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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Supergirl (1984)

  • Actors: Faye Dunaway, Helen Slater, Peter O'Toole, Mia Farrow, Brenda Vaccaro
  • Directors: Jeannot Szwarc
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, THX, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rating:
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: August 8, 2000
  • Run Time: 262 minutes

Although Superman was long thought to be the only survivor of his doomed home world of Krypton many Kryptonians were able to survive its explosion and survive in 'inner-space.' Their survival was made possible due to a device known as the Omegahedron, which provides their city with energy to power their devices, and air to breathe, among other things. Argo City has blossomed into a utopian society where its inhabitants have become complacent. Zaltar, the city's founder and resident artist, expresses his desire to leave Argo City for parts unknown; however his plans are not to be. Having 'borrowed' the Omegahedron to bring his tree sculpture to life Zaltar attempts to hide his theft from Allura, Kara's mother, by secretly slipping the Omegahedron to Kara while discussing his plans for leaving inner space. Kara subsequently uses the Omegahedron on her own creation, an insect-like creature, that tears through one of the city's walls.

When the precious Omegahedron is sucked into space all hope seems lost, but Kara is determined to return it before the lights, and lives, of Argo City are extinguished forever. Kara follows the Omegahedron to Earth and, discovering her powers, becomes Supergirl.

Guided by a bracelet whose gem is linked to the Omegahedron, Supergirl follows the signal to Midvale, Illinois and assuming the alter ego of Linda Lee enrolls in an all girl college to provide herself with a cover story for her time on Earth. Meanwhile, the Omegahedron finds its way into the hands of a 'wicked sorceress' named Selena who harnesses its power to amplify her black magic. After experimenting on a chicken with her new found powers, Selena sets her eyes on winning the affections of Ethan, a handsome, if aloof, gardener. Selena's ambitions then reach new heights and she declares her desire to rule the world.

Supergirl struggles to acclimate to Earth culture, as she fights mundane forces in the form of Myra and Muffy, two female bullies at her school; and magical ones in the form of the dark forces Selena repeatedly sends in an attempt to destroy her. Failing in her attempts to destroy Supergirl and claim Ethan as her consort, Selena enlists the help of her erstwhile mentor, Nigel, into helping her fully control the Omegahedron and, upon success, abruptly turns on him in true villainous fashion. Now, having mastered the powers of the Omegahedron, Selena successfully sends Supergirl to the Phantom Zone, where she is powerless, and promptly turns Midvale into a police state. Here, Supergirl is reunited with Zaltar who has been imprisoned for losing the Omegahedron. Zaltar ultimately sacrifices himself in order to lead Supergirl out of the Phantom Zone and back to Earth where she engages Selena in an all out battle of might versus magic for possession of the ultimate power.

Considered a major failure for many years, Supergirl attempted to do what didn't occur until the release of Superman Returns in 2006, which was to revive a dying franchise. Critics panned the film for its camp, bad acting, poor use of actors, and sub par script. However, the popularity of Supergirl has grown over the years into a cult classic on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Harold and Maude, and Reefer Madness to name a few.

Although there are plot holes, there are not as many as have been claimed. One such plot hole which is often brought up is the question of where Supergirl gets her costume upon emerging from the lake following the Omegahedron. This question can be easily answered if you look closely when Kara enters the sphere which transports her to Earth you can clearly see that she sits on a clear package about the size of a throw pillow containing a suit in the familiar yellow, red, and blue. Other plot-holes such as the question regarding how Selena had knowledge of the Phantom Zone aren't so easily answered.

Despite its plot holes and occasional over-acting, Supergirl is not without merit. The 'flying ballet' sequence, as it has been called, captures the beauty and joy of a naïve young girl coming into her own power. The musical score brings an added dimension to the actions occurring in the film. Blink and you will miss Matt Frewer of Max Headroom fame as a trucker looking for a good time. While some have criticized Peter O'toole as lacking any emotional depth in his performance, I see him as a world-weary artist bored with his own existence and hungry for new adventures. Faye Dunaway is at her best as the evil sorceress Selena, although some would argue that Joan Crawford (Dunaway's character in Mommy Dearest) would beat Selena with a wire hanger given half the chance. Brenda Vaccaro as Bianca seems to be for this film what Otis (Ned Beatty) was for Superman The Movie (and it's sequel) comic relief--although her attempts at humor often fall flat and many of her lines are largely un-necessary. Finally, Helen Slater in her movie debut as Supergirl stands her own against the many veteran actors in whose company she finds herself. She certainly looks the part and plays her dual role to perfection.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable, family-oriented film that doesn't require you to think too much. If you love deadly bumper cars, invisible monsters, run-away tractors, flying ballets, ghost trains, world domination, pseudo-magic, demon storms, teenagers dangling in cages, and the sky raining coconuts with pin point accuracy--then this movie is for you and for two hours you will believe... a girl can fly!

Carolina Dean


Maid of Might

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