Superman III emerges as a surprisingly soft-cored disappointment. Putting its emphasis on broad comedy at the expense of ingenious plotting and technical wizardry, it has virtually none of the mythic or cosmic sensibility that marked its predecessors.
The film begins with a hilarious pre-credits sequence in which Richard Pryor, an unemployed ‘kitchen technician’, decides to embark on a career as a computer programmer. Robert Vaughn, a crooked megalomaniac intent on taking over the world economy, dispatches Pryor to a small company subsid in Smallville, where he programs a weather satellite to destroy Colombia’s coffee crop (and make a market-cornering killing for Vaughn).
Foiled by Superman (Christopher Reeve), Pryor uses the computer to concoct an imperfect form of Kryptonite – using cigarette tar to round out the formula. The screenplay opts for the novelty of using the Kryptonite to split the Clark Kent/Superman persona into two bodies, good and evil.
Most of the action relies on explosive pyrotechnics and careening stuntpersons. At the romantic level, the film does paint a nice relationship between Reeve (as Kent) and his onetime crush Annette O’Toole.