Superman III, released in 1983, is the third of the Superman films starring Christopher Reeve.The Man of Steel's mythology is further explored as Clark returns to Smallville for his high school reunion and meets back up with his old friend, Lana Lang (whose actor, Annette O'Toole, went on to play Ma Kent in Smallville). The main plot of the film involves heavily-promoted co-star Richard Pryor as Gus Gorman, a bumbling-but-brilliant computer programmer who falls in with the forces of evil — as epitomized by business executive Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) — and ends up helping said forces of evil turn Superman evil and create a supercomputer which could be used to conquer the world.Superman III was directed by Richard Lester (who completed Superman II after Richard Donner was fired), and its emphasis on comedy was (and still is) generally derided as unwelcome and unnecessary — although the serious battle scene between Superman and Clark Kent (as the hero struggles against his new, darker nature) is widely considered the highlight of the film. Richard Pryor's performance is also a Love It or Hate It affair, as he was an avowed fan of Superman and tried his best to do the film justice (because if unnecessary comic relief is going to be shoehorned into a film at all, it might as well be left to an actual comedian).Perhaps the most influential aspect of the film was the total reinvention of the relationship between Lana Lang and Superman. In the comics Lana had been a prominent supporting character for over three decades by this point but she had essentially been a redhaired, teenage version of Lois (in the Superboy stories) or an adult version of same in the Superman stories, being a glamourous TV reporter. The movie reimagined her as a smalltown Girl Next DoorNice Girl who was interested in Clark Kent rather than his superpowered alter-ego essentially turning her into the Betty to Lois's Veronica. Most stories since have followed this interpretation of the character.
Justified: The Daily Planet admitting it did some Critical Research Failure scheduling a trip in the middle of hurricane season (even if said hurricane was induced.) They wouldn't be the first paper to say "Caribbean trip to Bermuda". Heck, The Price Is Right did the same thing.
Batman Gambit: Gus pulls this on Brad, pretending to be a liquor salesman, then getting him so drunk he passes out and allows Gus access to WheatKing's computer.
Beware the Nice Ones: A common theme throughout the franchise (i.e. the bully at Don's diner) with Clark; this movie's highlights: the sneeze at the bowling alley (Clark did it to help Ricky); the junkyard fight; and Brad's poor attempt at assaulting Clark (Clark even props one of those folding hotel beds up to trip up Brad).
Bigger Bad: Once the Websters' supercomputer develops a mind of its own, it becomes the major threat and they cease to be significant as villains.
Brainless Beauty: Subverted by Lorelei, who pretends to be an airhead, but is actually a genius. Alone, she delves into deep reading, and reveals she's a computer expert, too. She's so intelligent she knows behaving intelligently will get her fired, since her job is to be "Ross'".
Lorelei:(reading Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason") How can he say that Pure Categories have no objective meaning in Transcendental Logic? What about Synthetic Unity?
The Cracker: Richard Pryor plays a wage-slave who gets some basic computer training and is soon able to crack into just about anything. At one point, the character was supposed to be Brainiac in disguise, explaining his abilities, but Executive Meddling turned the character into comic relief.
Demoted to Extra: Lois Lane shows up in the beginning, says she's going to Bermuda and disappears for most of the movie. Then she comes back before the movie's over as if nothing happened! This was largely done in retaliation after Margot Kidder criticized the producers for their decision to dismiss director Richard Donner from the franchise. It's a testament to how iconic the Superman mythos is in general, and Lois Lane in particular, that it wasn't worse.
The replacement for Lois is Lana Lang, who is just as important as Lois in the mythology. Exploring Superman's relationship for the first time in the modern film series was kind of sweet.
Description Cut: The Websters discover that someone has skimmed a lot of money from their Webco through computer hacking, but Ross says they won't find out who because anyone did such a thing would keep quiet about and not draw attention to themselves "unless they were a complete and utter idiot". Loud music out in the parking lot heralds the arrival of a complete and utter idiot in his new Ferrari.
