Superman III (1983) Movie Review

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool,

Superman 3 1.JPG

Even Superman had a hard time dealing with this one.

This week's superhero and action adventure movie review takes a look back at the 1983 Superman III movie starring Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor.  As most of you know if you have read my reviews of Superman and Superman II I am not a fan of any of these movies.  Sorry, I known Christopher Reeve is great and I concede that he is the best Superman to date but these movies are terrible.  Superman III did not redeem things.

However, I actually don't hate this movie as bad as you might expect given my previous reviews.  This movie just didn't know what it was.  This movie was actually an early 1980s Richard Pryor comedy film that guest starred Superman.  In that context, it was no better or worse than any other early 1980s Richard Pryor comedy.  Had it been titled something like Richard Pryor and The Wacky Computer Scheme and Wow There's Superman then this movie may well have been a cult classic.  But, as a Superman movie it's pretty abhorrent.

Superman 3 2.JPG

One thing about this movie was great - Bad Mood Superman.

Richard Pryor plays Gus Gorman, who Wikipedia described as (and I love this description) "a chronically unemployed ne'er do well", discovers he is some kind of computer programming savant and is hired at the Webscoe company to do general computer programming. Gus figures out how to steal some left over money from the company and embezzles it which catches the attention of CEO Ross Webster. Webster is impressed by Gus's potential and enlists him to help him take over the world.  Yes, ROSS WEBSTER is the villain of this movie.

Meanwhile, back at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent convinces Perry White to send him back to Smallville for his high-school reunion. It is there that he puts out a chemical fire with a lake (seriously) and meets his old high school friend Lana Lang, who I like 100 times better than Lois Lane, and who we never see again after this movie.

Ross orders Gus to command a weather satellite to create destructive weather to destroy Colombia's coffee crop despite the fact that this makes no sense. Gus travels to Smallville (of all places) to use the offices of WheatKing, a subsidiary of Webscoe, to reprogram the satellite. Though he manages to create a devastating storm the scheme fails when Superman neutralizes it. Ross then orders Gus to use his computer knowledge to create artificial Kryptonite but he discovers that one of the elements of Kryptonite is an "unknown" compound, and substitutes cigarette tar (I kid you not) in it's place.

Gus and and hench-woman Vera, disguised as Army officers, give Superman the Kryptonite, though it appears ineffective but Superman soon becomes selfish and a general jerk.  I call him Bad Mood Superman and he's actually pretty awesome. This is also straight out of Super Friends.  He does some of the dumbest mean things like straightening up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and ridiculous stuff like that.  It's just absurd but Christopher Reed looks awesome as Bad Mood Superman.

Superman 3 3.JPG

Richard Pryor as Gus.

Gus finally gets tired of being used and starts to rebel against Ross. Superman goes on a drinking binge. In a junkyard, Superman splits into two personas- Bad Mood Superman and Good Mood Clark Kent. They fight and Clark wins and becomes that whole normal Superman again.

During the final showdown between Superman and Ross, Gus turns good and helps Superman overcome his anti-Superman super computer.  This movie is really dumb.

Superman restores the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the film ends with Superman flying into the sunrise for further adventures.  Those further adventures will be Superman IV and it is something else too.

Superman 3 4.JPG

Superman flying with Richard Pryor is only 12% less awkward than those flying scenes with Lois.

Even Super Nice Guy Christopher Reeve wasn't a big fan of the comedy in this movie.  In his autobiography Reeve said, "[The Director] was always looking for a gag — sometimes to the point where the gags involving Richard Pryor went over the top. I mean, I didn't think that his going off the top of a building, on skis with a pink tablecloth around his shoulders, was particularly funny." 

Superman 3 5.JPG

At least Superman didn't fly around the world backwards for the third time in a row.

Needless to say critical response to Superman III is pretty scathing.  This review is far more positive than most anything else I found out there on any of the other major movie review websites and feedback from our readers has been basically 100% negative toward this movie though the Bad Mood Superman sequence does seem to hold some nostalgic value for some. 

Overall, I though this wasn't substantially worse than any of the others.  It just seemed that the directors of two previously bad movies simply gave up and decided to make a Richard Pryor comedy instead.  It's too bad poor Christopher Reeve had to be caught up in this mess.

If you don't want to use Patreon but still want to support When It Was Cool then how about a one time $5 PayPal donation? Thank you!