Saturday, January 17, 2015

SUPERGIRL (1984)



America needs heroes.  Sure, terrorism, child trafficking, Ebola, unkempt hooliganism, and general chicanery hang over Americans like a belligerent cloud of tense uncertainty.  Luckily, these fears can be channelled into a movie villain, usually a deadly serious British actor with devious eyebrow control.  A musclebound, spandex-clad, whitebread hero comes along and shoots CGI into his uppity face after 2 1/2 hours of posturing, lackey pummeling, and whatever plot, after which all is right with the world and the audience can leave the theater and head over to Walmart to pick up a garden hose, a pallet of frozen corn dogs, and a pillow for a morbidly obese cat without fear of being wiped out by a foreign plot from a plotting foreigner.  Of course, watching a movie doesn’t make it any less likely that one would be indiscriminately blown up, but fear is the more insidious enemy, eating at the souls of many men instead of exploding a few to bits. 


This, my friends, is the superhero film in my nutty nutshell, and Supergirl could be seen as a subversion of this basic plot dynamic, however accidentally it achieves this.  Superman is the purest embodiment of the desire of the American spirit to witness the decimation of anglo-villainry via CGI and spandex.  Supergirl clads her cousin’s spandex but lacks the heroic force of his computer effects, instead content to partake of girlish endeavors like changing outfits and talking about boys.  It would be easy to decry the lack of a strong and forceful female hero, but after all, she’s a Supergirl and not yet a Superwoman.  There’s the old adage “with great power comes great responsibility”, but she’s still an irresponsible teenager with plenty of the former and little of the latter. 


Well, let’s back up a bit.  On a planet deep in outer space, a drunk Peter O’Toole is wearing what looks to be Star Trek Cosby sweater; that is, if the cast of Star Trek wore Cosby sweaters.  Whether he got so drunk that he just didn’t care whether or not he was wearing a Star Trek Cosby sweater, or indeed if he had to get cosmically sloshed in order to be able to stomach putting on a Star Trek Cosby sweater is a mystery that I fear will remain hidden within the darkest corners of the galaxy for as long as time persists. Anyway, he borrows a magic ball from the “gods”, and it’s basically a hippie version of the ball from Phantasm.  Instead of drilling a hole in some poor bastard’s head, it powers a hippie planet, and I’ll let you the reader decide which is preferable.  Needless to say, it’s not something you would want to, say, drop on the floor or spill beer on, being that it is the life blood of an entire race of people.  Why these gods would let a drunk dude play with it is beyond me, but O’Toole is truly a charming motherfucker that could probably sell a sombrero to the headless horseman.


Mere seconds after whipping out the hippie Phantasm ball, a not yet super Supergirl uses an orange wand to create a dragonfly that rips a hole through her planet and sends the ball hurtling into space. I hate when that happens. I should have mentioned that the planet is basically a bio dome made out of saran wrap.  Either way, Supergirl has a couple of days to retrieve the ball before this balllessness unleashes a space holocaust upon her own people.  I don’t want to tell aliens how to live their lives, but perhaps you might think about child proofing your planet. Holocausts should not be in within easy reach of children. 


This is quite different from the typical superhero dilemma, being that the hero is the colossal threat against humanity (or an alien race that is indistinguishable from humanity), but borne from naivety and not out of some dumbass twist ending where the superhero and the supervillain are actually two sides of the same personality.  It’s basically a setup for a morality tale for kids, sort of like a superhero version of a 70’s after school special where a kid accidentally sets fire to his parent’s house after falling asleep while smoking weed, and as a result has to raise money by staging a musical inspired by Foghat lyrics in order to raise enough money to build a new house before his parents come home from vacation. The lesson in both cases is that you should always be mindful of any consequences that your frivolous actions may reap, and the absence of malice is no excuse.  You’re not going to be lucky enough to be bailed out of setting large domestic fires by unlikely and frankly moronic plot machinations.  Instead, you’ll probably be charged as an adult for involuntary manslaughter. 


Anyway, the ball plops right into Faye Dunaway’s lap, a power hungry witch who lives above her means and guzzles down champagne and caviar despite being behind on her bills.  The hippie Phantasm ball pretty much gives her power to do anything as soon as she gets the hang of it.  In the span of 5 minutes, the ball has gone from a toy to the power source for a planet to a magical device that allows you to cast any spell you want.  It’s sort of like a perpetual deus ex machina in spherical form.  More importantly, a power hungry witch with vague but maybe unlimited powers is a dangerous threat to humanity, and the alien race is at the brink of extinction without the ball, so this is clearly some important plot shit if I’m putting the pieces together correctly.  

