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Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Released July 24, 1987
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Written by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Music by Alexander Courage, John Williams (new themes)
Duration 86 min
Studio Cannon Films
Rated PG
Budget $17 million
Revenue $15,681,020

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a 1987 superhero film, the last of the Superman theatrical movies starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. In this film, Superman battled Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his creation, a solar-powered evil clone of Superman called Nuclear Man.

Unlike the previous three movies, which were produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the fourth movie was produced by Golan-Globus' Cannon Films, in association with Warner Bros.

The film was scripted by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, whose other collaborations include The Legend of Billie Jean (which starred Helen Slater); The Jewel of the Nile, Michael Cimino's remake of Desperate Hours, and Penelope Spheeris's reboot of The Beverly Hillbillies.



Superman iv

The film begins as the previous three films have ended, with the sun rising over Earth's mesosphere. A Russian space station is endangered, when a collision with debris sends a cosmonaut hurtling off into deep space. He is promptly rescued by Superman, who brings him inside and (in fluent Russian) bids him farewell. Down on Earth, Clark Kent has returned to Smallville. Clark visits the Kent farm he inherited from his adoptive parents. In the cellar of the barn, he finds the "star-ship" that brought him from Krypton to Earth...along with a powerful crystal sent by his biological mother, Lara of Krypton, who communicates with her son through this crystal. A real estate developer is looking to buy the land, but Clark declines. Clark protests that America does not need any more shopping malls and is only interested in selling the land if the buyer is going to use it for agriculture. The developer warns that family farms will soon be a thing of the past.

Superman/Clark Kent learns that the United States and the Soviet Union may soon engage in nuclear war, threatening the survival of the planet. In an elementary school, this becomes a current-events discussion; one student, Jeremy, decides on writing to Superman for help. Superman retires to his Fortress of Solitude, where he reflects on the situation...and where he sees the spirits of numerous deceased Kryptonians. They recommend that Kal-El stay out of Earth's wars and if need be, relocate to another part of the universe; saying there are more advanced planets out there where war is long forgotten. Superman states he will stay out of the Cold War conflict.

The Daily Planet has gone bust. It is bought out by David Warfield, a media mogul who made his fortune through supermarket tabloids. Warfield fires Perry White and replaces him as editor with Lacy: David's blonde and beautiful daughter. Although good-hearted compared to her father, Lacy hits on Clark, who (being Clark) politely takes her in stride. Ironically, Lacy seems to seems to be antithetical to Lois Lane. Whereas Lois had no interest in Clark but was in love with Superman, Lacy is not impressed with Superman, instead being attracted to Clark as a decent guy.

David openly believes that media irresponsibility is hardly an issue, that the bottom line is sales. He takes advantage of Superman's refusal to heed Jeremy's letter by ignoring the deeper issues; David simply makes it out to be selfishness on Superman's part, as evidenced by his headline "SUPERMAN TO SCHOOLBOY: DROP DEAD". This results in public outrage to the point Superman cannot ignore it. He flies to the United Nations, where he meets Jeremy and commends him for making a difference. Inside the United Nations, Superman tells the assembly that he plans to rid the Earth of all nuclear weapons, which is received by a standing ovation. Over the next several days, Superman takes every nuclear weapon he can find and gathers them into a gigantic net in orbit above the planet. He then closes the net and tosses it into the sun.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor's nephew Lenny ("the Dutch Elm disease of the family tree") effects his escape from a prison road-gang. The pair steal a strand of hair that Superman had donated to a museum. Luthor creates a genetic matrix from the strand of hair, and attaches it to a nuclear missile which Superman then tosses into the sun. As the missile explodes on the sun's surface, a ball of energy is discharged from the sun; the energy ball rapidly develops into "Nuclear Man", who finds his way to his "father" Luthor. Lex establishes that, despite possessing powers which rival Superman's, "the Man of Molten Steel" will deactivate if isolated from the sun's rays...or from suitably-bright artificial light.

A worldwide battle soon follows between Lex's creation and the Man of Steel. While Superman is in the process of saving the Statue of Liberty from destruction, Nuclear Man inflicts a radioactive wound on him. The Daily Planet, to Lois' disgust, blares a new headline that "SUPERMAN IS DEAD"; even Lacy is appalled that her dad has gone over her head. Felled by radiation sickness, Clark barely makes it to the terrace of his apartment. There he retrieves the Kryptonian crystal (which he took from the barn in Smallville at the film's beginning) and heals himself.

Nuclear Man develops a crush on Lacy, and threatens mayhem if he is not introduced to her. Superman agrees to take Nuclear Man to Lacy. In order to disable his clone, the Man of Steel lures Nuclear Man into an elevator and traps him there. Then he deposits the elevator on the moon, without noticing that the Man of Molten Steel has cracked open the doors. As the sun rises, Nuclear Man breaks out of his makeshift prison. He and Superman resume their battle on the moon's surface. The Man of Steel is driven into the ground by his nuclear-charged opponent.

