Op-Ed: Sasha Calle’s Powerful Performance As Supergirl Proves She Is Meant For More
The Flash has seen countless controversies and setbacks in its tumultuous production, but one of the shining lights to have come from this has been the casting of Sasha Calle as Supergirl. Years ago, director Andy Muschietti released a video announcing her casting and revealing the news to the young actress herself. Her sincere and emotional response quickly won over fans. Nearly a complete unknown, Sasha Calle was presented with an opportunity to make this version of Supergirl, a.k.a. Kara Zor-El, truly her own. Now, years later, we see her soar.
A significant distinction with this casting is the fact that Sasha is Latina, a Colombian American actress whose presence diverts from the typical depiction of Supergirl as a blonde, blue-eyed woman. As insignificant as this may seem to some, it’s actually a bold choice by Muschietti. It signifies the distinction of his approach but also confronts the inevitable comic “purists” who protest at the thought of changing any white comic book characters in their live-action counterparts. It was a refreshing choice, and I, for one, couldn’t wait.
Having now seen The Flash, Calle’s performance is easily one of the best parts of the movie. Unfortunately, her limited amount of screen time is a glaring problem (one of many). In a film that is determined not to take itself seriously and introduces very little weight or emotion, Calle’s Supergirl brings all that in spades. She perfectly conveys Kara’s heartbreak, confusion, and empathy in her short moments. The potential of her Supergirl is limitless, and the idea of not properly utilizing her character, not just to showcase her performance but to the benefit of Barry’s story, is disappointing.
Kara Zor-El is a complex character with a wide range of emotions. No matter how brief her screen time, Calle beautifully captures every aspect of this complexity. It’s not just Supergirl that shines in these scenes; her interactions with Ezra Miller’s Barry elevate his character to that of more than a dumb college kid or a frustrated time-traveller. The few noteworthy moments with Barry Allen have to do with either his mom or Kara. The movie holds very little weight with its laissez-faire slapstick tone, so these significant moments stand out even more.
The wasted potential is not the only issue at hand; the film’s biggest issue with Supergirl is the dismissiveness of her character in the third act.
*Please note spoilers for The Flash ahead.
In the final battle with Zod, it is revealed that Kal-El never made it to Earth and was killed as an infant. Kara Zor-El, his would-be guardian, now has the codex of Krypton placed inside her in this universe. However, Barry spends most of the film talking about how the only one able to defeat General Zod is Superman, so when they find Kara, the implication is that she can take his place. The conclusion becomes quite the opposite. Kara is destined to die, and nothing they can do can change that. No matter how often she tried, she was never meant to defeat Zod, only Kal-El, despite Kal-El ever being a viable option in this reality. This becomes an inevitable moment in this timeline that Barry has to let happen.
The implications behind this conclusion are egregious. Not just the idea of creating a separate timeline and letting everyone die in it, but the fact that Supergirl becomes entirely inconsequential with the timeline closing with her death. Also, the concept of “she was always meant to lose” really bugged me. Kara Zor-El may not be Superman, but in plenty of comic iterations and representations of her character, she is presented as capable, if not more, than her cousin. Her experience growing up on Krypton and her fiery spirit always made her an opponent that could take down anyone Superman could. The inevitability of Kara being unable to defeat Zod, in presumably hundreds of attempts, didn’t seem accurate or right. The movie effectively erases the potential of her character, making the entire lead-up even more frustrating.
While Kara had an unwinnable burden placed upon her in the film, in the real world, Calle’s joyous film debut was dampened by an unprecedented situation. Calle had to carry the responsibility of doing all the press for the film in the shadow of Miller’s alarming actions, alleged criminal offences, and legal battle. Any media member that spoke with “the cast” of The Flash spoke primarily to her. Not Ben Affleck or Michael Keaton, just Sasha Calle. She carried the emotional weight of the film, and its entire promotion, effectively becoming the face of the film. And she did it all with a gracious and positive attitude. Excitedly talking about her character and her future, all while showing kindness to the journalists who spoke with her. That weight she had to carry should not go unnoticed.
I hope she has the chance to star in a solo film with an opportunity to showcase the many shades of her character. Opportunities and second shots are relevant topics of conversation in the industry. If there is one thing audiences are walking away with from The Flash, it’s her performance and how there needs to be more of her.
The upcoming DCU slate has a Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow film on its docket, so there is an opportunity for a seamless transition for her character. Re-casting Supergirl would be an odd choice with all the positive responses to Calle. If there is anything we learned from this movie, these timelines can shift and alter in different universes while still keeping familiar faces. Let’s hope that Sasha Calle is one of those faces we will see more of.