After seeing the incredible Superman The Movie and Superman II on VHS (before I realized just how campy part 2 was as an adult) , I found myself a huge fan of the franchise and insisted that we go to the theater to see the sequels as they came out. After the fun I had with Superman III and IV (again, before I grew up and realized just how campy they were too) I wanted more and was sad that I didn’t get a chance to see the Supergirl film in theaters. Needless to say, I finally saw it and realized that, sometimes, spin-offs are not what you expect them to be.
Today’s Key Movie:
In an attempt to expand past the Christopher Reeve films, Alexander Selkind produced the film Supergirl. Following Helen Slater as Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl), Supergirl the movie brings Superman’s cousin into the universe as she faces the evil witch Selena (played by Faye Dunaway), who has captured the only power that can keep her people alive.
Why this movie?
It was some time in 1985 or 1986 when I ran across the VHS in a rental store and knew I had to see another Superman film, even if Supes himself wasn’t in it. I came home that evening excited to pop the cassette into the player and watch another adventure in the DC Universe. Within minutes I was confused as to what I was watching. Sure this film had a direct tie to the Superman universe but, even at that young age, I could tell it didn’t feel right. Regardless, I found it to be a fun film as a kid as I was pretty desperate for superhero movies back then and didn’t yet recognize a good movie from a bad one.
Fast-forward over 30 years and here I am again, sitting through this film for the purpose of this reviews. While I may have found enjoyment in Supergirl as a kid, sometimes these movies don’t age so well. This is certainly the case here.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
This film is a prime example of why studios should not force a sequel or a spinoff in this case. The story itself isn’t horrible but it isn’t good either. Filled with plot holes and completely nonsensical events, it is clear that this is not the movie they wanted to make and it certainly doesn’t live up to the caliber of the Reeve films. In the course of the story, Supergirl is inadvertently sent to Earth by Zaltar (played by Peter O’Toole) after she looses her worlds power source by playing with it to make a bug. I wish I were kidding here. From that point on very little makes sense and when she comes in contact with an evil witch named Selena, played by Faye Duanaway, things get even stranger. This is one that you have to have some knowledge of the comics to fully grasp what is going on and, if you are a common layman like most people in those days, these scenes only bring up more questions than the movie has answers for.
Helen Slater as Supergirl comes across as a clueless girl from nowhere who happens to know a lot more than she should, despite never having been to Earth or ever even meeting her cousin Clark. Physically she is a perfect match for the comic book superhero even down to the short miniskirt costume that Supergirl has become known for. Unfortunately even Slater’s attempt at the role is not enough to save the film.
It is abundantly clear that the actors in this film were determined to do the best they could. I have to wonder if they had any idea how bad a film they were making while it was being produced. Everyone involved is clearly trying to make the best of a weak script but sadly their effort only manages to make the movie feel more like a melodrama than the adventure film it was meant to be. You would think that the first real female driven Superhero film would be an early drive into female empowerment but that is not the case here. Unfortunately, just as the film starts to get on track for a split second it devolves into nothing but a fight between two women over a guy making it less about empowerment and more of the same stereotypical droll we see in too many films even to this day.
In a desperate attempt at connecting to the larger franchise, the filmakers make loose connections that seem shoehorned in at the last moment. These connections include a poster of Superman, Lois Lane’s previously unknown kid-Sister who happens to be attending a nearby school and a cameo appearance by Marc McClure who reprises his role as Jimmy Olsen, permanently making this an odd entry to the Reeve Superman canon. The movie even goes out of it’s way to ensure Jimmy Olsen never mentions Supergirl’s existence to Superman in the main series by making him promise Supergirl that he ‘never saw her’. In many ways this film serves as the unheeded warning to the current DCU filmmakers of the dangers of creating a poorly planned shared universe. How I wish they had listened. While I may have had somewhat of a soft spot for this film as a kid, I have come to realize that this is not a good movie, it is so bad it isn’t even worth reaching Cult Status.
OK, where do I get this movie?
If you are a DC completionist or just someone who likes to watch bad films, you can get this one for under $20 here. I recommend skipping it and going for the new CW tv series of the same name if you need a Supergirl fix. It is so much better and actually gives a nod to this film.
As normal, here is the trailer.
Late To The Game 8/29/2019
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