- Movie Rating -

Supergirl (1984)

| November 21, 1984

I want to start by noting that on this movie’s poster The Statue of Liberty is holding the torch in the wrong hand.  Moving on.

Supergirl is a very dumb movie made without purpose or meaning.  It isn’t as venal or mean-spirited as Superman III but it rides the same low-flying level of half-baked action and dumbbell comedy.  If I was appalled by the earlier film, this one just left me feeling bored.

It is pretty clear that what Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the producing team behind the Superman series, seem to have misunderstood when they strong-armed Richard Donner out of the project was that he gave the first two movies what they badly needed: A balance between the sublime and the ridiculous.  Superman and Superman II were films made with the realization that this whole enterprise – a nearly indestructible being who can fly and change the direction of the Earth – was patently ridiculous.  But the characters were human enough, real enough and played well enough that we believed it even when it was just clowning around.

Supergirl offers the clowning but forgets the reality.  I give credit to Helen Slater who occupies the title role with the same sense of gravity and wonder that Christopher Reeve had, but she’s in the middle of a crazy box of slapstick and cartoon nonsense.

Supergirl is Kara Zora-El who lives on a tiny outpost of Krypton called Argo City that exists – if I got this right – in a pocket of trans-dimensional space.  A scientist named Zaltar (Peter O’Toole) shows Kara a weird device called the Omegahedron which can power an entire city.  Actually, it looks very much like a cheap toy that you might buy at Six Flags that ends up buried in the back yard by the family dog.

Anyway, Zaltar has stolen this device from the city government and the Omegahedron is flung out into space.  Kara follows it, where else, to Earth.  The device is discovered by a witch named Selena (Faye Dunaway) who wants to use it to rule over the minds of men, or something.  Kara arrives on Earth and assumes the identity of Linda Lee in order to blend in and look for the Omegahedron.  I’m not entirely sure why she needed to fake her way into a girl’s school, but okay.

What has happened up to this point is not equal to the two better Superman movies.  The sets look cheap, the dialogue feels pieced together and the performances feel like something out of a kiddie matinee.  But there is something happening that feels like it is reaching for the spirit of the original, in a cheap, cost-cutting sort of way.  The moment that Fay Dunaway and her sidekicks enter the picture, however, the movie loses any of it’s potential.  It becomes a dumb action comedy with no sense of direction.

That’s really too bad because I felt the movie trying to get back on track, and it largely had to do with Helen Slater.  She has a sweet, infectious charm and kind of an All-American girl vibe about her.  She’s very good in this role.  It’s too bad that the rest of the movie lets her down.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Action