DVD Review: Supergirl
Release Date: November 28, 2006
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Jeannot Szwarc
· Faye Dunaway
· Helen Slater
· Peter O'Toole
· Peter Cook
· Hart Bochner
· Brenda Vacarro
· Marc McClure
· Maureen Teefy
· IMDb: Supergirl
by R.J. Carter
Published: December 4, 2006
It's funny how things come full circle. Over twenty years ago, when I was just a kid working on my high school newspaper, I went to see "Supergirl" at the local theater. It was the first movie review I ever wrote. And, being even more of a comics purist then than I am now, I panned it. Sure, it was cool (and certainly sexy) to see Helen Slater play out the character of Superman's cousin, but for me, as always, it was the story that was always the thing.
Now with all the Superman fans having been rejuvenated with the release of "Superman Returns", the studios are re-releasing every Super-thing they have in their vaults. So it's time to see if perhaps this Alexander and Ilya Salkind production has somehow gotten better with age.
There is reason to think that it could, you know. This particular DVD release is the European theatrical version -- a full ten minutes longer than the North American release.
We begin our story in Argo City. In the comics, Argo City is a city of Krypton that survived the explosion, floating through space on a large chunk of kryptonite. The city is shielded to protect the inhabitants from the radiation, but when the shielding begins to fail, Zor-El and Allura send their daughter Kara to Earth in a rocket, where her cousin Kal-El was sent years earlier.
In this version, Argo City is, indeed, on a meteor, but no one ever commits to it being a remnant of Krypton. Instead, there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo about inner space and dimensions and what have you. Here, Kara is entranced by the work of an artist, Zaltar (Peter O'Toole, "Stardust"), who has "borrowed" the power source of Argo City -- the Omegahedron -- to inspire his artwork. While in Kara's hands, the Omegahedron gives faux life to a dragonfly Kara sculpts, which flies away and punctures a hole in the saran wrap that coats Argo City. The hole is repaired, but without the Omegahedron the city will lose power in four days, and they'll all die. Zaltar has a way of leaving the city and going after it, but as he argues with Zor-El (Simon Ward) and Alura (Mia Farrow, "The Omen") about the issue, a guilt-ridden Kara enters Zaltar's vessel and begins her journey to Earth -- which is where all things kryptonian eventually end up.
The Omegahedron lands with a plop in the picnic lunch being shared by Selena (Faye Dunaway, "The Towering Inferno") and Nigel (Peter Cook, "The Princess Bride"). They're sorcerers of a kind, and Selena is trying to learn from Nigel. But with the Omegahedron in her hands, Selena is suddenly more powerful, and she doesn't need Nigel. She abandons him there and retreats to her home -- an abandoned carnival house of horrors (no sign of the Scooby gang anywhere.) There with her hench-girl, Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro), Selena begins her plotting for world domination.
Kara, meanwhile, erupts from the surface of the lake in full Supergirl attire and begins learning her powers -- like strength, heat vision, and the ability to come out of water completely dry. Wearing a bracelet that homes in on the source of the Omegahedron, she flies off in search of it, only to encounter two truckers with aggressively libidinous designs on her, who learn a lesson in a hurry.
Maid of Might: Supergirl (Helen Slater) is ready to confront
the sorceress, Selena.
Having no luck finding the Omegahedron, Supergirl decides to take on a secret identity. Inspired by a group of girls playing softball, she creates a duplicate of their school uniforms (ostensibly from tree bark) and enrolls in Midvale School (overseen by Principal Danvers, a nod to the Linda Danvers Supergirl ID) as Linda Lee. (I should mention here that Argo City has four days to survive when Kara zooms out, so the whole need for creating a secret identity is completely unfathomable, given that Kara has no intention of staying on Earth.) At the school, she is assigned to dorm with Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy). Yes, she's you-know-who's sister, and just as spunky. She's got a Christopher Reeve Superman poster on her wall, and she's dating Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure, reprising his role from "Superman: The Movie").
Back to Selena: It seems the first step in world conquest is creating a love spell to capture the heart of the hunky groundskeeper, Ethan (Hart Bochner, "Urban Legends: Final Cut"), whose dialogue seems to have come from the cutting room of "Rocky III". Naturally, the love spell goes awry and after a series of disastrous events in downtown Midvale, a drunken Ethan is rescued by Supergirl. When he wakes up, Linda Lee is the first girl he sees. Suddenly he goes from "Rocky" to "Shakespeare in Love". Not bad for an uneducated gardner! But now Selena has a mad on for two people: Supergirl and Linda Lee, not guessing they're both the same person.
By the time everything is over, Supergirl has been cast into the Phantom Zone by Selena, escapes with the help of Zartan (who was imprisoned there for his crime of stealing the Omegahedron), and Selena finds herself unable to control the growing power of the Omegahedron. It's recaptured, Supergirl dives into the water and is flying back to Argo City. The end.
You know, some wines get better with age. Some turn to vinegar. And while "Supergirl" will continue to be of interest to comic fans with completist tendencies, and to movie historians who will be interested in the special effects (which, aside from the unrealistic appearing flying attempts, represented quite a degree of difficulty for the technology of the time), I'm going to have to go with the vinegar on this one. Plot inconsistencies, an unnecessary and forced focus on a teen romance, and a trend more toward camp and comedy than toward action just leaves me with the bitter tang of disappointment.
Special features on this disc include commentary with director Jeannot Szwarc and historian Scott Michael Bosco, as well as the full length theatrical trailer.
Audio can be set to English 5.1 or French, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
Previews on this disc include a conglomeration of Superman features on DVD.