- Blu-ray (Amazon link)
Disc 1 (Blu-ray): 124-min International Version. Includes Audio Commentary with Director Jeannot Szwarc and Special Project Consultant Scott M. Bosco.
Disc 2 (DVD): 138-min Director’s Cut, U.S. trailer, The Making of Supergirl. See Blu-Ray.com for full details.
- Digital on Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Video, etc.
Teenage Kara has lived all her life in peaceful Argo City, with her doting parents Alura and Zor-El. A small group of Kryptonian survivors has built a society upon an asteroid that was once part of their planet, and which now exists in “Inner Space” following Krypton’s destruction. Kara enjoys spending time with her mentor Zaltar, Argo City’s founder and an artist with a penchant for ignoring the oddly strict rules – like “borrowing” a key power source of Argo City called an Omegahedron. When Kara loses the Omegahedron, dooming the city’s inhabitants to a suddenly impending death, she impulsively climbs into Zaltar’s spaceship and follows the power orb as it breaks through the dimensional barrier into Outer Space.
Kara’s pursuit leads her to Earth, a strange planet where the friendly and not so friendly inhabitants give her frequent cause to flex her new superpowers while attempting to locate Argo City’s missing power source. Her arrival is just in time, for her cousin Superman is on a peacekeeping mission light years away, and there is no one to stop a determined sorceress with plans for world domination. Only the newly minted Supergirl can stop the magic-fueled megalomaniacal Selena and return in time to save the Kryptonian survivors.
After starring in DC comics for 25 years, Supergirl was launched to the big screen in 1984. The movie introduces her origins and tells of her “first great adventure” on Earth. Supergirl is a heartfelt mid-1980’s fantasy-adventure for young audiences [with some caveats: see content warning] with excellent special effects for its era and a terrific score. The story sees Supergirl come to Earth in a quest to save her world and immediately return, in contrast to the comics. This results in a self-encapsulated story which ties up all the loose ends, but leaves open the possibility of a sequel (which never materialized). It’s a bit disappointing that she never meets Kal-El during the film, but Christopher Reeve was not interested in reprising his role so soon after Superman III bombed.
The standalone Supergirl movie offers us a very different view of the Superman mythos and imagines how a teenage girl might react if suddenly granted superpowers. As Kara samples the new-found delights that Earth offers and tests out her new superpowers, she matures and rises to the challenge at hand by facing her own inner fears before defeating her external foes.
While the Superman movies had a winking self-awareness which connected with the adult audience members, Supergirl and her nemesis, Selena, play their parts straight, with all the earnestness of youth. The movie is more fantasy oriented than the Superman movies and has some of the supernatural feel of Supergirl’s early 1970’s stories. It is campy and weird and cheesy, yet fun if you watch it firmly in the context of the 1980s. The score is a wonderfully inspired production by Jerry Goldsmith.
Supergirl never enjoyed the same commercial success as the first two Superman movies, due to the U.S. version being cut down to a 105-minute runtime which eliminated many of the best scenes and rendered the story incomprehensible, and b) being released a year after the unpopular Superman III. The movie was popular overseas, where it was released in July 1984. TriStar Pictures released the film in the United States in November 1984 as a result of the producers’ insistence on a holiday release.
Content warning: there is a night scene after Supergirl lands on Earth where she is approached by two leering truckers in a threatening manner. One flips up her skirt and they make threatening remarks of a sexualized nature. Supergirl quickly sends them flying, but the scene is distressing and makes no sense. According to the director’s audio commentary, this scene is intended to teach Supergirl that she can’t just “go around” openly in her Supergirl costume. Which is just…no. There is also a deleted scene on the Director’s Cut where the drunken dorm monitor makes an totally unnecessary sexist comment about Supergirl’s miniskirt.
This movie has existed in multiple forms which are too extensive to detail here. I recommend the Supergirl (1984) entry on Wikipedia for a good background on the different versions and the Supergirl Comparison: International Version and Director’s Cut entry on Movie-Censorship.com for an exhaustive listing of the differences between the DVD versions (the Blu-ray fixes the cropping issue mentioned on the International Version).
You can view an early draft of the screenplay by David Odell at The Internet Movie Script Database. The script underwent numerous rewrites before filming, and the original screenplay features significant differences in the story and characterizations.
Behind the Scenes Articles
- Director Interview with Jeannot Szwarc
- Producer Interview with Ilya Salkind
- Behind the Making of the SUPERGIRL DVD
- Superman Cinema: Supergirl – background information on the different versions, analysis of the music, behind the scenes, and cinematography [archived from http://supermancinema.net/supergirl/supergirl.htm]