Supergirl (1984)

Long before the driving need to create cinematic universes Alexander and Ilya Salkind tried to do just that with the Superman series.  With no new movie featuring their main character on the horizon they decided to bring on another Kryptonian, Kara Zor-El, in hopes of starting a parallel series.  The hopes were also that Christopher Reeve and other actors from the main features would pop in every now and then. 

Reality quickly struck.  The Salkinds had used up every bit of good grace they had with the firing of Richard Donner after Superman and, to make things worse, Superman III was a critical and fan flop even if it did make money.  I'm sure with the way Margot Kidder was treated they didn't even bother asking her to make a cameo in this film.  They did ask Reeve and he was able to find other things to do, leaving the only person they could get to come back for this one Mark McClure, reprising his role as Jimmy Olsen.  A creepy Jimmy Olsen at that, as some questions about how old the characters are supposed to be linger in the back of my mind.

Kara (Helen Slater) is living in Argo City, an interdimensional refuge created by Zaltar (Peter O'Toole), whom Kara is friends with.  Zaltar has snuck a device called the Omegahedron out of storage to do some artwork and, when he gives it to Kara to hide, she instead uses it to create an insect that breeches Argo's walls.  The Omegahedron is sucked out and Kara, hoping to save Argo, goes after it and up to Earth.  

The Omegahedron falls into the hands of Selena (Faye Dunaway), a witch with dreams of world denomination being helped along by her paramour Nigel (Peter Cook) and roommate Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro).  Now possessing real power she puts her plans in motion while Kara gets used to her new abilities and tries to fit in with humanity, taking on the identity of Linda Lee and rooming with Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), Lois's younger sister.  She soon finds out that Selena is in possession of the Omegahedron, but the plans for domination are already in motion and it may be too late to stop her. 

Despite Kal-El being sent to Earth in secret Kara seems to know everything about her cousin, including his secret identity as Clark Kent.  She seems to know all about Lois Lane as well, and none of this knowledge is ever explained.  This goes the same for Selena's sudden knowledge of the existence of the Phantom Zone, which she uses in an effort to rid herself of Supergirl.  I was not pleased when I saw how long the movie was, but I noticed it was cut by 20 minutes for U.S. release.  The version available now is the one released internationally, but even with those additional 20 minutes nothing is added that makes the proceedings make any more sense.  I know there is a director's cut with another 20 minutes of material, but can't see how that would make any difference to the jumbled plot. 

Although we have a credited writer in David Odell the whole thing feels like it was made up on the fly.  Flying being the main thing as effects were evolving and a good part of the movie is Kara flying around with little bits of plot built around her journeys.  The rest of the effects are terrible, with Argo City looking worse than Krypton did in the first film and appearing to be protected by the same plastic wrap someone puts on their car windows until repairs can be done.  

Selena is just such a strange villain that she almost works, with Faye Dunaway chewing the scenery.  Brenda Vaccaro and Peter Cook do much the same while Mia Farrow, though billed high in the credits, briefly appears as Kara's mother.  Peter O'Toole did have a more significant role than I expected since I figured he would have done one of his usual walk-ons and stay just long enough to get his paycheck, but Zaltar does have some things to do.  Too bad he's not useful, immediately sending himself to the Phantom Zone instead of putting any effort into saving Argo or at least doing the brave thing and dying with them. 

Helen Slater is not terrible as Supergirl, but she is forgettable.  That's not her fault as the role is not well written and it is obvious no one had any idea other than to write her as a cute little lady in a short skirt.  Her age, and Lucy Lane's, are not mentioned, which does seem weird when Jimmy Olsen shows up as Lucy's beau when she could be 16 or 17 for all we know and Olsen is at least in his early 20s.  Same with Ethan (Hart Bochner), a himbo that Selena and Kara compete for affection in an attempt to add some supposed humor.  He seems to be older than Olsen, and Kara at least while in Argo is still young enough to get a tongue-lashing from her parents for being out without permission.  That doesn't scream 18 to me.  Throw in a PG version of the '80s girls' locker room scene and one starts to wonder who this was made for.

Regardless, the movie flopped, making even less than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which would show up a couple years later.  Warner Bros. seemed to have known that ahead of time and decided not to distribute Supergirl, dumping it on Tri-Star and letting them deal with it.  Since then they have reacquired the movie just to have all the DC properties though they seem to still be making an effort to hide it.  If this was meant to be a "liberated" take on Supergirl then it fails by making most of the women sex objects or psychotic, and if it was just meant to provide some light entertainment for male comic book readers it failed there as well.  The character didn't appear again for decades, and when she did it was in a lackluster television show followed by a cameo in The Flash, one of the most maligned DCEU films.  There may be something to do with the character but, even after all this time, no one has come up with anything better than Superman in a dress, a literal interpretation of which would be more interesting. 

Supergirl (1984)
Time: 124 minutes
Starring: Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway, Peter Cook, Brenda Vaccaro, Peter O'Toole, Hart Bochner
Director: Jeannot Szwarc



  1. I remember not thinking that was great even when I was a kid in the 80s. Haven't seen it in a while though. At this point DC should probably take everything past Superman II and lock it in the vault with Batgirl and Coyote vs Acme.

    I am curious what they're going to do with Tom King's "Woman of Tomorrow." That doesn't really seem like a franchise starter to me, more of a one-off kind of movie, but we'll have to see.


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