Film Review: Supergirl (1984)

Oft-ridiculed but shamefully entertaining super-flop, this total shambles rarely makes sense, not even in the confines of Superman universe logic. Still, despite not featuring a scene as outright excellent as Clark Kent Vs. Evil Superman, or as freaky as the bit where Annie Ross turns into a robo-Robert Smith from The Cure, overall it’s actually a far more likeable ride than Superman III or IV. This is mainly due to the neat spin on gender expectations, with nearly all of the substantial characters being female, and even having its soppiest character a guy, and not just any guy – yes, that’s Ellis from Die Hard, not quite yet the obnoxious cokehead and still quite the hunk. Faye Dunaway gets plenty of shtick for her outrageously campy performance but I thought she was rather fun, while Peter O’Toole does what he can with a character called Zaltar and delivers a pleasingly irony-free, bravura turn in the process. Then there’s Helen Slater as Supergirl – I rather liked her earnest, girl-next-door approach – plus she looks great in her costume, even if a mini-skirt is pretty impractical when everyone can see you from below. Budget-wise there are limitations to the spectacle, with some pretty clunky flying sequences, although the opening title sequence looks fantastic, the Phantom Zone is pretty impressive and Jerry Goldsmith’s score apes John Williams to fine effect. Debits come in the form of Peter Cook’s awkward supporting performance, that afore-mentioned nonsensical plot and a general lack of urgency or tension. Oh, and that general, unmistakable whiff of badness. Whether the presence of not one, but two Howard Jones songs on the soundtrack is a good or bad thing is all down to personal preference. To sum it up, this is not a very good film, but not a boring one, I must admit!

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