When people think about Christopher Reeve's first two Superman films, they tend to think of them with fondness and love. However, the 3rd and 4th films got a much different response. Superman 3 is often regarded as a mediocre sequel, while Superman 4 is often considered to be one of the worst superhero films of all time. Personally, I don't agree. I believe that Superman 3 and 4 are both charming tales in their own right.
1983's Superman 3:
Superman 3 is often mocked for being a Richard Pryor comedy film, rather than a serious Superman film. The Superman films are more family-friendly than a majority of superhero films. However, there were complaints from parents about the violence in Superman 2. This led to the crew not using any supervillains for the 3rd film. Also, in an interview, Richard Pryor talked about how he'd love to be in a Superman film. That interview, combined with the fact that Richard Pryor was a big star, led to Richard Pryor getting a major role in the film.
Despite all of that, I believe that Superman 3 is still an authentic Superman film. As to be expected, Christopher Reeve is a lovable Superman and the perfect Clark Kent. The lighthearted tone of the film fits with Superman's optimistic nature. Christopher Reeve and Annette O'Toole's Lana Lang have great chemistry. Their interactions are genuinely sweet and cute, to the point that it's hard to not want to see Clark and Lana end up together. The scene where Clark battles an evil version of himself is very creative and action-packed. Seeing the good Clark defeat his bad side and return to his true self is a very impactful scene.
As for the rest of the film, I believe that it's a very entertaining comedy. Yes, it's silly, goofy and even relies on slapstick humor, but you know what? That's a good thing. I know that superhero stuff has tried to become as sophisticated as humanly possible, but an important thing to remember about superheroes is that they are people in tights with superpowers who fight supervillains with eccentric gimmicks. The creativity and entertainment is what makes superhero projects appealing. The comedy and lighthearted parts of Superman 3 have the innocent, fun charm that superhero projects should have. Richard Pryor's Gus Gorman has a number of funny scenes with Robert Vaughn's Ross Webster. There's also a lot of great jokes that come from the evil version of Superman.
1987's Superman 4: The Quest For Peace
Superman 4 wasn't given the same high-budget and resources as the previous films. It was done by Cannon, a low-budget film studio that also did the Masters of the Universe film. Like with the He-Man film, Superman 4 doesn't have the most advanced effects, which leads to flying scenes that don't look incredibly authentic. However, Superman 4 was a passionate project for Christopher Reeve. He was heavily involved with making the film, because he wanted to make a film that gave some hope during a time where nuclear weapons were becoming a troubling dilemma.
Superman 4 is often ridiculed for it's plot, but I think it's a good plot for Superman. Superman wanting to rid the world of nuclear weapons seems very in-character for him. Superman's goal is to bring peace to the world, and freeing the world from weapons of destruction is a good way to do that. The scenes where Christopher Reeve's Superman talks about this matter feel very genuine. Also, Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, who was absent from the 3rd film, returns with his usual brand of fun trouble. This time around, he creates Nuclear Man. Yes, Nuclear Man is a very campy character, but that's part of his charm. Seeing Superman and Nuclear Man fight might look cheap, but it's incredibly entertaining.
I believe the ending of the film is very meaningful. Earlier in the film, Superman had gotten rid of the nuclear weapons, but Lex Luthor's scheme brought a new type of nuclear-themed danger. Superman tells the crowd that despite how powerful he is, this isn't an issue he can magically make go away. He says that it's an issue that we, as people, have to work harder to stop, so that one day, the world can truly be at peace. The film was smart to avoid having Superman be able to solve everything. The ending shows that even though we don't have a Superman to make our problems go away, we can bring peace to this world if we work hard enough. The fact that Superman believes that we have the power to overcome such extreme problems shows how trusting and inspiring he truly is. Superman might not be real, but his morality and heroism inspire the real world in a positive, beautiful way.