The most notable thing about the early Superman movies was their amazing score. Everyone can hum John Williams' Superman theme song, and the score is one of the main elements that ensures Superman would remain exhilarating and epic for decades to come. Supergirl's main theme was written by Jerry Goldsmith and frankly it is amazing. Large, epic, hummable scares seem to have vanished in recent years, and Supergirl reminds us of how good they can be.
Supergirl's visual effects contain the same angular crystalline appeal as the original Superman, but adds a twisted, asymmetrical edge. This is a world of magic and mutation, and the visual effects reflect that. There is something near surreal about some of the visual conceits in this movie, which makes them not only great to look at, but unique in the movie firmament. What's more, the final dragon fight is awesome to behold. I really miss practical effects sometimes, don't you?
Faye Dunaway is easily the best part of Supergirl. She plays Selena, a fortune teller and would-be witch who finds a magical widget, and proceeds to transform into a high-octane version of Margo Channing from All About Eve. She cackles, gasps, smirks, gnashes, and flounces like a poodle on speed. Villains should rightfully always be colorful and expressive, and you can't get too much more colorful and expressive than Faye effing Dunaway. This is a woman who is willing to destroy the world, just so she can essentially have a harem of hot guys. You go, girl.
In addition to Dunaway, we have a great heap of fun supporting characters as well. In addition to a Mia Farrow cameo, we have the sassy Brenda Vaccaro as Selena's perhaps-Sapphic best friend. Maureen Teefy is equally spirited as Lana Lane, Supergirl's best friend. Peter Cook can't help but be appealingly wry and hilariously sarcastic as Dunaway's would be boyfriend. And who could forget the tired-yet-professional antics of Peter O'Toole, a classy actor who seems a little baffled by the movie around him.
Supergirl is about women who want power, women with power, women fighting over the fate of the universe, and the bland men who are essentially damsels in distress. Most male-centric superhero movies (that is to say almost all of them) are about courage and proving your machismo. There is an amount of male broodiness that, well, has always been dull. Supergirl is a warmer film about female friendships, female rivals, and female concerns. Supergirl may be a female version of Superman, but she's also a well-rounded woman. Her film reflects that. It's refreshing to have something other than an ultra-male team of rote ass-kickers.
I've said this in a few Trolling articles before, but campiness is a positive. There is something inherently silly about all superheroes, and Supergirl seems to be playing with that. Dunaway's over-the-top acting, the bizarre story, and the undercurrents of campy bitchiness only strengthen Supergirl. It seems to know when things are goofy, and allows the goofiness to remain in tact. Too many superhero films lack any and all self-awareness, making for unrealistic and kind of dull action spectaculars. Supergirl winks. It has a sense of humor about itself.
The reason so many recent superhero films have been successful is the mere virtue that they interconnect. Characters from one movie can leave that movie and interact with characters in another movie. This was a conceit taken from the comics: Certain characters lived in the same universe. If this is the reason you like superhero movies, consider this: Supergirl started that. This was the first time, I think, that a new superhero (Supergirl) was introduced into a cinematic canon, where they could potentially run into another superhero (Superman). It was expansive and loyal to comic books. It's what you like.
Nothing deep or analytical here. Helen Slater is pretty hot in that Supergirl outfit.