Nuclear Man returns to Earth, abducting Lacy and flying her into outer space (where she, strangely enough, is unaffected by the lack of breathable atmosphere and air pressure). Meanwhile, the Man of Steel pushes the moon out of its normal orbit, casting Earth into a solar eclipse which renders Nuclear Man's powers useless. Superman rescues Lacy from the Man of Molten Steel, whom he finally defeats by shutting him in the core of a nuclear power plant.

Later, in a press conference, Superman declares only partial victory in his peace campaign. He states that world peace is "...not mine to give. There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to let them have it."

With the aid of some now-wealthy college roommates, Perry White buys the Daily Planet back from the Warfields. After cheerfully relinquishing the editor's mantle, Lacy purchases the old Kent Farm from Clark as a summer retreat.

Just as the Luthors are negotiating the freeway out of Metropolis, Superman intercepts them. The Man of Steel drops Lenny off at a Catholic boarding school, where he will have positive role models. Superman then returns Lex to the labor camp from which Lenny sprang him. He assures Lex that the world is "back on the brink, where it belongs...and, God willing, it'll stay there."

The movie ends like the three previous films, with Superman flying into the mesosphere while the sun sets.


In 1983, following the mixed reaction to Superman III, which nonetheless made $60 million at the box office, Reeve and the producers, a father and son team Alexander and Ilya Salkind, assumed that the Superman films had run their course[1]. Reeve was slated to make a cameo in 1984's Supergirl but was unavailable; that film (technically the fourth in the series) was a box office failure in the U.S. but successful in other territories. Four years later, Ilya Salkind sold the Superman franchise to Golan & Globus of Cannon Films[2].

According to Reeve, Golan & Globus did not have a script in mind when they first approached him about doing the fourth installment; they simply wanted him to reprise his role. Reeve himself admitted in his autobiography Still Me that he really wasn't sure that he wanted to do another Superman film, especially if it were going to be treated as a farce, which had been the case with the third film, an approach that Reeve felt was disrespectful to fans and the source material. The new filmmakers then offered Reeve a deal he couldn't refuse – in exchange for starring in the fourth Superman film, they would produce any project of his choosing, and also promised him story input (there was also talk of having Reeve direct a fifth Superman film in case the fourth one proved successful). Reeve accepted, and in exchange, Golan & Globus produced the gritty crime drama Street Smart.[3]

After reviewing various scripts, Reeve suggested the storyline of Superman becoming involved in the global political issue of nuclear warfare[4], in order to give the film a more serious feel to distance itself from the previous film. Unfortunately, Golan & Globus had so many other films in the pipeline at the time that their money was spread too thinly to properly accommodate what became Superman IV: The Quest for Peace[5], released in 1987, forcing the film's veteran director Sidney J. Furie to cut corners everywhere. The film was universally panned by critics and fans alike, who were disgusted by the film's cheap special effects, which paled in comparison to the earlier films, and performed poorly at the box office.[6]

In Reeve's autobiography Still Me, he described filming Superman IV as "simply a catastrophe from start to finish". He wrote:

We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in "Superman I", we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street. Dick Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don't think that we could ever have lived up to the audience's expectations with this approach.

Mark Rosenthal's DVD commentary pointed to this scene as an example of Cannon's budget slashing. According to Rosenthal, Reeve and director Furie begged to be able to film that sequence in New York in front of the real United Nations because everyone knew what New York was supposed to look like and that the England setting looked nothing like it. However Cannon refused. According to Rosenthal they were "pinching pennies at every step."

According to Jon Cryer, who played Lex Luthor's nephew Lenny, Reeve had taken him aside just before the release and told him it was going to be "terrible". Although Cryer enjoyed working with Reeve and his on-screen uncle, Gene Hackman, Cryer claimed that Cannon ran out of money five months ahead of time and ultimately released an unfinished movie. This is somewhat borne out in the novelization of the film's script. It shows a much more complex and complete story. The film looked as though whole pages or sections of the script were summarily torn out.

Critical response[]

The movie was not well received by either the general public or movie critics. Some critics considered the film to be one of the worst of its year. The movie suffered from poor sound and visual effects, believed to be caused by Cannon using much of the film's intended budget on their other projects. Reportedly, Warner Bros. gave Cannon approximately $40 million to produce Superman IV but in the end, Cannon used only $17 million for Superman IV. Most feel that the first movie had superior effects when compared to the fourth film, despite being nine years old at that point.

Of the four Superman films starring Reeve, this one fared the worst at the box office, and the series, as it turned out, went dormant for 19 years. Reeve himself admitted that both this and the third installment were very poor and did not live up to the potential that had been established by the first two films, and his 1995 paralysis made the development of any further sequels involving him in the starring role impossible. Time Warner let the Superman feature film franchise go undeveloped until the late-1990s when a variety of proposals were considered (see: Canceled Superman films), including several that would reboot the franchise altogether with substantially different versions of the characters and setting, rather than attempt to follow up on this film.

The final words in this film, "See you in twenty," proved to be prophetic. The next Superman film, Superman Returns, arrived at cinemas in June 2006, nineteen years after Superman IV premiered at the box office. This film discarded the events of Superman III and IV, continuing where the first two installments left off, although most of Richard Lester's concepts in Superman II are jettisoned as well.

