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The original Superman: The Movie and its immediate follow-up rank as two of the best superhero films of all time. With this in mind I decided to invest in third and fourth films in the series, and in slight defiance of convention I’ve decided to tackle Superman IV: The Quest for Peace first.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Film
The final instalment in the Superman franchise finds the Man of Steel torn between his compassion for the people of Earth and the traditions of his Kryptonian ancestors. After receiving a plea for help from a schoolboy concerned about the escalating nuclear threat, Superman chooses to ignore his strict policy of non-intervention and pledges to rid the world of all nuclear weapons (much to the consternation of arms dealers around the globe).

With Superman busy in his task, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) escapes from prison with the help of his bumbling nephew Lenny (John Cryer) and heads to Metropolis with one thing on his mind - destroying Superman. To this end, Luthor steals a single strand of the Man of Tomorrow’s hair from a science exhibition and uses it to create a genetic ‘stew’ that he attaches to a nuclear device. When Superman hurls the offending missile into the sun he inadvertently assists in the creation of Nuclear Man, a super powered being with abilities exceeding even his own!

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
To put it bluntly, this film is a mess. It’s by far the worst of the series, with poor special effects, a disjointed narrative and some extremely lame performances. Regular characters such as Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Perry White (Jacky Cooper) are given little to do, and Reeve looks decidedly bored in his role. A little bit of research has revealed that the film was originally budgeted at $36 million, but had its budget slashed to $17 million shortly before production began. It really shows, especially during the effects sequences (you can literally see the wires in many scenes). The running time of the film was also cut by more than half an hour, which probably accounts for the disjointed and rushed feel.

The number of, quite frankly, unbelievable moments in the movie are astounding. Now I’m all for suspension of disbelief, especially when the film is about an invulnerable alien with amazing super powers, but The Quest for Peace just asks that little bit too much. For example, in the opening sequence a Cosmonaut is struck by a piece of space debris, which also sends his spaceship into an uncontrollable spin, yet he survives! How fast would that debris have been travelling? Perhaps he’s Superman’s long lost brother. To make matters worse, Superman then has a conversation with the Cosmonaut in the vacuum of space! There are other moments that are just as bad, such as Sups repairing the Great Wall of China with the power of his eyes, or Nuclear Man carrying a young woman into space with no ill affects - not even on re-entry!

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Video
As with the rest of the films in the series Superman IV sports an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. However, it has more in common with the sequels than with the beautifully restored original, and is quite possibly the worst of the bunch overall (although it’s possible that my feelings towards the film are affecting my objectivity). The print is quite dirty, with numerous flecks and scratches in evidence throughout, but in its defence the image features a vibrant, comic book colour palette and decent enough black levels and contrast for the most part.

One of the biggest visual flaws has to be the woeful standard of the ‘special’ effects. This DVD transfer only serves to highlight the problems, be they suspect blue screen work, visible wires during the flying sequences, or the backdrop of space being easily identifiable as a piece of black cloth!

Audio
Like the other sequels, the disc features a reasonable Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. Dialogue is clear for the most part, and the surround elements of the mix are a little more active than the other sequels. Most of the rear action comes in the form of the score, but the occasional sound effect makes its way to the rear of the soundstage. Unfortunately, after the glorious 5.1 remix done for Superman: The Movie, this mix sounds terribly flat. I’m all in favour of discs containing their original audio tracks, but I just wish that Warner had taken the time to create a decent remix for this release.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Extras
You know a disc is struggling for material when it lists Scene Access and Interactive Menus as extras. Other than this the only ‘real’ supplement is the film’s Theatrical Trailer, which is fine for what it is. There are also a few cursory Cast & Crew listings. Still, this is a disappointing showing, if not entirely unexpected given the poor performance at the box office. Still, I doubt even a two-disc special edition could have saved this one from ‘mega turkey’ status.

Overall
This is, without a doubt, the worst of the Superman movies. The quality of the film is reflected in this lacklustre DVD, with its sub par audio-visual presentation and woeful extras. I bought this disc along with the others in the series hoping to revisit some pleasant childhood memories, but it’s clear to me that as a child I was possessed of somewhat lower standards than today! The comparatively low price of the disc could prove tempting for collectors and masochists alike, but I’d strongly advise everyone else to think twice before parting with any money.


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