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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/9/00

Limited Edition - 1984 (2000) - Anchor Bay

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

THX-certifiedEnhanced for 16x9 TVs

Supergirl: Limited Edition Film Ratings (International/Director's Cut): C+/C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B+/B

Specs and Features

Disc One: International Version
124 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 10 minutes of extra footage (not seen in theaters), commentary with director Jeannot Szwarc and special project consultant Scott Michael Bosco, The Making of Supergirl featurette, U.S. and foreign trailers, TV spots, original storyboards, still & poster gallery, talent bios, THX Opti-mode audio and video test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Director's Cut
138 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, single-layered, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"Adventure runs in the family!"

Comic books are getting made into movies all over the place these days, and it's nothing new. But if ever there was a comic book movie that just didn't need to be made, Supergirl was it. Scratch that. This film deserved to be made, because it could have been a fun little teenage romp. What actually ended up in theaters is just atrocious, and the box office bears this out. If ever there was a flop of a comic book movie, this was it.

The story begins in Argo City, home to Supergirl. When she accidentally sends the city's power source (a little glowing ball) called the Omegahedron flying out into... well... somewhere other than the city, she jumps in a little ball and jets off to Earth to find it. As she emerges in our world, she's instantly costumed in the same red and blue as her cousin, Superman. We never see him, though you'd think we would. After besting a couple of truckers who might have otherwise had a little too much fun with the innocent Supergirl, she takes up in a female boarding school. There she meets Lois Lane's little sister, Lucy, and gets embroiled in the most ludicrous love triangle I've ever seen on film.

To say this film has problems would be an understatement, and I'd just as soon gloss over them, but I'm a dutiful reviewer. I must trudge on. The film has horrid timing, and thus drags on and on forever. It dragged at the original U.S. running time of 114 minutes. The international version has an extra ten minutes, and it doesn't help. The Director's Cut edits another fourteen minutes in on top of all that, making it an excruciating almost two and one-half hours!

Another black mark against the film is the effects, which haven't held up at all over time. If you listen to the commentary, you get something of an appreciation for the way they had to do these within the technology of the time, but the truth still remains. These effects are shoddy.

Worse, for Supergirl, than the pacing and the weak effects is the way in which the film is approached. Instead of grounding the story in a villainous dramatic build-up, the director (admittedly) let the actors go for an over-the-top camp approach. This may be the way comic books play out (although I'd argue that it isn't always the case), but in live action film, this just comes off as endlessly trite and silly.

Ignore the quality of the effects and compare Supergirl to the recent X-Men release. Whereas Jeannot Szwarc made Supergirl as campy and comic book-ish as possible, playing it way over-the-top, Bryan Singer decided that he wanted X-Men to be as grounded as a comic book adaptation could be. He's said as much in interviews, and it shows in the film. Like it or not, the X-Men film overcomes one of the major barriers to comic-to-film adaptations, namely not being too comic-ish.

But enough about the film. I want to say that the video on this disc is the best presentation it's ever had, and that would be true. However, I'm beginning to hate that statement, as these days, it's cliché as all hell. Of course, it's the best presentation ever - it's DVD! While I'll say this film has never looked better, I will also say that it could definitely have looked better. There is some light grain that combines with some occasional artifacting to muddy the image a bit. Overall it isn't terribly distracting, but it can get to you. One scene in particular was obviously reconstructed from low-quality material. When Supergirl launches into the air to crash through a water tower, the sky just lights up with source defects and massive grain. The video is good, but lackluster, on both versions. At least it's anamorphic.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio fares better, but the cheesy sound effects contribute to a mediocre experience. That said, it's a solid track and the score, which is a major element of this film, comes through loud and clear. You really feel it carry you up with Supergirl as she soars through the sky. In either version, you have a good piece of sound. A 2.0 track is also provided.

The extras are really where this disc becomes better than the film it presents. This limited edition, two-disc set, besides having two versions of the film, comes equipped with a very informative audio commentary. It's hard to appreciate this film, but director Szwarc talks it up and really details some of the difficulties with the special effects. Before everything was done in computers, making some of this stuff work proved a real challenge. A series of U.S. and foreign trailers and some TV spots are also available, as well as a storyboard and stills gallery. A rather lengthy and slightly insightful "making of" featurette rounds out the offerings. Something that isn't listed as an extra (but is worth noting) is the THX OptiMode feature, which allows you to calibrate your video and audio equipment before viewing. It's a nice touch for the home theater fanatics among us.

Overall, Supergirl isn't something I can recommend, unless you already love the film or just really jones after Helen Slater. This limited edition, 2-disc set makes it almost worth watching though, with enough extras to please fans. You should also know that the DVD is also available as a single-disc edition, with only the International Version included. So there you go superfans. Pick your poison wisely.

Brad Pilcher

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