What? They made a movie about Supergirl? Seriously?
Those of you who don't read comics might be wondering, who is Supergirl? Many people might think that Superman is the lone survivor of a planet called Krypton - a planet that no longer exists. However he isn't the only survivor. Some of the survivors are his enemies, one survivor was a dog-like superhero, and another is one version of Supergirl. What? There's more than one Supergirl? Yes, but that's not what I'm talking about here.
Supergirl is about, well...Supergirl - Superman's Kryptonian cousin named Kara Zor-El. Supergirl is portrayed by then newcomer Helen Slater, and admittedly she does a fairly decent job. The movie released in 1984, one year after Superman 3. While they wanted him to appear, Christopher Reeve didn't want anything to do with any Superman movies at the time so he didn't even make a cameo. It's a long story, but he was upset about the way Superman 3 was handled. I don't blame him, and I'll probably get to that in the future, but this review is about Supergirl and it's about time to begin.
Supergirl is directed by Jeannot Szwarc, whose probably best known directing Jaws 2, the very creepy Santa Clause: The Movie and Supergirl. He's also directed 13 episodes of the Smallville TV series, so this can't be all that bad, right? Well, would I be talking about this movie on this blog if it was good? Probably not.
Also worth noting is this movie's original cut was 150 minutes long. The theatrical release in North America was only 105 minutes long. That's a fairly significant cut if you ask me. The bulk of the cuts included removing any character development that the main villain had, scenes that further establish Supergirl's powers and weaknesses, and other important plot related scenes. What was left was a confusing jumbled mess that bombed at the box office making only $14 million, even after taking the #1 spot on opening weekend.
The European cut of the film was 124 minutes long, and a limited release director's cut version is 138 minutes long. The 150 minute version is believed to still exist, vaulted away in the same place that the extra footage was found for the Richard Donnar cut of Superman 2. But I've been blabbering enough about the history behind this movie; let's talk about the picture itself.
Admittedly the theme song's kind of good - not quite as good as John William's Superman theme, but certainly better than I would have thought.
After the opening credits, the movie fades into to some weird city in space. The outside looks like a glowing mountain, while it's really just glowing bubble with steel supports. Everyone in this city is strangely calm and happy. Kara is walking through the city saying hi to everyone - this scene is driving me crazy - how can everyone be so monotone? She stops by some guy whose playing with an unexplained glowing stuck. The guy is played by Peter O'Toole, and because he's hardly in this movie I'll just call him Peter.
Peter says that while Earth is in outer space, this strange city is in inner space - what the frick does that mean? He then pulls out some Omega Hedren or something. From what I can gather, this Omega Hedren is the power source for this city. In my research it seems that this movie is the only place this Omega Hedren exists, so I'm going to assume it's not in cannon with the DC Universe.
After a bunch of boring and dry conversations, something bad happens! Some fake flying butterfly pierces the city's bubble and the air is being sucked out. The power core is also sucked out into "inner space". Kara's parents then explain that without the power source, the city will die in just a few days. What? You don't have any backup power sources? You're an advanced technological society living in "inner space" and you don't have a backup power source? No wonder most of your race died. Peter is blamed for this and sentences himself to the phantom zone. Kara on the other hand chases after the Omega Hedren in some crystal vehicle ball thing. Yeah, the movie would have been better without this very strange city.
The next scene has Kara traveling from inner space to outer space in a special effects spectacular - no! Lights and bubbles do not equal space travel; I don't care what you have to say about inner and outer space. OK fine, it does look kind of neat, but it's certainly not what I would have thought dimensional shifting would look like.
We then cut to Earth. A man and a woman are having a picnic. The woman is the sorceress Selena, played by Faye Dunaway, and her first line has her saying that she wants the world. Yeah, she flat out admits that she's the bad guy, um...gal in her first line of dialogue. Way to keep the suspense up people. This is an interesting prospect for a bad guy though, because while Superman (and Supergirl) are almost invulnerable to any physical attacks, they are just as venerable to magic as any normal human.
The Omega Hedren lands right by them and Selena takes it for her own. Selena immediately realizes that the Hedren has immense power and breaks up with the man, Nigel, who was previously her lover and magic teacher. Nigel says that Selena can't drive away without the car keys, but the Omega Hedren somehow turns on the car anyway. Wow, I'm so impressed that this magical object can do the job of a good old hotwiring or screwdriver.
Anyway, we cut back to Supergirl inside her dimension shifting ball doohickey, which starts to open up. She's suddenly wearing her Supergirl outfit now. She flies out of the ball, still with the crazy warp visual effects, and yet in the next shot she flies out of the water and lands on the ground. How is she not torn apart or morphed into a talking sofa by this? I'm so confused right now.
