Superman’s Worst Movie Villain is Nuclear Man

The disaster of Superman IV was made worse by its ridiculous villain, Nuclear Man, who received a proper coda many years later.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace ended Christopher Reeve’s enduring superhero franchise and remains a weak spot not only in comic book adaptations, but in movies in general. Poorly designed and poorly executed, it is notable not only for the silliness of a supposedly A-list effort, but for the talent it wasted. Reeve, with the story’s credit, cared deeply about the project’s message and fought desperately to make it work, while Gene Hackman and Jon Cryer hit low points in their careers before moving on to better things. .

Among his many troubles is the movie’s star villain, Nuclear Man, created by Hackman’s Lex Luthor to destroy Superman. The character was widely ridiculed by fans and managed to encapsulate everything that was wrong with the movie in the process. He contrasted sharply with the previous villains of the Superman movies: Luthor, General Zod and even the malicious computer in Superman iii, which replaced Brainiac. Hackman’s return in Superman iv only underscored Nuclear Man’s shortcomings all the more. And yet, due to the film’s great notoriety at the time, it went canon and even made its way into the comics themselves decades later. But where is he now … if anywhere?

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Superman IV was a doomed superhero movie

christopher-reeve-in-superman-iv-the-quest-for-peace

The decision to create a new villain for the film is indicative of the flawed approach she took from the start. The Salkind family, who owned the rights to the character and produced the first three Reeve Superman films, sold them to Cannon Pictures of Golan-Globus, a notorious grindhouse that also released films like American Ninja 2 and Death wish 4 the same year as Superman iv. Reeve felt that the franchise had run its course after the failure of Superman iii, but came on both because Cannon offered to produce a project for his pet called Smart Street, and because he believed in Superman iv message on nuclear disarmament.

In short, it created a very mercenary process, and as Reeve revealed in his 2006 autobiography, the results showed. Cannon refused to treat the film with more deference than his other projects, which meant a tight budget, low production values, and laughable special effects. As Reeve lamented, audience expectations would be so crushed that no solid storytelling could help.

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Superman IV: Nuclear Man’s Powers, Weaknesses, and Problems

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All of this came to a head in Nuclear Man, an awkwardly symbolic personification of the global problem Superman faces in the film, which was given a lazy backstory and infused with a buffer of abilities that literally matched his heroic nemesis. Luthor created him from a single strand of Kal-El’s hair, making him a clone. This gave him the same array of powers that Superman has demonstrated in previous films, as well as a few new ones that included unbreakable claws at his fingertips that could cut Superman’s skin and the ability to shoot a beam of blue energy. which made its targets weightless.

These notions combined have become a perfect storm of failure. Nuclear Man’s status as a walking metaphor was crass and cheesy. His newfound powers were meant to cover up a few loopholes in the logistical plot, while his “standard” Kryptonian abilities were rendered with embarrassing downward effects that could not hold up to those of previous films. Indeed, Superman ii General Zod and his allies had the same abilities rendered on a much higher budget and with better actors playing more developed characters. Nuclear Man, on the other hand, had no discernible personality, to the point where Hackman provided his voice, and with no previous incarnations in the comics, he had no fan goodwill to talk about. He became indicative of everything that was wrong with the movie. Even the costume looked silly and cheap.

Superman IV: What happened to Nuclear Man?

Nuclear Man lived in DC Comics, but it took a while to get there. It was created specifically for the film, and when it bombed, DC simply refused to portray it in any form, except for the film’s “graphic novelization” in 1987, which told the story of the film. film with some additional elements. , like a strange proto-man, resembling Bizarro. Despite this, he continued to be kept in the shadows outside of the sequel, rendering him – like his weakness for the film’s dark spaces – inert.

It changed to Superman Volume 5 # 2, which, as writer Brian Michael Bendis revealed on his Instagram page, was done almost on a challenge. The comic depicts Superman’s new villain, Rogol Zaar, finding Nuclear Man in the Phantom Zone where, as the script says, “Krypton threw down his terrible secrets,” before killing him in a haphazard way as a result of a brief but intense battle. The double meaning of the line speaks volumes and punctuates a fitting ending for a character who is rightly hated.

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