Thankfully, Supergirl shows up to save the day.  However, the first two human beings she meets are truck drivers that try to rape her, so she beats them up in as inoffensive a manner as you can beat up two truck driver rapists because kids are watching and whatever the fuck.  It seems like an odd sequence in a film with a naive innocent hero seemingly aimed at young girls, but I think it functions in a similar way to the cliched action movie scene where the hero beats up some rowdy rednecks at a bar in order to show them off as an asskicker.  It’s like every Steven Seagal movie where he walks into a bar and some fat drunk lumberjack makes fun of his ponytail so he snaps his arm and makes his elbow go off in a direction that defies space and time.


Naturally, Supergirl immediately frolics through nature and takes a nap next to a bunny. She then notices that a female boarding school is right next to her nap spot, so she naturally decides to enlist in school, utilizing her special power of clothing changes to go from her Supergirl outfit to a schoolgirl outfit. Again, she is stuck in immature girly mode, frolicking with bunnies and nature and changing outfits instead of taking responsibility for her actions.  She quickly integrates into the schoolgirl milieu despite being an alien, becoming more popular in her first hour of school than I did during my entire run at high school.  She ends up rooming with Lucy Lane, sister of Lois Lane, and one of her teachers is Peter Cook, pseudo-boy toy of Faye Dunaway.  So, through no direct effort whatsoever, she ends up getting an "in" towards the evil villain and also securing an ally that might help her enlist Superman to help at some point, which doesn’t happen though because Superman is “on a peace keeping mission millions of light years away”, so Lucy could have been anybody really.  This might seem like an unbelievable coincidence, but you can look at it as a karmic upturn after almost being double raped the night before. Some days you get raped by truck drivers, and some days, the truck drivers get raped by you.  So to speak. 

Meanwhile, Dunaway is chilling in her crib, an abandoned amusement park blasting Howard Jones presumably because Rob Zombie wasn’t around yet. How one acquires legal residence in an abandoned amusement park is a mystery that I hope to solve exclusively in order to secure residence in an abandoned amusement park and be able to mock those who lack the awesomeness of being able to live in an abandoned amusement park. Among her posse is Peter Cooke, resident stuffypants and fashion fuddy  ruddy.  Here is the film’s best line of dialogue: 

Cook (wearing a ridiculous leather jacket): “I want to make a serious proposal.” 

Dunaway: “In that outfit?” 

Brenda Vaccaro is her other friend, bringing the catty thunder in an anachronistic but no less fun acting style that resembles a veteran tough-as-nails actress in an early 60’s musical whose advice to the young ingenue with boy and stage problems is to have a stiff drink and maybe another and maybe seven.  Because this is a conflict between a catty milf and a naive girl, the movie quickly revolves around a dude, namely Hart Bochner.  Dunaway uses her powers to taint some Schlitz beer (that is, more tainted than it already is) to create a love potion to snag Bochner, but he wanders off, leaving the carnival and wandering through town traffic before locking eyes with Supergirl and falling in love with her instead. Love potions surprisingly gets a pass when roofies get no pass whatsoever.  I think it’s in the name.   If they were called “rape potions”, I doubt most people would find them romantic and cute.  

Anyway, this battle over Hart becomes the focal point of the movie instead of, you know, saving two separate civilizations and whatever the fuck. This might sound stupid and offensive (well, it is kinda stupid), but bear in mind that the naive selfish girl hero would presumably run off to the mall with Bochner and make out with him in his LeBaron in the parking lot and say “like whatever” to being a hero.  However, she instead chooses the grown up choice of ixnay on the space holocaust, taking responsibility for her actions and powers and becoming a woman in the process. Dunaway, on the other hand, is stuck in her girlish selfishness to the end, revealing that being a grown up is not a matter of age, but rather about taking responsibility for your actions and caring for those around you, instead of just catering to your immediate desires.



4 comments:

  1. I hate this movie so much, yet I love this review even more. Talk about irony!

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    Replies
    1. Alanis Morissette would be proud.

      Also, this review was partially inspired by the Feminine Critique review, so really, it's all your fault (or half your fault).

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, I will try not to let things lapse for so long.

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