Supernova


Angela Bassett takes time out to play a high tech version of Cat's Cradle.

Angela Bassett takes time out to play a high tech version of Cat’s Cradle.

(2000) Science Fiction (MGM) James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz, Eddy Rice Jr., Knox White, Kerrigan Mahan (voice), Vanessa Marshall (voice), Kevin Sizemore. Directed by Walter Hill

By now, virtually any sci-fi movie junkie can tell you the plot of a typical Hollywood space opera without seeing it: A crew of a seen-better-days vessel goes to remote system, finds alien/bad person/person affected by alien object, and brings he/she/it aboard said vessel.

Crew gets offed one by one in gruesome fashion aboard suddenly claustrophobic ship. Brave captain/crewman/strong silent type battles alien/bad person/person affected by alien object and is defeated and assumed to be killed.

Alien/bad person/person affected by alien object stalks comely female. Comely female battles back and does surprisingly well, until a), she blows up vessel with alien/bad person/person affected by alien object inside it, b) she lures alien/bad person/person affected by alien object into airlock with her comeliness and/or gratuitous nudity, then blows it into space, or c) brave captain/crewman/strong silent type comes back from the dead to rescue comely female and TOGETHER they blow up seen-better-days vessel with alien/bad person/person affected by alien object inside it.

No matter what, big things go boom inevitably in Hollywood’s formula for sci-fi. Even in space where sound doesn’t actually travel.

Supernova follows this plan nearly to the letter, as a rescue vessel answers a distress beacon from a remote mining colony. En route to the colony, the captain meets a particularly gruesome end (this one is for Trek fans who yearn to see graphic transporter accidents) and the ship suffers some heavy damage. The rest of the crew meets the sole survivor (Facinelli) of the supposedly abandoned mine, who is the son of a man who was once romantically involved with the ship’s doctor (Bassett).

From the first moment we meet him, he acts suspiciously enough to make Mother Theresa paranoid. Shortly thereafter, all heck starts breaking loose, as delineated in the outline above.

While Supernova is certainly predictable, it does have its moments. There are some gen-u-wine whiz-bang special effects (for its day) and the cast is solid, particularly the nearly unrecognizable James Spader in the taciturn hero role. Robert Forster as the ship’s luckless commander and Lou Diamond Phillips as an amorous crewman also turn in solid performances in a picture that overall doesn’t deserve ’em.

Be warned – Supernova sat on a studio shelf for more than a year before seeing the light of day – never a good sign – and was quickly dumped onto the marketplace during a time of year when new releases are generally few and far between. There IS a reason for such shabby treatment, folks.

I can’t think of many reasons to go rent the movie (and, it appears, neither did the moviegoing public, which stayed away in droves) especially in a theater full of obnoxious, restless teens as Da Queen and I did (at least we got a couple of passes for our trouble). Ah, sweet memories.

Supernova IS a great looking movie, for the few of you who absolutely, positively must see it. Spader is reasonably interesting as an action hero, a radical change from the soft-spoken cerebral sort he usually plays. Still, these are mighty poor excuses to plunk down hard-earned cash on a movie that reminds me of seeing a paint-by-numbers done by a four-year-old hanging in the Louvre.

Obviously I can’t really recommend this other than to those who want to see every big budget sci-fi film ever made. It isn’t completely without redemption, but for the most part you can find a better movie to fill your time with without stretching too hard.

WHY RENT THIS: Some fairly decent special effects. Spader is serviceable as the action hero.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Pedantic and predictable. Lapses in believability.

FAMILY MATTERS: The movie has it’s share of violence and action scenes as well as a little bit of sexiness and some nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Was the first post-Alan Smithee film in Hollywood. For years whenever a director wished his name removed from the credits for whatever reason (normally because he didn’t want to be associated with the final product), the name “Alan Smithee” would be substituted. After the film Burn, Hollywood, Burn: An Alan Smithee Film was released, the name became too well-known and the Directors Guild of America substituted the name “Thomas Lee” for Alan Smithee. Although Walter Hill (himself a last-minute replacement for Geoffrey Wright who departed a few weeks before shooting over a script dispute) directed, the movie was credited to Thomas Lee upon release, the first film with the dubious distinction of doing so.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $14.8M on a $90M production budget.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Womb