Digital Head Swap: Pre-CGI example: In the junkyard fight, Clark's head was matted onto a double's body when Superman grabs Clark ("You always wanted to fly, Kent") and tosses him in a pile of junk. Later, the same is done with Superman's head at the end of the fight.
Disaster Dominoes: The title sequence follows wacky trouble breaking out on the sidewalks of Metropolis.
Speaking of which, Jimmy took way too many pictures of her, according to Perry.
Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Lorelei Ambrosia. While she actsdim, she's really just playing off the stereotype so she can trick the other villains. She's also not above using her looks to get what she wants.
Enemy Without: The fight sequence between a red Kryptonite-infected Superman and his moral base, Clark Kent. It's also shown to be a metaphor for Superman's internal struggle not to do whatever he pleases.
Even Evil Has Standards: Gus will steal money from Webster, hack a computer for Webster, sneak in some defective space rock to get rid of Superman for him, but he won't commit murder for him.
Going for the Big Scoop: Perry White's been pressuring Jimmy Olsen to keep his eyes peeled for big stories no matter where he goes. So when Jimmy and Clark learn of the chemical plant fire while on their way to Smallville, the former sneaks into the crisis and climbs a firetruck ladder to get some dramatic photos of the blaze. The ladder collapses and he breaks his leg; luckily for him Superman's on the scene to save him from the flames.
Good Is Impotent: Clark takes quite a beating from the "evil" Superman, at least for a while.
Beware the Nice Ones: ...right up until Clark decides he's had enough and beats the hell out of Evil Superman, beginning with exploding out of the side of a trash compactor.
Hack The Traffic Lights: the supercomputer causes the figures in a Walk/Don't Walk sign to animate and fight each other.
Heel-Face Turn: Gus, in the climax. He starts to truly regret his alliance with Ross and company when their manufactured oil crisis hurts "the little guy[s]" he used to be one of. When Ross crows that Gus will be "going down in history as the man who killed Superman" thanks to his computer figuring out how to create a pure kryptonite ray, Gus makes his turn and tries to shut it down to save the hero, and when that doesn't work, at least manages to destroy the ray.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Superman, after his Face-Heel Turn. Only Colombia abstained from a UN vote of censure against him (he had saved the country from the hurricane that Gus created by means of the satellite).
Hollywood Acid: "Beltric acid" becomes super-corrosive if heated up enough. It ends up being a Chekhov's Gun in the final fight against the rogue computer.
Hydrant Geyser: In the opening scene the car hits a fire hydrant and begins filling with water as a result.
I Ate What?: Clark Kent and Lana Lang have a picnic out near the wheat fields with her son. Clark tastes what he thinks was good pate that Lana made, only for Lana to point out that it was dog food. Clark still continues to eat it.
Magical Computer: Played for laughs. Even if everything was networked to that extent, getting the green traffic light man to fight the red traffic light man is an impressive feat of hacking.
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Averted. Superman (while under the influence of the above mentioned "artificial" Kryptonite) has sex with Lorelei. Admittedly it is merely heavily implied rather than outright confirmed.
Noodle Incident: The closing scenes reveal Lois went on an adventure of her own on her vacation, returning with a big story about Caribbean corruption (it all started when a cab driver kidnapped her...).
No OSHA Compliance: Okay, it's funny when a drunken Superman falls into a giant pit of acid. But the only thing preventing the regular junkyard workers from falling in is the sign that proclaims it to be acid. On ground level, no guard rail, open top...
Not of This Earth: Richard Pryor's character does an analysis of kryptonite, and the results indicate that a certain percentage of it is simply "unknown".
Oddly Named Sequel: Almost. The writer's original name for the film was Superman Vs. Superman: Superman III, which was supposed to be a play on the "Superman Vs. Enemy" format that the comics (supposedly) often employed. However, the producers of Kramer Vs. Kramer somehow got the idea that it was supposed to be a rip-off of their film, and threatened to sue the pants off the Salkind Company, resulting in the title being changed to just Superman III.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A bizarre case. The original theatrical cut only has Gus telling Ross and company what Superman did. The television cut actually shows Superman performing incredible feats. Why this was removed is anyone's guess.
