Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Screenplay by Lawrence Konner
Mark Rosenthal
Story by Lawrence Konner
Mark Rosenthal
Christopher Reeve[1]
Based on Characters by
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
Starring Christopher Reeve
Gene Hackman
Jackie Cooper
Marc McClure
Jon Cryer
Sam Wanamaker
Mark Pillow
Mariel Hemingway
Margot Kidder
Music by Alexander Courage
(adapting and conducting)
John Williams
Cinematography Ernest Day
Editing by John Shirley
Studio Warner Bros.
Cannon Films[2]
Golan-Globus Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) July 24, 1987 (1987-07-24) (United States)
Running time 90 minutes
Language English
Budget $15,000,000 (est.)[2]
Box office $15,681,020

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a 1987 superhero film directed by Sidney J. Furie. It is the fourth film in the Superman film series and the last installment to star Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. It is the first film in the series not to be produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, and instead by Golan-Globus's Cannon Films, in association with Warner Bros. Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luthor as he creates an evil solar-powered Superman clone called Nuclear Man.[3] Superman IV was neither a critical nor a box office success. The series went on hiatus until 2006, when Superman Returns, the final installment of this series, was released.[4]



After saving a group of cosmonauts whose ship is jeopardized by a rogue satellite, Superman visits his hometown of Smallville disguised as Clark Kent, checking in on the uninhabited farm where he grew up. In an empty barn he uncovers the space-capsule in which he was sent to Earth, and removes a green-glowing, Kryptonian energy module. A recording left by his birth mother, Lara, states that its power can only be used once.

Unwilling to sell the land to a mall developer, Superman returns to Metropolis and stops a runaway subway train. Returning to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent, he learns that the newspaper has been taken over by David Warfield, a tabloid tycoon who fires Perry White and hires his daughter Lacy (Mariel Hemingway) as the new editor. Lacy takes a liking to Clark and tries to seduce him. Clark agrees to go on a date with her.

Following the news that the United States and the Soviet Union may engage in nuclear war, Clark is conflicted with regard to how much Superman should intervene. Receiving a letter written by a concerned schoolboy, Superman travels to the Fortress of Solitude to seek advice from the spirits of his Kryptonian ancestors. They recommend he leave Earth and find a new home.

After asking Lois Lane's advice, Superman attends a meeting of the United Nations, announcing to the assembly that he will rid the Earth of nuclear weapons. Superman collects most of the world's nuclear stockpile in a gigantic net in Earth orbit, then hurls it into the sun.

Meanwhile, teenager Lenny Luthor breaks his uncle, Lex Luthor, out of prison. Returning to Metropolis, the pair steal a strand of Superman's hair from a museum, and create a genetic matrix which Lex attaches to an American nuclear missile. After the missile is test launched, Superman intercepts and throws it into the sun. A glowing ball of energy is discharged which develops into a super-human (Mark Pillow). This "Nuclear Man" makes his way back to Earth to find his 'father', Luthor, who establishes that while his creation is powerful, he will deactivate if isolated from light.

A vicious battle ensues between Luthor's creation and Superman. While saving the Statue of Liberty from falling onto Metropolis, Superman is poisoned by a scratch from Nuclear Man's radioactive fingernails. Nuclear Man kicks his opponent into the distance with such strength that Superman's cape is torn away.

To Lois' disgust, the Daily Planet, reformatted as a tabloid newspaper, publishes the headline, "Is Superman Dead?". Lois indicates a desire to quit, and seizes Superman's recovered cape for herself. Lacy is also upset, and reveals to Lois that she cares for Clark and asks if she knows where he is. Lois ventures to Clark's apartment where she proclaims her love for Superman. Felled by radiation sickness, Clark staggers to his terrace, where he retrieves the Kryptonian energy module and attempts to heal himself.

Having developed a crush on Lacy, Nuclear Man threatens mayhem if they are not introduced. The newly-restored Superman agrees to take him to her to prevent anyone else from being hurt. Superman lures Nuclear Man into an elevator, trapping and then depositing him on the dark side of the Moon. As the sun rises, Nuclear Man breaks free due to a crack in the elevator doors and Superman is forced once again to defend himself. At the end of the battle, it appears as though Superman has been defeated, and he is driven into the moon's surface by his opponent.

Nuclear Man forces his way into the Daily Planet and abducts Lacy. Superman frees himself from the moon's surface and pushes it out of its orbit, casting Earth into an eclipse which nullifies Nuclear Man's powers. Superman rescues Lacy, then recovers Nuclear Man and deposits him into the core of a nuclear power plant, destroying him. Superman also recovers the fleeing Luthors, returning Lex to prison and placing Lenny in Boys Town.

