Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Cast: Helen Slater (Kara/Linda Lee/Supergirl), Faye Dunaway (Selena), Peter O’Toole (Zaltar), Peter Cook (Nigel), Mia Farrow (Alura)
With Superman at the height of his movie popularity, it’s not surprising wheeler-dealer producers the Salkinds tried to open the bank accounts of the whole Super-family. High on the success of the first three Superman films, they piled mountains of cash into this spin-off.
A whole town was built at Pinewood (where much of the film was shot), and big name thesps Peter Cook, Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway were brought in to give the film some glitz, glamour and gravitas. Sadly, it didn’t pay off. Though Supergirl is by no means a bad film, it’s by no means a good one either, and failed to strike a chord with cinema-going audiences.
The character of Supergirl herself, Kara (Helen Slater) is hamstrung by the need for lengthy back-story which, though it follows the comics closely, doesn’t engage the viewers. Even though her personal tale was unknown, the concept of Kryptonian superfolk was already well-established, so a strong subplot was needed. For this, the writers came up with a rather bizarre idea: a witch finds the Omegahedron, the lost power source Kara is searching for, on Earth… and it’s the only thing keeping the last Kryptonians from extinction. Therefore, it’s up to Supergirl to get it back. Kara is eventually forced into conflict with the witchy Selena and her mini-coven, but the build-up to this showdown is overlong.
While we wait, the perfectly serviceable story of Kara on Earth is overwhelmed by the camp japery of Cook, et al. These two story strands work okay on their own, but clash alarmingly and offensively with one another. The introductory sequences involving Peter O’Toole, doddering about his Kryptonian outpost with his patented Twinkly-Eyed Smile™, is even more at odds with the feel of the film, and Kryptonian interior design now has more of an MDF than a crystal theme.
The result is a confused affair. What is it, essentially? Battle Beyond The Stars? Bewitched? Or even Superman : The Movie? The producers don’t seem to know. In the end, Supergirl is a witty and often amusing film that fails to hang together. If all that ambition and money had been put into a more appropriate story then who knows what celluloid marvel we might have seen? At least we were spared Superpup : The Movie.