino, who has provided music for such notable films as Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Zootopia, Jurassic World, Jupiter Ascending, Up, Speed Racer, and The Incredibles.

Apparently, at one point in the film’s lengthy pre-production, Robert Zemeckis turned down an offer to direct, specifically citing that George Lucas already mined too much material out of the series for the Star Wars franchise.

Jon Favreau, the actor, writer, and director known for movies like Iron Man, Elf, The Jungle Book, Swingers, and Chef, was attached to direct John Carter in 2005, but left after a number of delays to take on Iron Man. When Andrew Stanton ultimately took the director’s role, Favreau requested to be included in the film as a voice extra, and is credited as one of the Tharks.

John Carter was made on a production budget of $250 million dollars, on which it took in a lifetime theatrical gross of $284 million. However, nearly 75% of that take came from overseas markets: in the United States, John Carter was a huge failure. When costs beyond the production are taken into account, John Carter was a huge financial loss that came up far short of financial expectations.

Critically, the reception for the film was mixed. Currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 6.6/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 51% from critics and 60% from audiences.

In The Atlantic, Christopher Orr wrote a review of John Carter in which he praised the film’s “likable whimsy” and “hokey charm”:

…there is a hokey charm to John Carter, a clear understanding that, at the end of the day, we are there to have fun. Stanton has scattered throughout the script a surprising number of genuinely witty moments. (I laughed more during the film than I did during Adam Sandler’s last three comedies combined—which is a long way of saying, I laughed.)

As Orr mentions, I was surprised to find how much fun and genuinely clever humor made it into the final screenplay. Two of my favorite sequences in the film were made by comedic dialogue: the monologue interruptions at the beginning of the film, and the prisoner escape towards the climax. While these were undoubtedly two of the best bits in the film, they were just as much made by their performers, Bryan Cranston and James Purefoy, respectively, as by their writing.

This brings me to one of my biggest problems with the movie: there are just too many characters. Or, rather, too many underused characters. Both Bryan Cranston and James Purefoy, who are huge highlights in the movie, are either entirely dropped or relegated to minimal background roles following their aforementioned sequences. I can’t recall either characters’ names, what they stood for, or what defined them, which is a bit of a problem. There are already a lot of complicated ideas and plots spinning around in the film, so I kind of understand why the characters aren’t given much attention, but that is a bit of a problem to itself. There are more than a few moments of science-fiction jargon-babble that weigh down the screenplay, which could have benefited from some tweaking. Mostly, this just felt like some unfortunate wasted potential.

Something that surprisingly stood out to me about John Carter were the visual effects: overall, they still look pretty good, which is really saying something for a movie that is a number of years old. Typically, technological progresses make movies look outdated quickly, but John Carter still looks pretty ok by today’s standards. It still probably won’t age well, but holding up for this long is still impressive.

Aside from the effects, John Carter is still a very visually pleasing movie. The production and costume designs are all top-flight: the world looks and feels unique and tangible, and each of the civilizations look distinct from each other. The color palette may feel a bit overused now, but the combination of sandy oranges and bright blues does give John Carter a striking appearance, without any doubt.

In his aforementioned review for The Atlantic, Orr also hit on one of my favorite aspects of John Carter: the bizarre animal companion, Woola.

the most indelible performance in the film…would be Woola, a six-legged, razor-toothed Martian hound who…rather resembles a cross between a bulldog and a fetal gila monster…he’s not much in the looks department, but it’s been some time since cinema has seen a more adorable sidekick.

To say that Woola (who I call the DogFrog) is god damn adorable is a massive understatement. The Pixar influence on the film is most evident through him: his charm, appearance, and physical performance all seem like they were lifted straight out of a Pixar short of feature. Interesting, unlike Jar-Jar Binks in the ill-fated Star Wars prequels, he never feels out of place, even when at his peak of comic relief. This could easily have gone awry, but if there is anything the Pixar lot can do well, it is blend the heavy spices of drama and comedy successfully.

johncarter3While John Carter may not be a masterpiece, I think it is quite a bit better than its reputation indicates. It is uneven for sure, but there are enough fun moments and highlights to make it worth checking out if you ask me. It clearly suffered from some really lackluster marketing: I always assumed it would be a big, dumb action movie. While it is, at least on some level, exactly that, there is more substance to this film that you could glean from its trailers.

Superman IV

Superman IV

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Today, I am going to take a look at one of the least beloved superhero movies: Cannon’s Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

The plot of Superman IV is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The Man of Steel crusades for nuclear disarmament and meets Lex Luthor’s latest creation, Nuclear Man.

The screenplay credits for Superman IV were given to the duo of Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who wrote Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Mercury Rising, the film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies, and the remake of Mighty Joe Young. Christopher Reeve, the star of the film, received a story credit for his input.

Superman IV was directed by Sidney J. Furie, who is best known for his work on the Iron Eagle franchise (Iron Eagle, Iron Eagle II, and Iron Eagle IV), and the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Ladybugs.

