Superman III (1983) was directed by Richard Lester from a screenplay by David Newman and Leslie Newman based on the DC Comics character. It is the third installment in the Superman film series and a sequel to Superman II (1980) and Superman (1979). The film features a cast of Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Vaughn, and Margot Kidder.
The villain this time around is Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) a mad billionaire who wants to use satellites to control the Earth’s crops and become even richer. Webster exploits likable computer genius Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) to play havoc with the world markets. When this brings him into conflict with Superman, he tries to devise his own version of the Man Of Steels Achilles heel Kryptonite but instead of killing the superhero, they accidentally unveil his dark side.
The third film in the franchise is very much a product of its time, taking advantage of growing knowledge and interest in technology by introducing computer genius Gus Gorman who develops synthetic kryptonite that makes Superman evil. Occasionally, this works brilliantly with Superman flying around doing malicious stuff such as straightening the Leaning Tower Of Pisa.
Here we have the all-American hero, with the white teeth and the square jaw, and suddenly he’s looking mean, really mean, and he’s threatening to do all manner of evil things to good Clark Kent.
The personality issues ultimately ended up in a fight between Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent. This bold move to pit Superman against himself gave Reeve an opportunity to find his darker side (plus, on a technical note, that was a hard scene to put together with the technology of the 80s). Christopher Reeve commands the dual role with real authority, but there is a whimsicality here that doesn’t fit right with the Superman mythos.