As Jim Morrison said, "This is the end, beautiful friend." Following two amazing movies, Superman III was just not very good, and Superman would have to wait a pretty long time for another good live-action entry. How long? Well that depends, as of now he is still waiting. Still, I am going to make a case for Superman III and say, at least it tried. The movie was a campy, goofy mess but it had some enjoyable elements and it also took some risks, even if they didn't pay off.
One of the things that I think actually worked in Superman III was ditching Lois Lane and giving the other LL a shot. Especially considering how the whole relationship thing ended with Lois in part 2, there wasn't really anywhere for that relationship to go, a least not right away. So taking Superman back to Smallville and allowing him to connect with his high school crush (played by the woman who would play his mom on Smallville... ew!) was a breath of the fresh stuff.
Moving on from Lex Luthor was another good idea, in theory. This movie had a huge focus on machines and computers and why they didn't use Brainiac as they had originally planned is anyone's guess. While stepping away from the ruthless real estate mogul Lex Luthor was a decent idea, replacing him with a Lex Luthor businessman wannabee in Ross Webster was not so inspired. I will say though, Vera Webster's transformation into an evil cyborg was terrifying to my childhood counterpart.
The dark Superman plot was also not a bad concept. It just wasn't executed that well. You are telling me that evil Superman = making the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight? Its worth noting that Spider-Man 3 took a lot of inspiration from this film as Spider-Man 1 and 2 did from the first two Superman movies. Dark Spider-Man didn't play out much better.
The one redeeming aspect of the dark Superman plot (which Spidey did not follow) was the clash between good and evil Supermen. No, it did not make sense- maybe it was all in his mind. CK vs Supes was a good action piece and we all cheered for Christopher Reeve's charming Clark Kent to be the victor.
The tone in Superman III was one of the elements that separated it most from the previous installments. I really did not mind Richard Pryor's Gus Gorman and some of the gags were ok. Superman II had its fair share of corny jokes as well. The problem is that a line of stupidity was clearly crossed when a malfunctioning traffic light had its walk / don't walk icons get into a fight. WTF!? So, while I probably like Superman III more than it deserves, it saddens me to say, the worst is yet to come...
Check back next week for another chapter in The Super History of Superman.