When the DC Universe streaming service first launched it brought about many questions in regards to its value. While questions about this still remain, the service has nonetheless produced some content. Its original content includes Titans, Swamp Thing, and the Harley Quinn animated series. Now, the DC Universe has given us a new series in the form of Stargirl, and while it’s not going to change anyone’s life, it’s a decent enough project that will keep you coming back for more.
Stargirl takes place roughly ten years after a battle in which a team of the world’s greatest superheroes, The Justice Society of America, was wiped out in a massive final confrontation with The Injustice Society. Former JSA sidekick Pat Dugan, played by Luke Wilson, has since moved on with his life, starting a new family and moving them to a small town in rural America. Not long after, however, Pat’s new stepdaughter, Courtney, played by Brec Bassinger, discovers the Cosmic Staff, the weapon of JSA member Starman and Pat’s dead best friend. For whatever reason, the Cosmic Staff reawakens for Courtney, who decides to take up the mantle of Starman as Stargirl and take down the members of the Injustice Society who have taken up residence in Courtney’s new town for unknown reasons.
What makes Stargirl an otherwise compelling watch is its solid, consistent writing. At first, it almost seems like it’s going to be a generic hero’s journey-type story but then takes things in a direction that we don’t see that often. The main reoccurring theme at play here is the divide between aging Gen Xers with their experiences and borderline cynicism and their young Gen Z kids with their energy and enthusiasm and the latter inheriting the legacies of the former whether they like it or not. In Courtney’s case, she is quite literally inheriting a power from a Gen X superhero who may or may not be her father while her new stepfather tries to protect her from the realities of being a superhero. Stargirl herself is a young, inexperienced hero who wants to take on the Injustice Society as soon as possible. Pat, on the other hand, is older and more experienced and constantly trying to keep Courtney away from this lifestyle as he knows how dangerous it can be. Later on, it becomes clear that this can and will extend to other characters who just can’t quite escape the legacy that their parents inadvertently left for them. It makes for a good dynamic between the characters that remains consistent throughout these episodes.
It helps that the characters are all well-written and likable. You genuinely buy both Courtney and Pat’s reactions to their newfound roles and that this is the way the two of them would behave in this situation. In addition, the members of the Injustice Society arent quite the one-dimensional mustache twirlers you might expect them to be. The ones that we have been introduced to in these first three episodes are evil but all have their own motivations and backstories that make you want to know more about them, sympathize with them and possibly root for them. It’s all very much rooted in relateable human drama, something that separates Stargirl from many other superhero shows.
Stargirl, however, does has its flaws. Its theme work is about as subtle as a hammer to the face and feels like it’s one step away from shouting it at the audience. It also doesn’t help that the whole thing has the feel of a ’90s highschool fantasy series with all the hokey flaws that come with it. The younger actors all seem enthusiastic but aren’t quite experienced enough to totally sell their roles. Likewise, the older actors don’t quite seem like they’re as invested in the material as they should be. It’s not quite paycheck-cashing level of phoning it in but you do get the sense that the people directing these actors should have made them take a few more takes. The action scenes and special effects are also rather lackluster and it feels like the people behind the series didn’t have enough money to spend in that department and issues like this are pretty evenly spread throughout these first three episodes. It’s a little difficult to tell if this is the style and tone they were going for but it’s also difficult to determine where artistic intent ends and where a lack of experience and incompetence begins. You do, however, get an overall sense that the people who were experienced enough to make this into something better then it is weren’t interested in doing so and those who were interested lacked the experience to do so.
Overall, the first three episodes of Stargirl are decent but not without their flaws. The writing is solid and its generational theme work helps separate it from the numerous other superhero shows out there and leaves you wanting more. Sadly, it also leaves you wishing that the people involved were a little more invested and/or better at making a series like this. Still, the first three episodes are unique enough and considering we’re all probably going to be stuck indoors for a while, this isn’t a bad way to spend your time.