Canister X Movie Review #73: Supergirl (1984)
Written by David Odell
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Runtime 125 min.
3.5 out of 5
After accidentally losing the Omegahedron, Argo City’s power source, Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) embarks on a journey to go recover it before Argo City perishes. Upon arriving on Earth, she discovers she has superpowers and adopts the identity of Supergirl, which she uses to help others while on her quest to recover the Omegahedron.
Elsewhere, the Omegahedron has fallen into the hands of Selena (Faye Dunaway), a flunky witch who quickly becomes powerful because of it and who sets her sights on Supergirl, ready to eliminate the Girl of Steel the first chance she can get.
Can Supergirl recover the Omegahedron before Argo City goes dark and Selena is victorious?
It’s superheroine versus supervillainness in this ’80s classic of Good vs Evil.
This flick is every bit a part of my childhood as the Superman movies were. At the time, of course, I was too young to understand the story, but now older, it’s not too bad. Sure, it has some flaws and continuity issues, but at its heart it’s the story about someone trying to right a grievous mistake, something that most of us can relate to.
The visuals and hints of Kryptonian mythology put forth quickly link it to the Superman movies—Supergirl identifies herself as Superman’s cousin while in costume, and also as Clark Kent’s cousin when she’s in disguise as Linda Lee; her supersuit is basically the Christopher Reeve costume from the waist up—and it has a cinematic score that carries a similar heroic tone to that of its male counterpart. Likewise, Marc McClure reprises his role as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman movies and appears as Lucy Lane’s boyfriend (Lucy is Lois Lane’s younger sister).
They seem to want to jump right into Kara being Supergirl so don’t give an explanation as to why she leaves Argo City in that bubble ship in one outfit then transforms inside the ship and flies out of the water in her supersuit, but whatever. They do a good job of showing her discovering her powers, the joy of having them, and also the satisfaction of using them for good.
As hopeful and cheery as this flick is at times, it’s also equally dark thanks to Selena being a witch. There is a ton of occult imagery and when you’re watching this stuff as a kid, it creeps you right out. And that funhouse that Supergirl’s “man in distress” has to find his way out of? Shivers, man. But who isn’t afraid of creepy funhouses, right?
The pacing was pretty decent and each obstacle Supergirl must overcome as the movie rolls along keeps getting bigger and bigger until the end when it seems all hope is lost and even the Girl of Steel is helpless.
What was especially cool is during the time of Supergirl’s tenure on Earth, Superman was elsewhere in the galaxy doing his thing, so when the story wraps up, Supergirl asks those who knew of her presence to forget she was there and flies off triumphant back to Argo City. This, of course, kept the two super franchises separate while still linking them. I heard Christopher Reeve was supposed to have a cameo in Supergirl but it didn’t work out, with Reeve citing personal reasons (whatever those might’ve been). Would’ve been amazing had the two teamed up for it. Maybe we’ll finally get to see Supergirl and Superman together in Man of Steel 2 . . .
In the end, Supergirl is an overall enjoyable flick that is from a time before superhero movies got all dark and gritty, the hero was filled with angst and turmoil, and it enjoys itself for what it is: a movie about a girl who can fly.