Film: Supergirl

The 1984 film Supergirl followed Superman III; it was produced largely due to Christopher Reeve's lack of interest in portraying the Man of Steel a fourth time. Series producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind wanted to milk more money out of the franchise, and since they owned the film rights to Supergirl, they appeared to have found a way to continue the franchise despite no longer having its star actor.

After considering many other actresses for the title role, Helen Slater was cast as Kara/Supergirl (marking her film debut), while Faye Dunaway played the movie's primary villain (the witch Selena) and Peter O'Toole portrayed Kara's Kryptonian mentor Zaltar. In an attempt to offer continuity with the Superman films, Marc McClure reprised his role as Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane's sister Lucy (Maureen Teefy) appears as the roommate of Linda Lee (Supergirl's secret identity).

Argo City is a part of Krypton that survived the planet's destruction and thrives in another dimension, but is dependent on the tiny-but-powerful device known as the Omegahedron. Zaltar has been secretly fooling with it and when he hides it with innocent Kara (cousin of a certain Kal-El), her own foolishness causes it to "escape" the city. Everyone will be doomed in a few days without it, so she heads out into our dimension to retrieve it. Following it to Earth, she gains her own superpowers from its yellow sun. Supergirl tracks the Omegahedron to the small town of Midvale and learns it has fallen into the clutches of Selena, who is using its powers in service of her witchcraft to Take Over the World.

The film's running time was slashed by its North American distributor for the American theatrical release — from 125 minutes to 114 minutes — and slashed further to 92 minutes for broadcast networks and syndication. The film was eventually released on DVD with both the 125-minute International Cut and a 138-minute Director's Cut present (the latter basically being the rough cut before any scenes were deleted).

