Warner Brothers was seeking to expand the Superman franchise. Bringing on the director of Jaws 2 (Jeannot Szwarc) and the writer of the Dark Crystal and the Masters of the Universe (David Odell) to craft a tale of the Maid of Might.
The movie opens in Argo City which is floating in some kind of alternate dimension populated by Kryptonians stuck inside a crystal city. We are introduced to Kara Zor-El who is friends with the artist Zaltar (Peter O’Toole). He has stolen, pardon, borrowed an Omegahedron. This is a power source that keeps the city alive. It is lost and Kara pursues it. Wouldn’t you know it, the Omegahedron lands in the picnic of of a witch named Selena (Faye Dunaway). I do not mean witch metaphorically. She actually a witch. And she plans to use the Omegahedron to take over the world.
Kara lands on earth in full Supergirl gear. She is in her blue and red outfit. Because all Kryptonians dress like this. There is a bit where she learns to use her powers. This is actually kind of cute sequence, and Helen Slater actually shows a lot of gracefulness in her approach to flying.
Kara discovers a school (Midvale) and sneaks in as a new student. She becomes Linda Lee and instead of glasses, uses brown hair to disguise herself. She is roomed with Lucy Lane. The movie is full of References to the Superman. Lucy is related to Lois. Kara asked about her cousin. News reports mention Superman. The single definitive connection is the arrival of Jimmy Olson (Marc McClure). Jimmy is kind of selfish jerk, telling Kara/Linda not to help a guy in trouble. Superman’s pal saying “don’t help people”.
Both Selena sets her sights on hunky dope Ethan (Hart Bochner). Selena seduces him with a spell planning to make him fall in love. Except he wakes up under the spell Selena cast…but the first woman he sees is Linda Lee.
Supergirl must defeat Selena in the climactic battle, or course. Yhis involves thing like the shortest visit to the Phantom Zone ever and magic fireballs. One thing that stands out here is that the film has no concept of time. When Selena creates a mountain top fortress and sends Supergirl into the Phantom Zone, she soon is driving around town and faces Lucy Lane in the streets, Lucy claims Linda disappeared the day the mountain appeared. But it seems like it was the same day, but based on the comment, it could be days or weeks. Who knows, the movie apparently doesn’t. And then there is a moment in the fight where Supergirl seems to forget she can fly and stumbles around a breaking floor.
The design sense is a pretty straight forward “small town” aesthetic. Except for Selena’s hideout. Selena’s lair is total comic book evil lair. She lives in a run down carnival fun house. Cause that is totally where witches live. The crystal city of Argo is kind of boring, but then so was Krypton as imagined in the Reeve Superman films. And part of the design includes rotating lights from a football stadium.
The positives? Supergirl is smart and resourceful. Yeah, they play her as naive, but this is pretty understandable. When she is doing her heroics, she is quite clever. Lucy Lane is quite heroic and willing to risk her life to help people.
The visual effects are decent enough for it’s time and focus primarily on heat vision and flight. Instances where she throws punches, the punchee is painfully obviously being pulled by wires. And went a monster is conjured by Selena, it’s damage is clearly happening to miniatures. Supergirl fighting an invisible monster is also pretty unexciting. We only get a glimpse of the creature as it is defeated and blinks out of existence.
The whole subplot with Ethan being in love with Linda Lee is absolutely creepy, considering Linda is an underage school girl. There is a scene where Supergirl flies Ethan through the air with him in a bumper car that feels like it is meant to recall the Superman and Lois flight from Superman the Movie.
While Slater plays the innocent and noble hero pretty well, but a lot of the adults seem to be going through the motions, the except being Brenda Vaccaro as Selena’s right hand woman Bianca. She seems to be having a lot of fun in her role. And honestly, the sleepwalking through the role actually kind of favors O’Toole’s performance as Zaltar. Jerry Goldsmith’s score mimics John Williams, but is different enough to avoid plagiarism…yet this ends up making this feel like a lesser imitation, rather than a fresh addition to the franchise.The story is just not interesting and the film has long stretches that are very boring. The film never spawned the franchise I suspect the filmmakers hoped it would, and it is pretty obvious why, in spite of a star-studded cast, the film just never comes together in an entertaining way.