Superman III Analysis

Gusí Ultimate Computer

While his partners in crime workout at the gym, Gus jots down ideas for the Ultimate Computer. If you look carefully, youíll see heís scribbling on the matchbook from the first scene.

jotting

His scribblings accumulate into these plans:

plans
Webster: What do you want? What? A wastebasket?

Gus: No. These are plans.

Webster: For what?

Lorelei Ambrosia (Pamela Stephenson): A computer.

Webster: We've already got computers.

Gus: No, not like this. There's not a computer like this in the whole world anyplace.
It doesn't exist.  You see, we have to build it.

Webster: What will it do?

Gus: Anything I tell it.

Webster: What will it do for me?

Gus: For you? It will do anything you tell me to tell it to do for you.

Webster: Tell me.

Gus: First of all, if anyone attacks this machine or anything, the computer
counterattacks it. I mean, it finds their weaknesses and wipes them out.

Those really donít look like plans for a computer. A few scraps are hardly sufficient to describe a new computer design. Besides, what about the software that makes the computer do what it does? What I do see is the Camel Cigarettes box in the center of the frame.

Anyway, using the Camel Cigarettes box and the other scraps of paper, Rossí ďpeonsĒ go to work constructing the machine.

camels

The result is the Ultimate Computer.

The Ultimate Computer

Now, of course the Ultimate Computer has to look really big and sexy on screen. But, I think this is another example of futurists failing to predict the direction of technological development. For many types of machines, such as engines, bigger means more power. Futurists generally made the same assumption with computers. A smarter computer, they thought, was going to be a bigger computer. They clearly missed the miniaturization revolution. Of course, there are supercomputers today that take up rooms of space. But, ultimately, I expect that kind of computing power to fit into a box the size of an iPod. The true ultimate computer will be tiny.

When Websterís group initially enters the cave housing the Ultimate Computer, itís completely dark inside. Lorelei boots it up by flipping a switch near the opening of the cave. Later, when the computer goes bizerk, I always wondered why they didnít flip that switch again and shut it down. But, Gus actually does try to cut the power another way and fails.

As Superman approaches the Ultimate Computer, Mr. Webster executes itís defenses.

missiles

Didnít Rossí ďpeonsĒ question planting camouflaged missiles in the Grand Canyon? Anyway, Ross gets to target Superman videogame style.

video game

The fictional videogame scene in the movie is far more advanced than any videogame available in 1983. The videogame sequence and the other computer graphics were produced by Atari Inc.

Atari

In fact, the sound effects played during the videogame scene are from the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man.

Pac-Man

Atari actually planned on releasing a real videogame based on Superman III for the Atari 8-bit computer. It involved Superman fighting the Ultimate Computer and played something like Missile Command.

Real unreleased videogame

You can read more about it here: http://www.atariprotos.com/8bit/software/supermanIII/supermanIII.htm

Compare the graphic from the unreleased, real videogame to these shots from the movie showing Supermanís internals.

Internals

Internals

Internals
Webster: Never underestimate the power of computers.

Listen to the sound effects of the Ultimate Computer, especially the scene where Vera Webster (Annie Ross) is converted into a robot. Some of the sounds were used again in Batman (1989). Listen the scene where the Joker fries one of the crime bosses with a joy buzzer. Also, when the Batplane explodes after getting shot down by the Joker, the sounds used originated from the Ultimate Computer exploding.

Cyberbabe

Superman defeats the Ultimate Computer with some ďbeltric acidĒ from the chemical plant seen earlier in the movie.

beltric acid

The computer scans Superman and discovers the canister, but it decides that the acid has a danger level of zero. It was unaware that the acid becomes highly volatile when heated. I could never figure out why Superman simply didnít pulverize the machine with his fists or his laser vision. Also, if the Ultimate Computer could scan Superman and instantly work out the real formula for kryptonite, why couldnít it detect the danger of the acid and neutralize it.

The original Superman III script described Superman being turned evil by a super computer controlled by Brainiac. If you thought this movie was bad, read the original script outline from 1980.

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