Supergirl contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Amusement Park of Doom: Selena lives in a closed-down amusement park, in the old Haunted House attraction to be precise. Her first face-to-face confrontation with Supergirl has her menace the heroine and Ethan by magically controlling the rides.
  • Anti-Hero: Zaltar took the Omegahedron in the first place, and accepts his banishment to the Phantom Zone as punishment while noting that Argo City's suffering will be quick and painless.
  • Anti-Villain: Bianca doesn't really do anything evil, but association with Selena doesn't do her any favors.
  • Artifact of Doom: Subverted. Selena thinks the Omegahedron is a conduit for the power of shadow, but it's amplifying her existing powers and is also used to power Argo City. Played straight with the Burundi Wand, an artifact of pure evil that amplifies the Omegahedron's powers.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: The Phantom Zone is shown in all its infamy, complete with an endless void, a craggy surface, and all-encompassing darkness. Supergirl is trapped there briefly. Zaltar voluntarily went there. Both try to escape, but he never makes it out.
  • Attempted Rape: Two truckers Kara encounters after her arrival have this on their mind.note 
  • Big Bra to Fill: While often (but not invariably) buxom in the comic books, Slater's Supergirl is modestly endowed.
  • Black Magic: Selena's weapon of choice. According to canon, that and Kryptonite are surefire ways to sideline or kill a Kryptonian.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Supergirl loses her superpowers when Selena banishes her to the Phantom Zone; she gets them back once she escapes.
  • The Bully: Myra, a tough jock who bullies anyone unafraid of her.
  • But Now I Must Go: Supergirl retrieves the Omegahedron and returns home to Argo City at the end of the movie — saving the city, but leaving no obvious Sequel Hook.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Supergirl is ignored by Superman Returns (as are Superman III and IV).
  • Canon Foreigner: Selena, Zaltar, and every other character besides Supergirl, her parents, Jimmy Olsen, and Lucy Lane fall under this trope.
  • Canon Immigrant: The headband Supergirl began wearing in 1984 (and was wearing when she died in Crisis on Infinite Earths) was added at the request of the film's producers, who wanted DC's Supergirl to look like the movie version. DC agreed to the change — and then the producers changed their minds. Screen test images of Helen Slater wearing the headband can be seen here.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Selena plans world domination, openly studies black magic, and hates light.
  • Clark Kenting: Kara disguises herself as "Linda Lee" on Earth. She's less convincing than her cousin but then he has a lifetime at being Clark Kent while she made up "Linda" on the spot.
  • Cold Iron: Supergirl stops Selena at the amusement park by surrounding her with metal posts.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Selena's love potion loses its potency when its ingredients are disturbed, or after one day.
  • Deus Exit Machina: A radio news report mentions Superman's departure from Earth on an intergalactic peacekeeping mission, which explains why he isn't around to handle Selena.
  • Distaff Counterpart: This is noticed In-Universe by Selena's sidekick, Bianca.
    Bianca: You know, I think I recognize the costume.
    • Bianca herself is this to Otis, Lex Luthor's sidekick in the first two films of the main series.
  • Distressed Dude: Selena frequently puts Ethan in danger, forcing Supergirl to save him.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Selena and Bianca are bedecked in gems, spoils of their conquest of Midvale, as they plot their next moves.
  • Evil Counterpart: Nigel to Zaltar. Both are mentor figures, but to the villainess and heroine respectively.
  • Evil Is Petty: Selena torments a girl Nigel is interested in just to hurt him, and to gain followers. She's furious when Linda accidentally makes Ethan fall in love with her and vows to make her as miserable as Supergirl.
  • Evil Redhead: Selena has curly red hair and is definitely evil.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Selena is a female example; her ambition is to become a Sorcerous Overlord.
  • Evil Teacher: Nigel's day job is to teach math at Midvale College.
  • Fatal Flaw: Selena's impatience and short-sightedness is commented on by several characters, and is the main reason she lacked the power to take over the world until finding the Omegahedron.
  • Fireballs: As the depowered Supergirl and Zaltar climb towards the portal that leads out of the Phantom Zone, Selena sends these through her Magic Mirror to stop them.
  • Forgot About Her Powers: At one point in the climax, the floor is swaying around and Supergirl forgets about the flight power she's been using for the entire movie.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Zaltar goes mad during his time in the Phantom Zone, as to him it felt like forever had passed.
  • Hoist By Her Own Petard: Once Supergirl escapes the clutches of the giant demon Selena summons, she takes Nigel's advice to turn the witch's powers against her. Supergirl creates a cyclone that traps Selena and the demon together, and since it now has nothing else to go after, it turns on Selena.
  • Homicide Machines: Selena controls a a bulldozer to capture Ethan when he wanders off.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: While not inept, Selena is unsure of how to use her powers effectively at first. Nigel points out that she wouldn't know how to use magic at all without his help.
  • I Have Your Wife: Selena and Nigel work together to kidnap Ethan so Supergirl will come to them. Selena then kidnaps Lucy and Jimmy in case Supergirl interferes.
  • Impairment Shot: After waking up from the love potion's effects, the camera stumbles around as Ethan makes his way out of the haunted house and onto the streets.
  • Improvised Weapon: Supergirl uses a lamppost charged with lightning to gain an edge against the invisible demon.
  • In-Series Nickname: Before she realizes they're one and the same, Selena coins one nickname each for Linda Lee and Supergirl — "The Wimp" and "Bluebird".