Deleted footage[]

According to writer Mark Rosenthal's commentary on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Deluxe Edition DVD released in November 2006, and the gallery of deleted scenes included on the disc, there are approximately 45 minutes of the film that have not been seen by the public after they were deleted following a failed Southern California test screening. In fact, the Nuclear Man that appears in the film is actually the second Nuclear Man Luthor created. Cut scenes featured the original Nuclear Man engaging Superman in battle outside the Metro Club and being destroyed by the Man of Steel. The first Nuclear Man was somewhat more inhuman-looking than his successor, and resembled vaguely in looks, and significantly in personality, the comic book character Bizarro. Luthor postulates that this Nuclear Man was not strong enough, and hatches the plan to create the second Nuclear Man inside the sun as a result. The comic book adaptation of the film, as well as the novelization, depicts these scenes and several photos of Superman's battle with the first Nuclear Man can be seen online. Three of the "lost" minutes, consisting of two scenes (the "tornado scene", in which Christopher Reeve's daughter Alexandra plays the girl swept away by the tornado; and the "Moscow" sequence, in which Superman stops a nuclear missile from being launched) were used in the international release by Cannon Films, and in the U.S. syndicated television version prepared by Viacom. At one point the producers of this film considered using all of this footage (and presumably shooting new footage) into a fifth film (see Superman Lives), but the poor box office performance of this film led that idea to be scrapped. Rosenthal commented on the DVD commentary that this showed just how out of touch Cannon was with reality.

The original 2-hour 14-minute preview version has never been seen outside its ill-fated Southern California test screening. There had been rumors that this version, including all the deleted scenes described above, of the film was shown only one known time, on the SFM Holiday Network in 1989. In actuality, another film that co-starred Christopher Reeve was shown on SFM, and this is where the misconception originated. A spokesman for SFM later confirmed that the full version never aired on television.

Warner Bros. confirmed in an early 2006 Internet chat room session that the lost footage was found, and approx. 30 minutes of the footage were included in a "deleted scenes" section of the 2006 DVD box set, The Ultimate Superman Collection. The footage is presumably taken from an original workprint, as visual effects are not complete, music is consisted from stock elements and the first film's soundtrack, and the film is in a very rough state.

Ownership and rights[]

As a result of prior contracts, different entities own different components of Superman IV. Warner Bros. co-produced the film and handled North American theatrical distribution, while Cannon Films handled distribution outside North America. Due to legal snags, the film was not issued on DVD for many years until WB bought back key rights to the film, thus allowing it to be released on DVD in the U.S. in 2001. The international DVD rights were not settled until 2005 and WB has since released IV outside the U.S. on home video. WB also handled worldwide distribution of IV when it was reissued in late 2006 as part of the 14-disc Ultimate Superman Collection box set.

CBS Paramount Domestic Television (owners of the television rights to Cannon's library, and successor company to Viacom Enterprises) formerly held television rights to the film. However, Warner Bros. Television Distribution--since it and ION Media Networks announced a deal on June 27, 2006 that provided the rights to broadcast movies and classic TV shows from the Warner Bros. library on the ION Television network--has now assumed TV rights for Superman IV and its predecessor Superman III from CBS Paramount Television.

Meanwhile all other theatrical and television rights in certain territories, including partial copyright, are owned by MGM/Sony/Comcast (successors-in-interest to Cannon Films). Ironically enough, CBS Paramount Television is also the successor-in-interest to the TV division of Paramount Pictures, the studio that released the 1940s Superman cartoons made by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios.

Special powers[]

This film gives the Man of Steel powers with which he had never before been portrayed. Among these, after the Nuclear Man destroys part of the Great Wall of China, Superman restores the wall by gazing at it, causing the wall to rebuild itself, apparently by use of telekinesis, a power never ascribed to Superman in the comics. A contemporary film critic jokingly referred to this new power as "masonry vision." He uses the same ability during the street battle with Nuclear Man when he lowers several men (who are floating in the air thanks to Nuclear Man) to the ground just by looking at them.

External links[]

Superman Films
Film Serials SupermanAtom Man vs. Superman
Theatrical Films Superman and the Mole-MenSuperman: The MovieSuperman IISuperman IIISuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceSuperman ReturnsMan of SteelBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeJustice LeagueZack Snyder's Justice LeagueSuperman: Legacy
Spin-off films SupergirlSteel
Made-for-TV/DVD films Superman: 50th Anniversary SpecialLook, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of SupermanSuperman II: The Richard Donner CutThe Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?
Animated Films Superman: Brainiac AttacksSuperman: DoomsdaySuperman ⁄ Batman: Public EnemiesSuperman ⁄ Batman: ApocalypseSuperman ⁄ Shazam!: The Return of Black AdamAll-Star SupermanSuperman Versus the EliteBatman: The Dark Knight ReturnsSuperman: Unbound
Justice League Justice League: The New FrontierJustice League: Crisis on Two EarthsJustice League: DoomThe Lego MovieThe Flashpoint ParadoxJustice League: War
Shorts The Joker's PlayhouseSuperman 75th Anniversary