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Supergirl: Is It Awfully Good or Just Awful?

Now that The Flash has hit theaters to reset the DC Universe, Awfully Good Movies is running back in time to watch the debut film for one of The Flash’s breakout characters, Helen Slater in 1984’s SUPERGIRL!

In between the disappointment of Superman III and the catastrophe of Superman IV, original franchise producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided to switch focus from the Man of Steel to his female cousin Kara Zor-El with an in-universe spinoff that’d have a cameo from Christopher Reeve himself to mentor his fellow Kryptonian and star Helen Slater in the young actress’ debut role. But after Reeve turned the film down before filming, and Warner Bros. grew so fed up with the Salkinds that they sold the distribution rights back to them, Supergirl would instead flop so hard at the box office that the Salkinds just gave up on the Superman film rights altogether, and it’s not hard to see why the Woman of Tomorrow failed here for reasons other than superpowered sexism.

From Slater’s flat lead performance that results from her badly written dialogue, to an incomprehensible plot about retrieving a magic power ball back for a visibly drunk Peter O’Toole before a visibly embarrassed Faye Dunaway uses it to magically take over the world, to special effects on Supergirl that look nearly as bad as her effects in The Flash, it’s no less of a disaster than pairing Superman up with Richard Pryor or nuclear powered musclemen. Still, Supergirl does deserve respect for being the first major female superhero in film history, even if the film itself doesn’t earn a single ounce of respect.

And hey, thank God this would be the last time that the names of Superman or Supergirl would ever be associated with a box office disappointment that suffered from the movie having subpar visual effects. Yep… nothing but cinematic quality from then on from DC… not a SINGLE problem!


Have to disagree with a lot of this.

Okay, it's cheesy in places. Peter O'Toole hams it up for all he's worth (whilst still managing to look distinctly bored), Simon Ward has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role with a 'what the hell am I doing here' look on his face, and Faye Dunaway was - for me - miscast (although she seemed to be having fun). Some of the effects don't exactly look great, although I can't hold that against it - the film was made over 30 years ago.

But Helen Slater was pitch-perfect - and gorgeous - as Supergirl (it's a shame she never got to repeat the role), Hart Bochner was spot-on as the himbo/'dude in distress', David Healy was entertaining as the headmaster, and Peter Cooke (always a favourite of mine) was funny. The Phantom Zone sequences were pretty well done too, and I found the flying effects actually more convincing than those in the Christopher Reeve movies.

And I'm still in love with 1984 Helen Slater.


The flying effects were not better than Superman. You can see the wires on her in many sequences


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