It’s been a while since I’ve sat through Supergirl. I remember watching it as a kid on TV at Christmas and falling in love with her when I was merely 8 years old.

I remember being quite enchanted with the way the film expanded on things introduced and established in the previous Superman films, yet at the same time being quite disappointed that the Man of Steel never popped in to say hello to his cousin.

I also remember not butting an eyelid to the absurd plot that sees a mcguffin called Omegahedron land on Earth and turn Faye Dunaway into a camp and possessive witch, set on world domination and commandeering the heart of the local school’s gardener.

And if truth be told, a fair blonde girl wearing a skintight leotard with the Super symbol on it was pretty my ideal woman at the time.

Watching Supergirl now, as a grown up is quite different experience.

While I’m still shallow enough to fall in love with Helen Slater’s naive yet oh so hard-as-nails-when-required Kara again, the storyline is not as riveting as I remember and the special effects even less so.

Watching Supergirl take on the invisible electric monster in one of the films set pieces is pretty uninspired and it’s not until she finds herself trapped in the Phantom Zone does the film begin to realise its full potential as a side-sequel to the Superman series.

Speaking of which, prior to the introduction of the Phantom Zone every effort to establish this film within the Superman series feels forced and shoe-horned in to please the fans.

It’s somewhat remarkable that Kara would find herself in the same boarding school as Lois Lane’s little sister, Lucy (who is never really referenced in the Superman films) and that Lucy is also quite keen and probably on more than just talking terms with Jimmy Olsen.

I’m sure the filmmakers had good intentions at heart with these Easter Eggs, but in this instance they just don’t work and serve more as a distraction than a cohesive attempt to pitch the two universes together.

Supergirl in the Phantom Zone

Supergirl in the Phantom Zone

Much like the Superman movies, the Salkinds pulled a masterstroke in casting Supergirl.

Helen Slater encapsulates everything about Kara so well that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the role.

While the supporting cast contains the respected likes of Peter Cook, Mia Farrow and Faye Dunaway they’re sadly wasted.

The light humour is provided by Brenda Vaccaro, but unfortunately most of the comedy falls a little flat in places due to the weak script, littered with dated gags. It’s almost as if the filmmakers wanted a female version of Ned Beatty’s clumsy and clueless Otis from the first Superman films, but actually forgot to write any decent jokes for her.

It’s also a shame the other minor characters are played by actors who are either given little to do and have very little to contribute to the proceedings.

Love interest Ethan (Hart Bochner) is possibly the biggest culprit of this crime and other than looking hunky, doing the gardening at an all girls boarding school and falling victim to a love potion that backfires somewhat, we learn little else about him.

Fortunately Peter O’Toole rescues the dull proceedings playing the erratic and “squirt” addicted Zaltar. An eccentric soul that mentors and encourages Kara to be more creative during her time on Argo and later in the Phantom Zone.

Kara and Zaltar with the Omegahedron

Kara and Zaltar with the Omegahedron

The soundtrack to Supergirl is easily one of the films most redeeming qualities, thanks in part to a score by Jerry Goldsmith that does it’s best to give Kara and the proceedings it’s own identity away from the Man of Steel with the use of some delicate and memorable melodies.

It’s interesting to note that Richard Donner initially had Jerry Goldsmith on his shortlist before settling on John Williams.

The set design also has some moments to be admired.

The floating Kryptonian city of Argo while baring an uncanny resemblance to an IKEA show home in places, has a certain character and charm that sets it apart from the Krypton seen in the Superman movies – theres certainly no crystals on display here.

In contrast to that, the gothic, dark and gritty nature of the Phantom Zone is possibly one of the most stark settings ever featured in a Superman-related film and it’s a shame it is not really explored more.

Looking back at Supergirl, is a bit like looking back at Superman Returns

You can see what they were trying to do, they got the casting right (and in the case of lead, pretty much perfect). But something about it just doesn’t slot into place.

The idea of providing a young female counterpart to Superman was certainly a bold choice and the film does explore these avenues to some success – particularly with Kara’s secret identity of the schoolgirl Linda Lee and the bitchy shenanigans that take place at the boarding school. But by this point the Superman brand had become so tarnished by the likes of the disappointing Superman III and various well documented production troubles, it’s quite possible that all things Kryptonian had reached saturation point.

Like Superman Returns, Box Office takings were considered a disappointment – a downright flop in Supergirl’s case, and as a result any proposed sequels and spin offs were killed off stone dead, leaving us wondering what might have been instead of what was unfortunately left behind.

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.