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SUPERMAN III ($20) confirms that director Richard Donner and "creative consultant" Tom Mankiewicz were the men responsible for the success of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and everything that was great about SUPERMAN II. For those unaware of the turbulent production of the first two movies, Donner was dumped as director when SUPERMAN II was already halfway completed. Donner’s unceremonious dismissal also brought about the departure of Mankiewicz (not to mention composer John Williams) for the production. Since much of SUPERMAN II was already in the can and the script had the fingerprints of the "creative consultant" all over it, the second film was almost as bullet proof as the Man of Steel and couldn’t be damaged by their replacements.

SUPERMAN III levels the playing field by removing all traces of Donner and Mankiewicz- thus showing what the first two films might have been had it not been for the intervention of the original director and his "creative consultant." All this build up about the success of the first two films brings us to an absolutely disappointing third installment. My only question about SUPERMAN III is as follows- did anyone bother to read the script before putting this turkey into production? The campy treatment the Man of Steel receives in SUPERMAN III is a totally disservice to the character, as well as the fans that loved the first two films. Sure, there were camp elements in the first two films, but at least there was a sense of restraint. More importantly, the humor in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II was actually funny. Despite the presence of Richard Pryor, there is nothing funny about SUPERMAN III. And that’s another thing, what the heck is Pryor doing in a Superman movie? Sheesh!

The only interesting aspect of SUPERMAN III revolve around Superman being exposed to artificial Kryptonite, which turns him into an uncaring lout, then splits him into two people for a super-showdown. Other facets of the plot fail to engage because the characters are so poorly written. I had high hopes for Clark Kent's return to Smallville, where he encounters his high school flame, but even that section of the plot just lies there waiting to be put out of its misery. As for the villains, they seem to have started out as Lex Luthor and Eve Teschmacher, but had to be badly rewritten for different performers. Actors that embarrass themselves by appearing in SUPERMAN III include Christopher Reeve (although he does try to overcome the material), Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O'Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn and Margot Kidder, who is fortunate to escape most of this mess with very limited screen time.

Warner Home Video has made SUPERMAN III available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. SUPERMAN III does not utilize the soft focus photography that was features in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II, so the film starts out looking somewhat crisper and better defined than the first two installments. Still, there are some shots within the body of the movie that appear soft. The film element used for the transfer is free from signs of wear and obtrusive markings, which makes the image on the DVD fairly clean and attractive looking. Minor blemishes and a touch of film grain are the only flaws in the element. Colors are certainly stronger and more stable than they appeared on the SUPERMAN II DVD. Flesh tones maintain a natural appearance and there are no signs of chroma noise or smearing during the presentation. Blacks are accurate looking and the level of shadow detail is about what one would generally expect from an early 1980's production. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed on this dual layer DVD. Although SUPERMAN III looks better SUPERMAN II, the recently restored SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE provides viewers with the most satisfying presentation of any of the three.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack decodes to standard surround, but as with the second installment, is unimpressive. SUPERMAN III sounds a bit better than its immediate predecessor, but the difference isn't going to float anyone's boat. The forward soundstage has a decent amount of activity and channel separation has cleaner definition that what was found in the second film. Surround usage is relegated primarily to ambient sound, but there are occasional active effects. Age and limitations in fidelity keep the sound effects from having an overly convincing presence. Dialogue has better intelligibility than number two, although the voices sound a bit flat at times. As for the music, Ken Thorne is no John Williams, so you aren't missing much listening to the uninspired score at a limited level of fidelity. A French monaural track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer and cast filmographies.

In case you haven't guessed, I am no fan of SUPERMAN III. Because I loved the first two installments, I take offense at this film and become even more offended every time I see it. Those of you that like SUPERMAN III will find the DVD to be a good representation of how the filmmakers intended it to look and sound. However, if you have never seen a Superman movie- do not start with SUPERMAN III!


Superman III


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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