Next up, a two-minute scene where Supergirl is discovering her superpowers in the most girly fashion possible. Crushing a rock and blowing away the dust. Using her heat vision to help a flower bloom. Giggling the second she learns how to fly and dancing around in the air. She starts flying around in such awkward movements that there's obviously string work behind it. Admittedly though, the music is pretty good here. The scenery is fairly nice too as she flies around the countryside, over mountains and waterfalls, flying over a heard of horses. Stopping for a few minutes to watch the sunset on a quiet lake.
We cut back to Selena, who arrives at her hideout in, I kid you not, a haunted house ride in the middle of what appears to be a closed down theme park. This hideout is so cliché that it's almost refreshing; it's almost awesomely cliché. She starts talking to her, um, roommate? Yeah, her roommate Bianca. Anyway, they talk about how they're behind on bill payments, but this is never mentioned again.
Supergirl is seen flying again, this time over a city at night. A band around her wrist starts flashing and beeping; it's a tracking device for the Omega Hedren. Despite having no directional display on it, Supergirl immediately knows where to go - how? Never explained. She lands in an empty street after the band stops flashing, where she is approached by two perverts from a truck.
"Hello," Supergirl says in a friendly tone.
"Hello she says," one of them replies.
"I was wondering if you could tell me where I am."
"What do they call this place Eddie? Lover's lane."
Supergirl quickly realizes something's wrong; maybe it's something to do with the fat guy pulling at her cape to check out the back of her legs, but I'm not completely sure. Supergirl then picks up one of them by the jaw and throws him back a bit- holy crap! Superman never got that violent with people; even with his super strength he tries to be gentle. That's the thing about Supergirl though, even in the comics she doesn't hold back as much as Superman does. Sure, Superman is stronger overall, but he's learned how to hold back. Also, Supergirl is faster - even to the point where she accidentally destroyed a moon just by traveling too fast near it.
Anyway back to the movie; the perverts still approach her after this. Um guys, this girl claims to be Superman's cousin and can pick you up with one hand - I suggest you leave. After an ultra-humiliation, Supergirl flies off. This scene, while kind of oddly written is kind of awesome in its own way. So far, this movie is a mixed bag. There are some really stupid moments, but there are other scenes that work fairly well. It stays that way for the rest of the movie.
Because this isn't all that bad of a movie, I'm not going to walk through the whole thing. In fact, much of it is hard to make fun of, well, except for Selena's insane overacting toward the end. Instead, I'm just going to talk about a few things here and there. Supergirl disguises herself as a brunette cousin of Klark Kent's named Linda Lee. She ends up joining a school for girls and becomes Launa Lane's roommate. What is with the alliteration in DC comic's names, seriously? Anyway, Launa is Lois Lane's sister, and the two of them get along fairly quickly.
Jimmy Olsen makes an appearance too, played by Marc McClure - the only actor to appear in every Superman movie from Superman 1 to Superman Returns. The girl school has Nigel as one of its teachers, but nothing ever really comes of it. The school also has bullies that Supergirl deals with in a somewhat funny way, but those are also the most girly scenes in the movie and can be difficult to sit through.
Meanwhile, Selena gets stronger and stronger with this Omega Hedren which seems to supercharge her magical powers. Eventually she becomes powerful enough to enslave the entire town and send Supergirl to the phantom zone. Yes, Supergirl is sent to the phantom zone in this movie. While the zone is mentioned in the first two Superman movies, this is the first movie where you actually see it. That said, the special effects here look more like a Sega Genesis game than anything else.
Like I loosely mentioned, Selena's character overacts toward the end. She tries too hard to be charismatic and frightening, but when she's yelling with her eyes wide open and shaking around it's hard not to laugh.
So how is the movie overall? Well, it's not technically good, but it does have its moments. More than anything else, it's weird - perhaps too weird to be a good Supergirl movie, but it's certainly better than Superman 3 and leagues ahead of Superman 4. The acting is generally good when it's not overly tranquil or way over the top.
Long story short, this is the girliest superhero movie I've ever seen. But that's its charm - somehow it's so overly girly that it's kind of hilarious at times. The action is fairly decent for the most part, Helen Slater does a rather impressive job portraying Supergirl even if she appears tranquil at times, and it's both intentionally and unintentionally funny at times. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure movie for me, and from what I've read most people either really enjoy the movie or really hate it. It's hard to recommend, but some of you might enjoy it.
Two word review - Amusingly Girly