Perry White secures a loan with which to buy back the controlling shares of the newspaper, making Warfield a minority shareholder and protecting the paper from any further abuse. In a press conference, Superman declares only partial victory in his campaign, saying, "There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them."



In 1983, following the mixed-to-negative reaction to Superman III, Reeve and the producers, father and son team Alexander and Ilya Salkind, assumed that the Superman films had run their course.[8] Reeve was slated to make a cameo in 1984's Supergirl but was unavailable; the film was a box office failure in the U.S. Four years later, Ilya Salkind sold the Superman franchise to Golan & Globus of Cannon Films.[9]

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 was 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 crime drama Street Smart. 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, released in 1987, forcing the film's veteran director Sidney J. Furie to cut corners everywhere. The film was panned by critics and fans alike.

In Reeve's autobiography Still Me, he described filming Superman IV:

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 and the United Nations was supposed to look like and that the Milton Keynes setting looked nothing like it. However Cannon refused. According to Rosenthal, they were "pinching pennies at every step" and that it was impossible to look at the location and think of it as the United Nations, but more rather a municipal auditorium, which is, according to Rosenthal, exactly what it was.

Rosenthal has also described the final film as Cannon stabbing Christopher Reeve in the back. He also revealed on the Deluxe Edition DVD that he and writer Lawrence Konner wanted Reeve to play Nuclear Man as well as his dual roles of Superman and Clark Kent in the film. They imagined the villain being a darker version of the hero in the cloning process. This would be financially expensive and was already explored in minor detail in Superman III. So Cannon decided to hire Mark Pillow instead for the part of Nuclear Man in the final film.

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.


Golan-Globus wanted Superman IV to carry a "music by John Williams" credit, but the composer's commitment to the Boston Pops Orchestra precluded him from accepting the project. Williams selected his longtime friend and collaborator Alexander Courage to score the film and agreed to compose new thematic material as needed. Recording of the score with the Symphony-Orchestra Graunke began in Munich, Germany on May 11, 1987. As the sessions progressed it became apparent that the players were not up to the challenge of some of the complex action cues. After the completion of recording on May 18, the sessions in Germany were canceled and the rest of the score was recorded with the National Philharmonic Orchestra at CTS Studios in England from May 23-June 2. Courage scored 100 minutes of music for the film and also recorded album versions of three new John Williams themes. A soundtrack album was prepared in 1987 by Cannon's musical advisor Jack Fishman, but it was aborted when most of the music selected for it (including three songs by his son Paul Fishman) ended up getting cut from the film. No music from Superman IV was released for over twenty years until the Film Score Monthly soundtrack label presented the complete score as part of their 8-CD anthology Superman: The Music (1978–1988) in 2008.


The film was released July 24, 1987, in the United States and Canada and grossed $5.6 million in 1,511 theaters its opening weekend, ranking #4 at the box office.[4][10] It grossed a total of $15.6 million in the United States and Canada.[11]

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.[2] Plans were made to do Superman V, but it never came to fruition.[12] Reeve's 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, including several that would reboot the franchise with different versions of the characters and setting, rather than attempt to follow up on this film.

The film was universally panned by critics (the special effects were especially singled out[13]).[14][15] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 10% of 30 critics gave the film positive reviews.[16] The movie received a poor review by The New York Times.[17] It fared no better with Variety.[18] The Washington Post described it as "More sluggish than a funeral barge, cheaper than a sale at K mart, it's a nerd, it's a shame, it's 'Superman IV.'"[19] In some cities, the film wasn't even screened for critics, especially for Siskel and Ebert, who were based in Chicago.[20] The film was voted in at number 40 on a list of The 50 Worst Movies Ever by readers of Empire magazine[21].

Deleted footage

According to writer Mark Rosenthal's commentary on the 2006 Deluxe Edition DVD, 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 (portrayed by Clive Mantle) 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 the deleted footage (and presumably shooting new footage) in a fifth film (see Superman Lives), but the poor box office performance of this film led to that idea being scrapped. Rosenthal commented on the DVD commentary that this showed just how out of touch Cannon was with reality.

Approximately thirty minutes of deleted footage were included in a 'deleted scenes' section of the 2006 DVD box set, Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition, as well as on the Deluxe Edition DVD release of the film. All of these scenes were taken from a workprint version of the film with temporary music and unfinished visual effects in many places.

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 and Japan in 2008. 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 Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition box set.

