Movie Kumite: Captain America vs. Superman IV
In today’s world of big studio, big budget, big money superhero film franchises, it is hard to believe that at one point an independent movie studio like Cannon Films and an off the beaten path producer like Menahem Golan held the movie rights to Superman, Spider-Man and Captain America!
In this edition of our cinematic slugfest, we pit the two most patriotic superheroes of all-time and two of the most skewered superhero films against one another. It is 1990’s Captain America against 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in the Movie Kumite.
Like any battle against Superman, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace has some major advantages over its foe. In this case the advantage is not the superhuman powers The Man of Steel possesses, but the movie pedigree that Superman IV comes from. Christopher Reeve owned the Superman role at this point in movie history. And to those who grew up with the original Superman movies, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman and that is not meant to offend anyone who has since donned the red cape.
On the other hand you have Matt Salinger who played Steve Rogers/Captain America in Captain America. Salinger didn’t do a bad job at all, but he didn’t own the role either. I would rank him way ahead of Reb Brown (who starred in two made for TV Captain America movies in the late 70’s) but he can’t touch Chris Evans who IS Captain America and will probably always be the actor most associated with that role.
Reeve’s iconic status as Superman easily defeats a forgettable Salinger turn as Cap.
CAPTAIN AMERICA – 0 SUPERMAN IV – 1
The picture above pretty much tells you all you need to know about Red Skull. His head looks like a piece of Nerds candy with facial features.
That’s not to say that the villains in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace don’t have their flaws. I know what they were going for with Nuclear Man but the plan was not executed well. Knowing that the guy was a former Chippendale’s dancer kind of hurts his badass status too. But Superman IV has the one and the only
Ducky from Pretty in Pink Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.
After sitting Superman III out, Lex Luthor is back to gain some revenge on Superman. As much as I associate Christopher Reeve with Superman, I can say the same thing about Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. He is and always will be the best Lex in my eyes. It doesn’t hurt that Hackman is one of the all-time greats in the acting world either.
CAPTAIN AMERICA – 0 SUPERMAN IV – 2
THE SUPPORTING PLAYERS
I could just as easily play the Gene Hackman card again in this round, but in the interest of fairness I will not. But Superman IV: The Quest for Peace has an impressive cast aside from Reeves and Hackman. Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper and Marc McClure all reprise their roles from the previous Superman films. Mariel Hemingway and Jon Cryer are thrown in the mix to spice things up. And did I mention, William Hootkins!? Hootkins, who managed to be involved in some of the biggest movies of all-time including Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Batman, somehow ol’ Hootkins didn’t get in on one of the successful Superman movies and instead found himself in on the tail end of the franchise.
But Captain America has some pretty impressive supporting players as well. There’s Darren McGavin of Raw Deal fame playing General Fleming. And playing the President of the United States is none other than Ronny Cox! Robocop’s Ronny Cox. Beverly Hills Cop’s Ronny Cox. Total Recall’s Ronny Cox. Talk about bringing some action movie credibility to the table. If Ronny Cox was running for POTUS right now, even at his advanced age, he’d have my vote. (I assume Kurtwood Smith would be his running mate.)
Then in what can only be called a major coup, Captain America manages to poach Ned Beatty from the Superman movie franchise and cast him as a reporter/longtime friend of the President, Sam Kolawetz.
Otis didn’t get Otisburg, but he gets his revenge here in the Movie Kumite and puts a point on the board for Captain America!
CAPTAIN AMERICA – 1 SUPERMAN IV – 2
Captain America was forced to start from scratch in every respect. But Superman IV had the good fortune to not only have former cast members to bring back, they also had the iconic music of John Williams to provide the soundtrack to their film. Williams himself was long gone from the franchise but the music he composed for the 1978 original was still being used (adapted and conducted by Alexander Courage.
Captain America could have had The Beatles reunite for its soundtrack and it still couldn’t have beat the music of the master himself, John Williams!
CAPTAIN AMERICA – 1 SUPERMAN IV – 3
Here’s a fun fact… both of the movies in this Movie Kumite feature relatives of famous American novelists. Mariel Hemingway is the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. And Matt Salinger is the son of J.D Salinger.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye were published in the early 1950’s and both achieved critical acclaim.
The Catcher in the Rye spent an impressive 30 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Hemingway’s novel however won him a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature… score another one for Superman IV.
CAPTAIN AMERICA – 1 SUPERMAN IV – 4
The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea may have received critical acclaim in their day, but neither Captain America or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace can make that claim. So as we turn to the two most respected movie web sites in cyberspace for their take on our battle, we should probably look at it as which movie they hated less as opposed to which movie they liked more.
Superman IV has a 3.6 rating on IMDb, slightly above Captain America’s 3.3 rating.
Captain America has a 16% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while Superman IV also has a 16% approval rating, thus splitting this point.
Captain America should have brought some kryptonite with him because this one was a blow out…
FINAL SCORE: CAPTAIN AMERICA – 1.5 SUPERMAN IV – 5.5