Not Without Merit
"Supergirl" has pretty much disappeared from the consciousness of film-goers, along with the last couple of Superman films -- and not without reason. Overall, "Supergirl" is not a very good motion picture. But, it does have a few merit-worthy features.
Many of the same names connected with the Superman films were involved with the production of "Supergirl." For whatever reason, the filmmakers decided to go high camp, and for anyone over 12 years old, well, it just doesn't work out too well.
The film departs from the traditional DC Comics origin of Supergirl (played in the film by Helen Slater). She and the entire city of Kandor are trapped in what is essentially another dimension. While on Kandor, we are exposed to Mia Farrow (Alura) (who plays Kara's mother) and Peter O'Toole who portrays an eccentric artist/scientist with definite plans for visiting our solar system. (Yes, why ours in particular?)
Somehow, everyone knows that Kal El (Superman, Kara's cousin) is residing on Earth. Assuming the city of Kandor slipped into this alternate dimension prior to the destruction of Krypton, how would they possess such specific knowledge about the escape of one, tiny infant? Jor-El (Superman's father) kept this escape route for Kal-El a closely guarded secret. Naturally, (once Kara gets to Earth) we learn Superman happens to be on a mission several galaxies away, so we never see him in the pic.
The parts of Mia Farrow and Peter O'Toole (Zaltar) (who appears again toward the end of the film) are small -- too small to show off any acting ability.
For reasons I cannot fathom, Kara uses O'Toole's getaway (ship?) and is immediately launched toward Earth. When she arrives she is in full Supergirl regalia -- with no explanation how or why the clothing was changed. She spends some time discovering and exercising her new superpowers.
For unexplained reasons Kara decides to adopt a secret identity, calling herself Linda Lee and joining a private girls' school. Here, she meets the sister of Lois Lane (Lucy Lane played by Maureen Teefy). The two become roommates and pals.
Working at the school is Peter Cook (Nigel) who happens to have a secret involvement in black magic. His would-be paramour is Faye Dunaway (Selena) who is a witch and has ambitions about ruling the world. (I told you this was campy.) Dunaway's accomplice is Brenda Vaccaro (Bianca) who delivers a few good one-liners.
On Kara's arrival to Earth a powerful orb she has confiscated from O'Toole inexplicably drops out of her vehicle and directly into the grasp of Dunaway. The orb gives her abilities not even she might have imagined, and she is ready, willing and able to use the thing even without understanding what it is, where it came from, or its potential.
Dunaway realizes that her path to world domination involves getting everyone on the planet to love her. She discovers she has this ability inadvertently when she picks up strong vibes from a humble gardener played by Hart Bochner (Ethan). Dunaway's spell to drive him to her abode magically activates a bulldozer that plows through the small town thus rousing Linda Lee to don her Supergirl form and rescue Bochner. The spell cast by Dunaway has the caveat that whomever Bochner first lays eyes on will cause him to fall in love, and, of course, this turns out to be Linda Lee, not Dunaway.
Bochner is more of an obstacle than anything, although Kara is enthralled with his affection. Her main objective is to relocate the orb, but is sidetracked by having to rescue Bochner (a kind of male version of a female in distress).
By looking into her magic mirror, Dunaway can see that Linda Lee has attracted "her man;" therefore, she conjures up some semi-invisible electrical monster to destroy her. Not knowing that Linda Lee and Supergirl are the same, Dunaway is flummoxed when Supergirl defeats the monster hardly with any effort. Somewhat at her wits end, Dunaway turns to Cook who has a powerful, magic totem to add to Dunway's objectives.
I won't go into the pulse-pounding climax of the film's conclusion. The tempo of stupefying silliness continues straight through to a predictable conclusion.
The highlight of the film is Helen Slater. Casting her as Supergirl was a perfect choice. She embodies exactly what I might expect from such a character -- a combination of super good-looks, naïve personality, and a natural form of honesty. The filmmakers also chose to have her fly in a different way than Superman, and this looked very convincing. She flies with her arms outstretched, more like that of a bird, and this adds a uniquely feminine, graceful detail that adds an uncanny realism to a film that's practically devoid of it. Helen Slater's depiction of Supergirl is so likable, so charming that one is able to overlook a multitude of "sins."
The rest of the stars are so locked into such over-the-top campiness that there was really no need to hire talent like Dunaway, Cook or O'Toole. The studio could have saved money by using second stringers and applying the savings to enhance the special effects department, which appeared to be working on a shoestring budget.
As stated at the top, the film is disappointing if you've never seen it, but I still feel it's worth a watch (if you can overlook the schlock and goofiness) just to watch Slater in the iconic role of Supergirl. This may also be a good rental choice for kids in the 10-12 bracket (particularly for girls).
Now, with the endless pantheon of superheroes "gracing" our screens, we will be treated with a new augmentation of Supergirl for the TV viewing audience. Everything is speculation at the point of my writing. No one knows whether the series will be a success or a bomb. At the time of my writing, all we have is a photo of the actress who will be filling Supergirl's boots. I wish her a lot of luck because the character has a really complicated history in the comics and she will have to prove herself worthy on so many different levels.