The central cast of the film is made up by Christopher Reeve (Superman, Village of the Damned), Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Unforgiven, The Quick and The Dead), Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink, Hot Shots!), and Margot Kidder (Superman, Black Christmas, The Amityville Horror).

The cinematographer for Superman IV was Ernest Day, who shot the movies Parents, A Passage To India, and and Revenge of The Pink Panther. The editor for the film was John Shirley, whose credits include Live and Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and King Solomon’s Mines.

The music for Superman IV was provided by Alexander Courage, who most famously composed the music for the original series of Star Trek. He also worked on television shows like The Waltons, Lost In Space, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Superman IV was produced by the infamous duo behind Cannon films, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. They managed to dominate the 1980s with all variety of cheesy movies: brutal cop flicks, ninja adventures, wacky musicals, and, as their reign came to an end, they sought to move into the realm of comic book heroes. Had Superman IV been more profitable, the proceeds would likely have been turned around into a Spider-Man feature, which the group had the rights to make until 1990. However, it did not come to pass.

supermaniv5I haven’t been able to find the original source, but it is said that star Christopher Reeve deeply regretted making Superman IV, and later referred to it as a “catastrophe,” and that it was a “huge blow” to his career.

Jon Cryer, one of the film’s co-stars, spoke a bit about his experience with the movie in an A.V. Club interview:

That was an absolutely heartbreaking experience for me, because I had loved the Richard Donner Superman like nobody’s business…Superman IV was to resurrect the franchise. They had new producers, and Golan-Globus had…made a great deal of money with their Cannon films, and this was their bid for respectability. They were gonna reboot the franchise, and resurrect it for everybody after the debacle that was Superman III. Little did we know that we were actually going to be working on the debacle to end all debacles.

Prior to Sidney Furie taking on the directing duties, the job was offered to both horror master Wes Craven and original Superman director Richard Donner. While Donner outright refused the offer, Craven was apparently on board for a while: at least, until clashes with Reeve drove him away.

supermaniv2At the very last minute before production, the budget for the film was slashed from $36 million to $17 million. This was due to financial issues that beginning to plague Cannon films, and would be exacerbated with the film’s failure. This limitation is also why so much footage is reused in the film: they had to cut corners wherever possible. Despite that trimmed down budget, the movie failed to cover its costs anyway, bringing in just $15.6 million in its lifetime theatrical gross.

Currently, Superman IV has an IMDb user rating of 3.6/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 12% from critics and 16% from audiences. The film has the distinct dishonor of being one of the most widely reviled super hero films to ever hit the screen.

The biggest problem with Superman IV, if you ask me, is ultimately the budget. It just looks cheap, particularly in comparison to earlier films in the franchise, and that was all it was going to take to get people to hate it. It is easy to point the blame at the goofy style of Cannon films, or the director not having the experience to handle this kind of production, or the screenplay being sub-par, but in this case, I think the first and biggest thing they needed was more money. If the effects looked better and the repeated footage was excised, I think the result would have been almost satisfactory. Or, at least, it would have had a fighting chance. That isn’t even getting into the possibility of paying for a rewrite, or extra shooting, or just having someone edit the film who wasn’t half-asleep, or even paying a better director. I think if they even had that initial $36 million, this might have turned out ok.

Here’s something I have to be upfront about: to be honest, I have never gotten the appeal of the series or the character of Superman: I’ve always thought Superman was pretty dull, and was hard to relate to. He has always seemed a little too perfect, and his weakness a little too goofy, and his powers a little too all-encompassing. He never seemed to really have challenges. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started reconsidering this, but I’m definitely not won over yet: particularly not by the Christopher Reeve incarnation. So, I suppose I am not primed to enjoy the Superman film franchise to start with, which isn’t going to do the worst sequel any favors.

As far as the performances go, I pretty much just think Christopher Reeve is awful in all of these movies. If you liked him in the others, he is probably fine here: this may just be a “me” thing. On the other end of the spectrum, Gene “Makes Welcome To Mooseport Almost Watchable” Hackman is wonderful, as always, despite not having a whole lot to do. However, his sequences are almost all ruined by the presence of 2/5 of Two and A Half Men Jon Cryer, whose comic relief stylings are about as grating as you can imagine.

One of the weirdest decisions about Superman IV was to have Gene Hackman record the voice for the villainous Nuclear Man, and dub it over the actual actor. Even though they kept his dialogue pretty sparse, every time he does say something, it is a jarring, weird experience. Even if the guy was heavily accented, surely there was another possible solution for this?

supermaniv3Overall, I do think there is something charming about Superman IV, as I do with most Cannon films. The cheapness, the goofiness, and transparent ineptitude all coalesce into a pretty enjoyable end product. Even though I think the cut down to 90 minutes for the theatrical release hurt the movie in a traditional sense, I think it also makes it a little more fun as a bad movie watch: you can definitely get in and out of it quickly without much trudging.

As far as a recommendation goes, this is one of my lighter Cannon films recommendations. Honestly, I think that is because they were trying so hard to make a proper, respectable blockbuster. Still, it is quite a bit of fun if you go in knowing what you are going to get.