  • Instant Sedation: Selena's love potion causes Ethan to fall asleep instantly. When he wakes up, he's very drowsy.
  • Invisible Monsters: Selena sends an invisible demon to fight Supergirl and reduce the movie's special effects budget, though it's briefly visible at the end of the fight.
  • Karma Houdini: Nigel is a warlock who participates in Ethan's capture, but he walks away scot-free at the end.
  • Large Ham: Faye Dunaway as Selena.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Selena and Bianca live together and constantly bicker.
  • Love at First Sight: Selena's potion makes Ethan fall in love on sight with the first woman he sees.
  • Love Potion: Selena uses this on the handsome young Ethan, but her plan goes awry fast. She's supposed to be the first woman he sees after he drinks it, but he wanders off and she tries to get him back by enchanting some heavy machinery. Havoc ensues, and Supergirl saves the day — but this means that, as Linda, she's the person Ethan sees and falls for. Eventually he's freed from the spell's influence and comes to like the heroine on his own.
  • Magic Mirror: Selena has one. Not only is it useful for spying on others, but it can also serve as a portal to and from the Phantom Zone.
  • Me's a Crowd: During the amusement park fight, Selena creates magical shadows of herself to block Supergirl.
  • Most Common Superpower: This was averted. Helen Slater, whose bra size is reportedly 32A, said the following in an interview about the film: "In the comics, Supergirl is quite, um, buxom... so I hope people won't come to the film expecting that."
  • Mugging the Monster: The two truckers who accost Supergirl soon after her arrival on Earth fall under this trope.
  • Mundane Utility: Selena's first acts of power with the Omegahedron are to start a car and roast a turkey.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Lucy Lane climbs onto the possessed construction vehicle and attempts to stop it, but is knocked out when it swerves.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Given the extreme liberties taken with her cousin's powers, such as telekinesis and "Rebuild-the-Great-Wall-of-China Vision", Supergirl surprisingly averts this, as Kara has all of her powers from the comics with no "extras" pulled out of thin air specifically for the movie.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Zaltar hadn't "borrowed" the Omegahedron, there'd be no movie. Same for Kara toying with things she couldn't understand.
  • No Social Skills: Inconsistently applied with Kara; unlike her cousin, she arrives on Earth as a teenager instead of being raised amongst humans as a young child. She speaks fluent English, but doesn't understand certain customs such as handshakes. She doesn't realize the function of a brassiere, either, putting it on over her clothes.
  • Number Two: Myra has Muffy, who gives her advice and spies for her.
  • Only Sane Man: Bianca and Nigel are critical of Selena and her schemes, though she refuses to listen to them.
  • Phantom Zone: The title character is thrown into the Phantom Zone by her nemesis Selena using the power of the Omegahedron, which strips her of her powers in the process. Zaltar, who came to the Phantom Zone as a self-imposed exile for losing the Omegahedron in the first place, pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to allow her to escape and regain her powers.
  • Portal Pool: Inverted; a lake on Earth turns out to serve as this between Supergirl's dimension and ours.
  • Product Placement: Even by 1984's standards, this movie's blatant about it. One of the biggest action scenes takes place in and around a Popeye's Fried Chicken franchise. Popeyes is even prominent in the background of some of the most memorable stills from the movie of Helen Slater as Supergirl.
  • Purple Prose: When under the influence of the love potion, all of Ethan's dialogue towards Linda is insipidly purple prose declaring his love for her.
  • Rapid Aging: Selena betrays Nigel and makes him old to spite his affections.
  • Reality Ensues: Selena spends so much time being needlessly evil that she's down on all her house payments at the start of the film.
  • The Social Expert: Bianca is good friends with the locals, inviting them to parties at Selena's house. Selena later exploits this to gain followers.
  • The Starscream: Selena betrays Nigel, taking his Burundi Wand for herself and turning him old.
  • Supervillain Lair: After channeling the Omegahedron's powers through the Burundi Wand, a device of "pure evil", one of Selena's first acts is to create this — a mountain crowned with her new, Gothic castle materializes at the edge of Midvale. Soon she conquers the town, puts the authorities under her command, and has the heroine's friends caged up within as she and Bianca plot to extend her reach further and further. Her magic allows her to create traps on the fly to stymie the heroine.
  • Taken for Granite: A scene only in the international cut has Selena turning a protestor into an ice statue... which melts.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Kara messing with the Omegahedron and making a mechanical dragonfly come to life results in the dragonfly crashing through a window. The resulting vacuum causes the Omegahedron to fly out the window, putting Argo City in danger.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Nigel is in love with Selena, but she only uses his affections for her own gain.
  • Up, Up and Away!: This was averted; director Jeannot Szwarc deliberately tried to avoid making the flight scenes similar to those in the Superman film by opting instead for a more ballet-inspired take.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Selena goes drunk with power the more she uses the Omegahedron.
  • Written-In Absence: The producers failed to secure a cameo from Christopher Reeve; during the movie, a radio news report mentions Superman's departure from Earth on an intergalactic peacekeeping mission. Reeve's Superman does appear once in the movie, but only on a poster in Lucy Lane's dorm room.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The Phantom Zone is implied to work like this. Zaltar feels it's been forever inside when only a few days have passed.