CBS Television Distribution (owners of the television rights to Cannon's library, and successor company to Viacom Enterprises) formerly held television rights to the film—coincidentally, CBS Television Studios had also been the successor to the TV division of Paramount Pictures, the studio that released the 1940s Superman cartoons made by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. Then, in 2006, television syndication was assumed by Warner Bros. Television Distribution--since it and ION Media Networks announced a deal that provided the rights to broadcast movies and classic TV shows from the Warner Bros. library on the ION Television network. The ION deal included TV rights for Superman IV and its predecessor Superman III. Finally, in 2009, Paramount re-assumed its partial rights to IV due to its part-ownership of the Cannon library for certain media in the US only, and as of the present time television syndication is handled on Paramount's behalf by Trifecta Entertainment & Media.

Meanwhile, all other theatrical and television rights in certain territories, including partial copyright, are owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as successor-in-interest to Cannon Films.

Special powers

This film shows the Man of Steel using several powers which had never been seen before in the films. Superman restores part of the damaged Great Wall of China using energy beams from his eyes, apparently some kind of telekinesis. This power was never ascribed to Superman in the comics, although General Zod possesses it (via finger beam) in Superman II. The issue was avoided altogether in the comic adaptation, where Superman repairs the Great Wall manually. He uses the same ability (minus the beam effect) during the street battle with Nuclear Man, when he lowers several suspended policemen to the ground just by looking at them.

Comic book adaptation

In late 1987, DC Comics prepared a comic book adaptation of Superman IV, scripted by Bob Rozakis and pencilled by Curt Swan and Don Heck. This edition includes different dialogue from the movie and incidents among the deleted scenes of the movie. Instead of a voiceover from Lara in the early scene involving Superman finding the mysterious crystal, there is a projection of Jor-El himself, much like the first film. The comic book features a battle with the failed prototype of Nuclear Man resembling Bizarro and an around the world fight with the second Nuclear Man. The adaptation even has an alternate ending with Superman and Jeremy flying above Earth, observing the planet being just one world. In the adaptation, Jeremy is seen in space with a spacesuit but in the deleted footage he is not wearing any protection of any kind, like Lacy Warfield when she was rescued by Superman from the second Nuclear Man. The alternate ending appears in the Special Edition DVD, but it was incorporated in the lost footage section.


  1. ^ Kehr, Dave (1987-07-27). "It's A Bird, It's A Plane -- It's A Bad Film". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  2. ^ a b c Mills, Bart (1987-01-02). "And Now . . . Mighty 'Superman Iv' To The Rescue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b Easton, Nina J. (1990-02-01). "'Superman' Lawsuit Trial Date Set for April 16". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  4. ^ a b "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 1987-08-11. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  5. ^ Murphy, Steve (2001-06-14). "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  6. ^ Beck, Marilyn (1986-06-26). "Margot Kidder Flies Back To Superman". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Superman IV: the Quest for Peace (1987)". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler worked on the ideas for a fourth Superman movie throughout much of 1984. Registering the title Superman IV: The Man of Steel, the two producers assigned David Odell to come up with a storyline that would incorporate Brainiac, Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk, and they talked with Lewis Gilbert (The Spy Who Loved Me) about taking over the reins of director from Richard Lester. They also had a meeting with Dallas star John James about his taking over the role of Superman from Christopher Reeve. A summer 1986 release date was planned and Tom Selleck was considered as Brainiac with Dudley Moore as Mxyzptlk. Following the poor box office response to Supergirl and Santa Claus The Movie, Ilya Salkind decided it was time to sell the rights and all plans collapsed.[1][dead link]
  9. ^ "UGO's World of Superman - Superman Movies: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace". UGO Networks. 2006. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  10. ^ "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  11. ^ "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  12. ^ Zink, Jack (1990-03-04). "Fifth Superman Movie In The Works". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-16. 
  13. ^ Patridge, Tim. "Superman IV: Special Effects Review". Superman Cinema. Dharmesh. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  14. ^ Russell, Candice (1987-07-25). "Superman IV Just Too Tired To Fly". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  15. ^ O'Hara, Helen; Plumb, Alastair; De Semlyen, Phil. "The 50 Worst Movies Ever". Empire. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  16. ^ "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (1987-07-25). "Movie: 'Superman IV: Quest for Peace'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  18. ^ "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace". Variety. 1987-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  19. ^ Howe, Desson (1987-07-31). "‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’ (PG)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  20. ^ "Movie: 'Superman IV: The Quest for Peace'". Jerry Saravia. 2011-08. 
  21. ^ "The 50 Worst Movies Ever". Empire magazine. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 

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