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Film: Super Girl

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).

The film's running time was slashed by its North American distributor for the American theatrical release — from 125 minutes to 105 minutes — and slashed further (to 92 minutes) for broadcast networks and syndication. Scenes cut from the film include a "flying ballet" in which Kara discovers her powers after arriving on Earth. The film was eventually released on DVD with both the 125-minute International Cut and a 138-minute Director's Cut present.

Oh, yes, almost forgot one thing: the plot. 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 (of course!).


Supergirl contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All-Star Cast: Not to the extent of Superman and its sequels, but besides Dunaway and O'Toole, there's Peter Cook (as Selena's mentor), Mia Farrow (Kara's mother), and Brenda Vaccaro (Selena's sidekick), all of whom have reputations comparable to the parent franchise's players.
  • 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.
  • 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 tried to escape; he never made 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 (even after a bit of help from the costuming department) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dawson Casting: The casting of Kara isn't too bad by the usual standards of this trope; Helen Slater was 20 at the time, playing a high school age girl. But Lucy Lane? Actress Maureen Teefy was 31 at the time the movie was made! And, well... let's hope Jimmy Olsen (played by the 27 year old Marc McClure) is an example, as the alternative interpretation is more than a little creepy.
  • 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 Serena.
  • Distaff Counterpart: This is noticed In-Universe by Selena's sidekick, Bianca:
    Bianca: You know, I think I recognize the costume.
    • Bianca herself can be seen as this to Otis, Lex Luthor's sidekick in the first two films of the main series.
  • 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 Redhead: Selena.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Selena is a female example; her ambition is to become a Sorcerous Overlord.
  • 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.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Ellis is in love with Linda!
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Keen viewers will recognize Bianca as the voice of Bunny Bravo.
  • Hoist By Her Own Petard: Once Supergirl literally escapes the clutches of the giant demon Serena summons, she takes Nigel's advice to turn the witch's powers against her. Supergirl creates a cyclone that traps Serena and the demon together, and since it now has nothing else to go after...
  • 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".
  • Invisible Monsters: Selena sends an invisible demon to fight the superpowered Supergirl (and reduce the movie's special effects budget, though it's briefly visible at the end of the fight and foreshadows the demon she summons in the climactic battle).
  • Large Ham: Faye Dunaway
  • 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!
  • Most Common Superpower: This was definitely 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.
  • 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 — though considering her modest chest size and her mother being played by Mia Farrow, this may be justified. Perhaps Krypton is a Planet of Hats where the Hat is Pettanko sized?
    • Most people assume from that scene where Kara puts one of Lucy Lane's discarded bra on over her school uniform that she is doing so because she doesn't know what it is. But its equally plausible that she is simply trying it on to see whether it fits and then getting embarrassed when Lucy finds her trying to pad it out cause its too big. By this point she has been sharing a room with Lucy for a few days getting dressed and undressed in front of each other and even taking communal showers with the rest of the class. Kara is presented throughout the movie as a curious girl unafraid to ask questions. If she really didnt know what a bra was she would have asked Lucy before now and even if she didnt Lucy, and the rest of the class, would have certainly noticed that Kara wasnt wearing one.
  • 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 our mundane one.
  • 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 Popeyes 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. (This does not lead to a teamup of the Maid of Steel and a certain sailor man, thoughnote .
  • Supervillain Lair: After channeling the Omegahedron's powers through the Burundiwand, 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.
  • 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 "feminine" ballet-inspired take.
  • 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.
Super FuzzSuperheroSuperman
Superman IIIFilms of the 1980sSuperman IV: The Quest for Peace

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