Sunday, November 20, 2011

Superman Movie Review: Supergirl

I remember watching Supergirl, released in 1984, as a kid but I don't have very clear memories of the film. So, I recently rewatched the expanded edition with 24 extra minutes of footage. Now, for an expanded edition that's quite a bit of added material! So if I write about a scene that you don't remember, that's probably why.

This film is an odd entry into the Superman franchise. First, it is officially and 100% in-continuity with the other Superman films. But where? In the film we hear on the radio that Superman is on a peacekeeping mission in another galaxy. While that's convenient so the filmmakers don't have to deal with Superman running around that explanation in and of itself raises many questions. Does this mean humans have discovered one or more alien races other than the Kryptonians? Were we are war with them? If not, why does Superman feel he can bring about peace in a conflict? How did Superman and Earth learn of the aliens? All unanswered questions. Supergirl was released between Superman III and IV but there's nothing to indicate that it is before or after either of those films in continuity. There was a planned Supergirl II but poor results at the box office squashed the hopes for a sequel.

Now, on to the movie review! First, the positive:
  • Supergirl is cute and I felt the actress, Helen Slater, did a fine job. The costume was perfect.
  • The character of Supergirl stuck to the honest, honorable and noble roots of Superman.
  • Supergirl sticks strictly with the Superman Continuity. It was a nice touch to have the character and the same actor that played Jimmy Olsen appear in this film (especially since he was sidelined in Superman III!). Supergirl's roommate is Lois Lane's sister (small world!). Concepts from the Superman movies are carried over into this film such as the phantom zone and advanced Kryptonian technology and science. 
  • Supergirl's ignorance of Earth culture was refreshing. Superman arrives on Earth as a baby so he grows up learning about Earth culture. Supergirl is ignorant and you get some of those same fish-out-of-water moments as when General Zod, Ursa, and Non explore Earth for the first time in Superman II. 
  • The use of magic in the film is at first a little odd because all the rest of the Superman films are strickly Sci-Fi. But when one considers that Kryptonians have two weaknesses - magic and Kryptonite, it makes sense.
  • The film attracted Faye Dunaway and Mia Farrow. Since Superman had a big-name father and villain, it makes sense that Supergirl should have a girl-name mother and villain!
  • The way the lead dragon grew around the omegahedron (a powerful energy source) was very cool.
Now, there's plenty of weird and simply bad things in this film. Some of this stuff is simply just sloppy or lazy storytelling.
  • The presence of Argo City, an entire city of Kryptonians, on Earth is never fully explained. Sure, it's in "innerspace," but why didn't it get blown up with the rest of Krypton? It is strongly implied that it was created as a refuge by Zaltar, saving the Kryptonians inside. When Kara breaks a window there is a seeming void outside and when she leaves in her "spaceball" vehicle she seems to be traveling through space only to fly out from beneath a lake on Earth. Huh? At the end of the film she returns, once again flying back into the lake and we clearly see Argo City underwater. I just don't get it.
  • Kara seems to be very aware of her cousin, Clark Kent's, activities on Earth. She knows he works for the Daily Planet, knows his name "Clark Kent, know that he is Superman, and knows that they are cousins. How? Once again, it's never explained. If she's so knowledgeable about Clark's activities on Earth how can she be so ignorant of basic Earth concepts like trees, rocks, or trains?
  • Perhaps Supergirl's costume has some Krytonian technology in it because she can quickly alter it to look like her school uniform. That, I can buy. But what about her hair? In an instant it goes from being long and blonde to being shorter and brown. 
  • While we're on the topic, why does Supergirl bother joining the school at all? For Superman, a secret identity makes sense because he lives on Earth permanently. Kara was simply looking to retrieve the omegahedron and return to Argo City with it. Sitting in class when she could be searching for omegahedron (which her people will die in days without) doesn't make much sense. In fact, in one scene she could chase after the omegahedron but a scolding from a teacher causes her to give up pursuit. Huh? Why does her secret identity hold any value for her? Kara doesn't seem to be in that big of a rush to save her race from extinction.
  • The love interests in this film struck me a little... odd. Linda (Supergirl) and her roommate Lucy Lane are both in high school yet the much older men, Jimmy Olsen and Ethan the gardener, don't see anything wrong with pursuing them romantically. Linda and Lucy are either 16 or 17. Jimmy has had a full time gig as a photographer for year  and the gardener appears to be older - I'd put them both in their early to mid 20's. Statutory rape, anyone? Plus, why don't a think Lois would be thrilled with Jimmy making out with her high school sister?
  • Likewise, the obsessive interest that the Selena the witch takes in Ethan, the lowly gardener is very odd to say the least. Here we have a woman who want to rule the world but she spends all of her time obsessing over an uneducated clod. 
  • Girls running around in their bras and shower scenes just didn't seem to fit with what was otherwise a clean, fun, family film. 
I'm sure there's about another thousand nit-picky things I could mention about this film (such as how it was the dead of night when Supergirl rescues Ethan from the amusement park but daytime when they land on the beach a little bit later). But what would be the point? Supergirl, although fun in a nostalgic way, is not a good movie by anyone's standards. If I HAD to rate it against the other Superman movies, I would still put it higher than Superman III and Superman Returns. Just because Supergirl is cute.

1LR Review: 12 out of 20 - It's a Glancing Hit!

1 comment:

  1. Hey let's face it. It's Helen Slater in a mini-skirt. Do we really care about plot, narrative, subtext? I find myself staring at her "S" all day long. Man of Steel? well, sure is hard.