Supergirl (Film, 1984)
Don’t you just hate it when you’re kissing a guy, and he disappears, reappears chained to another woman’s bed, then she uses him to lure you into a trap, brainwashes him and makes out with him in front of you, then sends you to the Phantom Zone? Seriously, every time.
So… Supergirl. I decided to watch it because it was the only female superhero movie I hadn’t yet seen. It’s… well, it’s bad. Really bad. Some of the “highlights”:
*An attempted rape scene where they assailants kept trying even though she demonstrated she has the same powers as Superman. (And yes, this happens in the same universe as the Superman movies. They even made sure to explain Supes’ absence.)
*The antagonist is a witch. No, really.
*In a less common (but no more interesting) reversal, the witch has the MacGuffin and Supergirl is looking for it. (Oh, yeah, and the witch demonstrated the unspeakable power of the MacGuffin by cooking a CHICKEN! Without an oven!)
Don’t look at me like that. I’m not making this up. This movie is really, really bad. But what’s really frustrating is, this is the kind of effort studios give female superheroes, and then they throw up their hands and say that female superheroes don’t sell, and it’s not their fault!
Really quick, this seems like a good time to talk about the sad history of studios and female superhero films. There’s a few debateable ones like The Powerpuff Girls movie, as well as two films based on Dark Horse Comics heroes, Barb Wire and Tank Girl. Although both of these are often cited as examples of superhero films and both are based on comic book characters, I don’t really see them as superhero films and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So, that leaves us with four films. Supergirl, released in 1984, is easily chronologically the first, and we’ve already discussed how well that worked out. We wouldn’t see another until 2004’s famously bad Halle Berry Catwoman, which is just shockingly bad considering how easy it seems like it would be to make a good Catwoman movie. This was followed in 2005 by Elektra, which is honestly pretty overratedly bad. I mean, yeah, it’s a spinoff of the unpopular/bad Ben Affleck Daredevil, which makes it kind of strange that it was made in the first place. But, really, Elektra is just kind of bland and boring. Out of the existing studio adaptations of a mainstream (Marvel or DC) superheroine… it’s actually the best, which is obviously pretty sad when the best thing I can say about it is, “It’s not terrible, it’s just boring.”
And… that’s it. The only other headlining lady superhero is 2009’s DC animated Wonder Woman film. And that brings a whole lot of its own issues to the table. Like, the fact that Wonder Woman, one of the three most recognizable DC characters, still doesn’t have a live-action film. And that, despite Wonder Woman being the fifth highest grossing DC Animated Universe Original Movie, DC animated has recently famously jumped aboard the “female titles don’t sell” train. Which is just damn infuriating, because as I hope this overview has convincingly shown, no one has really tried.