Supergirl (1984) Jeannot Szwarc

Production Budget: $35 million – $50 million
Gross: $14 million

Supergirl’s rights were bought at the same time as that of Superman, in case they ever wanted to do a spin off.  Several casting choices were considered for Supergirl including Melanie Griffith or Brooke Shields but they decided to take the Christopher Reeve route and cast an unknown.  Even though the Salkands financed this movie as with the Superman movies, Warner Bros. still oversaw the production.  However, after Superman III’s massive levels of suck hit American audiences, WB dropped Supergirl faster than Fox drops a good tv show.  The film was eventually picked up by Tri Star Pictures and while it was #1 at the box office initially, it was still a bomb.

The story focuses on Kara (Helen Slater) who is a part of a community of Kryptonians who escaped the destruction of Krypton and found a new home on Argo City.  Zaltar (Peter O’ Toole) lets Kara see an object called Omegahedron which powers the city’s life support.  Kara accidentally loses the Omegahedron to Earth where she goes to retrieve it.  On Earth, a witch named Selena (Faye Dunaway) recovers it and uses it to enhance her magic powers.  Her goal is, you guess it, world domination.

There many things to blame for the failure of Supergirl.  First, the movie was originally intended to have a good amount of Superman in it.  Superman was meant to play her mentor and she was to save him when he loses his powers.  Reeves bolted though when he felt the Salkinds screwed his franchise in Superman III by making it too campy (can’t really blame him for that reasoning).  The film also underwent massive cuts.  The theatrical cut was about 100 minutes.  However in subsequent dvd releases it was 120 minutes and even longer.  A 138 minute version was released when footage was found in a London vault with the sticker “Do Not Use”.   That doesn’t count the numerous re-writes director Szwarc (Jaws 2) was forced to do.

Is it any good?  Bet most of you didn’t even know this movie exists. Most Superman fans fail to acknowledge it and even the Nostalgia Critic did not recognize it on his Dumbest Superman moments list.   Now I guess you could made the reasoning he was focusing on just Superman movies, but even a mention would have been nice.  After all, Reeve was supposed to be in this movie.

I caught the theatrical version on tv many many years ago.  If you asked me at that time, I would have placed it around Superman IV on levels of stupid.  I mean, this is probably Peter O’ Toole’s most embarrassing performance.  And that’s f*cking saying something!

Now maybe its because I’m seeing the Director’s Cut, or the fact I am a Superman fanboy, but this is not as bad as I remember it.  There are many things that I can actually admire about it.

Helen Slater is good in the role and Supergirl is written very well.  It is true to the character of a naïve, kind, and brave super heroine we get in the comics.  And the scenes with her trying to be a normal human are kind of charming as well.

The score is completely new and does not recycle the Superman theme.  The theme is new but also very memorable in its own right.

The special effects are quite good; especially the flying scenes.  I almost prefer then to even Superman III.

I can also appreciate the fact they shook things up by using another of Superman’s weaknesses in magic instead of standard Kryptonite.

There are some flaws in this movie.  Peter O’ Toole is still very embarrassing.  Seriously, he must have been on an epic bender during this movie.  By association the set up to the story involving Argo City and the Omegahedron are rather stupid.  Not to mention so very stupid lapses in the scriptwriting.  Take for example a scene where Kara lands on Earth and two white crackers immediately try to rape her.  She is dressed in her Supergirl outfit and is clearly using her powers.  The white crackers simply dismiss this though and say “Heh, this girl has fight in her hyuck hyuck.”  I’ll say!  She’s Supergirl!  You are trying to rape Supergirl.  Are your inbred synapses so slow to fire you can’t figure that out you brain dead hillbillies!?  The lead villain is a little meh.  Could we not get an established villain?  Dunaway also ramps up the camp a bit much at times.

This movie could have been much better.  With a few more re-writes and a good heaping dose of Superman this would have been a great movie.  It is kind of a shame that this rather honest effort at a great superhero movie was tampered with so much.

I’m shocked as hell though to admit that I actually liked the extended version.  This isn’t great, but if you loved the first two Superman movies, I would rather recommend this than the god awful Superman III and IV.  I actually see this as the more logical sequel than the other two. Its not that bad.  Give it a shot if you’re bored.


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