Gus: Superman's bad!
Either way, a very good example of the reasons for fan criticism of this film; in a movie with Superman's name on the title, one would think that Superman saving an entire country would be directly depicted, not shown in flashback with descriptions or simply recounted verbally by the comedian co-star.
Pac Man Fever: More literal than usual: Ross fights Superman with a supercomputer... one that is apparently an Atari2600, complete with sound effects lifted directly from that console's execrable version of Pac-Man.
Phlebotinum du Jour: Computers, whose presence and potential were just reaching popular imagination. An increasingly silly form of this, the film starts out with Everything Is Online and builds up into "Because computers!"
Poke the Poodle: "Evil" Superman is really more of a superhuman Jerk Ass: straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which is something they've been trying to do for years), tearing a hole in an oil rig, and blowing out the Olympic Torch.
Product Placement: KFC (multiple references, like the "chicken-in-a-bucket" line), Bacardi (a bottle is seen at the bar where Supes got intoxicated, Johnny Walker (what Supes was drinking at the bar) and Atari (Webster's computer screen). Calgary, Alberta is home to Canada's first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
Shout-Out: Office Space has an explicit one, with Gus Gorman's plan being the inspiration for the heroes' criminal scheme.
There's one to The Public Enemy with the husband and wife at the breakfast table and the whopping department store bill — he smushes a grapefruit into her face once he sees it.
The old teacher Clark chats with at the reunion has the last name Bannister — the credits reveal her full name is Minnie Bannister. The director, early in his career, directed a few productions featuring Goon Show cast members; one of them, supporting player Graham Stark, plays the blind man in this film's opening sequence.
Lorelei does her best Mae West impression when seducing Superman.
Superman: I hope you don't expect me to save you, 'cause I don't do that anymore.
Sudden Videogame Moment: The scene where Ross is firing missiles at Superman, specially designed for the film by Atari.
Suspicious Spending: After Gus's "shave and collect fractional pennies" scam is discovered, Corrupt Corporate Executive Ross Webster doesn't think there's any way of catching the perpetrator unless he does something really stupid. Immediately, Gus shows up in a fancy sports car far above what he could afford on his salary.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In addition to what went on with Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman refused to reprise his role of Lex Luthor, also in protest of Donner's dismissal. That's why Robert Vaughn was cast as Ross Webster, who was basically Luthor with (real) hair; Lorelei could easily be seen as a variant of Miss Techmaucher from the first two films.
Swivel-Chair Antics: The programmers in a '80's mainframe center move about by pushing themselves backwards on swivel chairs; despite a two-lane corridor, two of them collide.
Two-Keyed Lock: Used to activate a satellite positioning system. Gus manages to pull this off with an unconscious Brad serving as the required second person.
Lampshaded in the MAD parody of the movie. Kinda brave of them, too, considering Mad is owned by the same parent company that made the film.note A fact pointed out in the very same parody in the panel where Superman is fighting the missiles and Lorelei points out that it looks likes an Atari video game (as the parody notes, Warner both released the movie and owns Atari... "And why is Mad publicising this bomberoo and doing a satire of it, as opposed to doing another, more important movie?" "Don't tell me it's because Warner owns them, too? Oh, WOW!")
Gus later sends the very same satellite to the former location of Krypton and scans the remains to find out what kryptonite consists of. Apparently the satellite is equipped with a geological spectroscope and an FTL drive, since Krypton is a long way off, and that's assuming they even know where to look.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Come on.No one noticed a little boy just shattered 10 bowling pins with an almost supersonic bowling ball? Jesus, Richard Lester. There's comedy and there's Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Clark's costume change in the backseat of a police car during the Smallville fire. Might be a Callback to the office worker in I.
Clark blowing on a wind-up penguin that's caught fire.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Lorelei climbs atop the Statue of Liberty and threatens to jump so she can seduce Superman; in return, she wants him to stop the runaway oil tanker in the middle of the Atlantic.