Where do I even start with this one?!
You know how Superman IV is goofy but in a way that's fun and enjoyably campy? Well Superman III takes the zaniness to a whole new level, to the point where, at times, this feels not so much like a Superman film but rather a generic, corny, not good 80's comedy.
This is a far more light-hearted movie than it probably should be, especially since it does have the odd good idea here and there, but it's too blinded by the delusion that it's hilarious to bother taking advantage of its potential. There's an interesting Superman film in there where Clark goes back to Smallville, meets up with high-school sweetheart Lana and tries to reconcile both parts of his personality. This leads to a badass conflict between Clark Kent and Bizarro (an evil version of Superman) after Superman comes into contact with an altered form of Kryptonite. All that stuff works well enough, though Clark's college reunion needed to be about an hour shorter.
What is this? Superman III or Peggy Sue Got Married?!
But yeah, when you know that the Bizarro face off is coming, that only makes what comes before it all the more tedious. The film is unimaginatively shot and looks frankly unimpressive. Richard Lester always wanted to scale back the look of those movies and he finally got his wish. Sadly, this leaves us with the ugliest Superman movie to date. Like Superman IV, this is basically a cartoon except... it sucks. Iconic comedian Richard Pryor is introduced to us early on and, as funny as he usually is, he really tries much too hard in this one. Can't blame him, really. At least SOMEONE tried in this movie! His character gets a job working with computers where he discovers, inexplicably, that he's a genius with a keyboard. This leads him to come up with a cyber-plan to steal leftover dough from his company (see Office Space for another use of the exact same plan) and meet our film's villain, a forgettable Robert Vaughn, who hires him to not only embezzle even more money but destroy Superman. Hence why Pryor attempts to make Kryptonite etc. I like Pryor but his part in this movie is waaaaaaaaaaay too big: he's hijacked this entire film and he's not even the main villain! Plus the script gives him nothing genuinely funny to do, instead you see him ski off a building (he lands unharmed... somehow), dress up in wacky outfits and slapstick around nervously.
The whole film is like that: awkward slapstick humour even your grandpa would dismiss as "too silly". To give you an idea, the opening titles are crappy-looking credits playing over jokey cartoon muzak while random people in Metropolis bounce around clumsily doing their worst Charlie Chaplin impressions. It's painstakingly awful and a really bad way to start off the movie. Hell, you barely get to hear the classic Superman theme during this whole thing and none of the shenanigans you're made to sit through are useful. But it's the ending that really takes the cake in terms of BAD. For some reason, everyone ends up facing this "supercomputer" that can apparently do everything (shoot lasers, make shit androids, develop artificial intelligence...) and the film gets messy to say the least, entering quietly laughably bad territory. Christopher Reeve looks frankly embarrassed to be in that entire scene which would belong more convincingly in a super-cheap version of The Adventures Of Pluto Nash than a respectable Superman movie. Even the ending to Supergirl felt much more appropriate.
I'd watch Supergirl over this clunky goofball flick any day.
I like my clunky goofball flicks, don't get me wrong, but I have to draw the line somewhere!
Overall, while Reeve single-handedly keeps the film from being completely unwatchable, Superman III is still a chore to sit through. It's not funny, it goes on for far too long and its couple of good ideas are buried under a sea of bad slapstick. It honestly makes Superman IV look like The Dark Knight.
Just check out the Bizarro scene on Youtube instead.
Or any of the other Superman movies...