Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 13: Supergirl

Supergirl first appeared in comics in 1959. For years she was a popular and iconic character. In 1984, she got her own movie. One year later, in 1985, DC Comics killed her. Having just seen said movie, we suspect the timing wasn't entirely coincidental.

That Supergirl is a dull, stupid, poorly made movie is hardly surprising. After all, the basis of this experiment requires us to track down the worst of the worst and examine them. And Supergirl is brimming with many of the same flaws we've seen a dozen times: bad script, bad directing, and bad acting, to name a few.

But the long list of things Supergirl does wrong is fundamentally less interesting that the shorter list of things the movie does right. The character is, for the most part, a decent adaptation of her comic origin, and - unlike the Superman movies - she actually faces off against a few giant monsters reminiscent of the type that plagued her and her cousin back in the golden age. The monsters were quite a bit cooler than we would have expected, given every other aspect of the movie. One, a giant, invisible beast, involved some outright impressive model work, and the other, a more traditional demon, had a fantastic design.
Never mind that the fights themselves were pitifully inadequate.

In addition, while Superman himself fails to appear in person (apparently due to scheduling conflicts), the movie does a good job of maintaining the presence of his legacy. From posters of The Man of Steel to supporting roles for Lois's cousin and even Jimmy Olsen, this feels solidly in continuity with the Reeve movies.

Finally, the movie actually bothers to explore the Phantom Zone, even if the portrayal offered is wanting.
Before we give the impression that all of this makes up for the film's flaws, however, we assure you this was as bad - if not worse - than either Superman III or IV.

There are dozens of problems with this movie, but the worst is pacing. The film spends an absurd amount of time on Supergirl's secret identity, friends, and her would-be boyfriend. None of it is remotely interesting.

Adding insult to injury, none of it makes sense, either. The premise of the movie is that the power source of Argo City (which survived the destruction of Krypton somehow) is lost. Without this, her family and neighbors will die in a matter of days, so Supergirl runs off to Earth to get it back. She brings a bracelet with her which functions as a homing device.

Remember, she has mere days to locate the device or everyone she cares about will perish.

So she enrolls in school, plays field hockey, and hangs out with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane's niece. At one point, she allows a lead towards the energy source to get away rather than endangering her completely superfluous secret identity.

But that's all par for the course, because absolutely nothing in this movie makes sense. The most telling scene may be one of the first. Upon arriving to Earth, Supergirl sets out in search of the missing McGuffin. She winds up talking to a pair of lecherous truckers, clearly intent on assaulting (and likely raping) her.

Let's set aside the fact the movie plays this for comedy.

She's wearing a suit like Superman's, and she identifies herself as his cousin. Her attackers don't believe her - fair enough: why would they? They make their intentions clear, and she promptly lifts one of them into the air by his chin before using her Superbreath to blow him through the wall of a construction site.
The other trucker then draws a knife and says, "You shouldn't have done that," because evidently he's the second stupidest person to exist in any of the myriad parallel Earths. We say second because someone on Earth Prime had to write that scene.

The entire movie plays out like this. If the movie had been less boring, some of these sequences might have qualified for an exemption under the "so bad it's good" clause of film quality. But, as it was, there was little redemption.

It's a bad movie - a very bad one, in fact - with a few scenes and concepts showing real potential. But, when all was said and done, the things the movie did competently may have made it worse: there was a clear blueprint stamped across the screen for how Supergirl could have been a worthwhile movie - even a great one. Knowing that makes the end result all the more painful to behold. It's like they were taunting us.

No comments: