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1987's Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is the last official installment of the Superman movie series which started in 1978 with Superman: The Movie. Released four years after the poorly received (but reasonably profitable) Superman III, this film was an unmitigated flop, both critically and financially.
The film's plot revolved around an Anvilicious anti-nuclear weapons message and a risible villain named Nuclear Man (no relation to DC Comics hero "Firestorm, the Nuclear Man"). Superman IV was also plagued by a severely reduced budget (courtesy of new series producer Cannon Films, which bought the franchise from the Salkinds). The returns of Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder to the cast did nothing save this movie.
Superman IV's running time was cut by the producers for its theatrical release, and while its DVD cut doesn't make it much better by most accounts, it's at least marginally more coherent. One extended action sequence cut from the theatrical release features the "prototype" of the Nuclear Man, a character who closely resembles DC Comics' Bizarro character.
This film contains examples of:
- Artistic License Physics: Superman IV would make a physicist hang himself; said physicist would never survive seeing a human woman breathing perfectly fine in space. (Perhaps she was Batman in disguise?)
- California Doubling: Present in all the movies, but particularly prevalent here. Most of Superman IV was filmed in England, and it shows.
- Canon Dis Continuity: After Superman Returns was released, this film, along with Superman III and Supergirl, were ignored.
- Career Killer: Saying Mark Pillow (Nuclear Man) didn't get much work after this movie is like saying Scarlett Johansson has little difficulty filling her clothes.
- Crying Little Kid: A deleted scene has Nuclear Man create a tornado, only for a girl to get caught up in it, leaving Superman to rescue her. It's much, much, much more Narmy than it sounds.
- The crying girl in question was apparently played by Christopher Reeve's daughter.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: The subway. Not only is there no preventive measure for such a thing here, but the lack thereof makes Big Blue's speech about public transportation being the safest way to travel slightly comical.
- Deleted Scene: Quite a lot of material (45 minutes worth!) was cut for the movie's theatrical release, with some odd choices. One would think cutting an extended action sequence of Superman fighting a super-powered opponent (the Bizarro-esque first incarnation of Nuclear Man) would be something you'd want to keep. Other deleted scenes make the plot hang together a little better, and there's a nice character scene between Lois Lane and the weakened Clark/Superman at Clark's apartment.
- Demoted to Extra: Not to the extent that she was in Superman III, but Lois Lane still spends much of the film sidelined in favor of Lacy. However, this time round she does at least have a few important bits, most notably where she gives Superman a crystal that heals the damage he took from Nuclear Man.
- Empathy Doll Shot: In the scene where Nuclear Man starts the volcanic eruption.
- Evil Knockoff: Nuclear Man, of Superman. He's also arguably an Evil Knockoff of his own prototype, who like Bizarro from the comics is more confused and misunderstood than outright evil.
- Expy: Rupert Murdoch's character being based off Morgan Edge from the comics.
- Genetic Memory: Featured in the expanded cut: Nuclear Man is actually a clone of a previous Nuclear Man, and his knowledge of Superman and infatuation with Lacy are both inherited from the first.
- Hulk Smash: "Destroy Superman!"
- Hurl It Into the Sun: Superman rounds up all the nuclear weapons on Earth and throws them into the sun. Unfortunately, Lex Luthor attaches a genetic matrix created from Superman's hair to the final nuclear missile. And when Superman throws it into the sun, the result is the creation of Nuclear Man, who Superman then has to fight.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: A plot device introduced in Superman II which becomes a bit more disturbing in this film. Superman comes awfully close to using this power as a date rape drug.
- Monumental Damage: The Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Surprisingly, Superman's "Rebuild-the-Great-Wall-Of-China-Vision" is not quite the most ridiculous in the character's many decades of stories.
- Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: The films were simply numbered up until this installment, which gained a subtitle in "The Quest For Peace."
- One-Book Author: Mark Pillow (Nuclear Man) never acted in any other movie (before or since).
- Paid Harem: Lex Luthor has one.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Nuclear Man.
- Plot Hole: How does Superman instantly know that Nuclear Man is referring to Lacy Warfield when Nuclear Man wants Superman to "take him to the woman"? Baffling in the theatrical cut of the film, it's only slightly less so in the extended cut. In that version, the first incarnation of Nuclear Man had apparently fallen in love with Lacy prior to his demise. Even then it's something of a leap in logic for Superman to deduce that the second Nuclear Man has all the memories of the first.
- Politically-Motivated Teacher: Jeremy, the boy whose letter to Superman moves him to get rid of all the world's nukes, has a teacher somewhat like this. "I know you're all upset about the crisis..."
- The Power of the Sun: The Nuclear Man has powers derived from the Sun, which apparently are "turned off" when not exposed to sunlight. The movie is incredibly inconsistent about the details of this.
- Skeleton Key Card: Lois uses a credit card to get into Clark's apartment to return the cape he lost in his battle with the Nuclear Man.
- Spoiled Sweet: Lacy Warfield
- Totally Radical: Jon Cryer is just trying too damn hard.
- Two-Timer Date: Pulled when Clark has to go on a date with Lacy and give an interview to Lois as Superman at the same time. Hilarity Ensues as even Superman has trouble maintaining the charade despite having superspeed and all that. Made all the more annoying because Clark had outed himself to Lois as Superman twice in the film series, one of those times in this movie, but erased her memory for reasons inscrutable. The sequence, which calls for a deft, farcical touch, also gets the opposite from the director.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Nuclear Man loses his strength in the shade.
- Wolverine Claws: Nuclear Man sports some nasty sharp bag-lady claws.
- Writer on Board: Christopher Reeve was given creative control of the story, a thinly-veiled veneer for his anti-nuclear, anti-corporate media philosophies. In one particularly jarring scene, Superman saves the passengers aboard a runaway subway car, then gives a speech to a crowd of pedestrians about the benefits of mass transit.
- Like much of Superman IV, it's a Call Back to Superman: The Movie, when Supes urges Lois that flying is still the safest way to travel. Again, there's a lack of fine touch so instead of seeming like a boy scout, he seems like an idiot.