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Case Number 01232

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MGM // 2000 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Kevin Lee (Retired) // June 29th, 2001

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of Supernova (Blu-ray), published January 8th, 2015, is also available.

The Charge

All hell is about to break loose.

Opening Statement

Combine a tried and true script from an old episode of "Star Trek" with a few second-rate but capable actors, some eye-popping special effects and a director who changed his name in the credits and you get Supernova. Trust me. This will end badly.

The Evidence

It's really unfortunate that Hollywood is caught in a rut of bland, formulaic films in the sci-fi genre. It seems, as of late, that just about everybody is trying to find the next big science fiction franchise and falling flat. Studios are spending millions and millions of dollars on top-of-the-line CGI effects, but not spending the time and effort to give us a good story. The year 2000 was no exception as a number of big budget science fiction films were paraded in front of us, yet only a B-movie (David Twohy's Pitch Black) managed to have any sort of impact (and actually manage to make money).

Supernova is about the crew of the rescue ship Nightingale 229, which is called to a distant star system to rescue a mining colony. Nick Vanzant (James Spader—Stargate, Wolf) is the crew's new co-pilot and is having a difficult time fitting in with the group of rejects that populate the Nightingale. There's the tough-as-nails, angry-at-everything medical officer, played through gritted teeth by a scene-chewing Angela Bassett (Strange Days, Vampire in Brooklyn), who really should have known better. There's the sex-crazed med-tech played by Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns, The Big Hit) who probably needed the work. All of the characters fall into horrible stereotypes, which I suppose might be a good thing because it helps us settle into what little of a plot Supernova has.

During a hyper jump to their destination the ship's captain (Robert Forster—Jackie Brown) is turned into pizza, saving him from the torment of being on screen for more than 10 minutes. Our fearless crew discovers the star is unstable and about to go supernova (hence the film's clever title). They also find the remnants of a mining colony, the lone survivor and treasure hunter Karl Larson (Peter Facinelli—The Big Kahuna) and his mysterious belongings, which happen to consist entirely of some sort of strange artifact of unknown origin. As you probably have already guessed, Karl isn't right in the head thanks to whatever it is that the strange artifact happens to do to people. You see, Karl may or may not have killed his father, and may or may not actually be his father. I'm not sure how things like that work, either, but it's probably for the best not to think about it. I mean, either you ARE or you AREN'T your father. These things should be fairly simple. Because of these incongruities, or maybe because he was secretly hoping to be his own grandpa, Karl tries to kill everyone, causing the movie to fall into the old, familiar territory of "the cast gets picked off by the psycho one by one." I really wish there was more to say than this, but there isn't.

The DVD itself is nicely designed, giving us an excellent display of sound and video. If it weren't for the fact that showing this movie to friends might make them forget whatever bond you have between you and move out of town without leaving a forwarding address, it might even be a good DVD to show off your system with. Since I did not see Supernova during its marginal theatrical run, I have no idea what footage was added to now give the film an R rating, though I can guess it has something to do with a few flashes of misplaced, gratuitous nudity. I should point out that I'm normally all for flashes of misplaced, gratuitous nudity, but I'll point out that it's VERY misplaced in this film and leave it at that, okay?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

To say that there are several holes in the plot and character interaction at this point might be like beating a dead horse, but there are. Angela Bassett's character is angry at everybody, especially James Spader for needing medication (he's fighting a drug addiction), yet not five minutes later they're both starkers naked with each other in the zero gravity well. At least that had comedic merit to it, though I doubt that was the intention of the filmmaker. Things simply go down hill steadily from there as cast members repeatedly do stupid things for no apparent reason. They bring a strange, unworldly artifact on board—something the likes of which has never been seen before—quarantine it in case it might be harmful, YET THEY TOUCH IT ANYWAY. I mean, why not just lick it? When will people learn?

Predictably, this gets them killed.

Walter Hill (Last Man Standing, Trespass) directed this mess, but I somehow wouldn't feel right placing the blame on him. A semi-decent script that was reportedly tampered with by MGM to make the final release more "marketable" caused Walter Hill to change his name to Thomas Lee in the credits. (Thomas Lee is now MGM's moniker for directors who wish to have their names removed from their films. Rest in peace, Alan Smithee, we hardly knew ye.) The studio then brought in Francis Ford Coppola (who REALLY should have known better) to reshoot portions of the film, and other nameless directors were brought in to do the post production work.

I should also point out that this film is very aptly misnamed. By calling it Supernova you would at least hope to SEE a supernova at some point in this film. I think perhaps the entire special effects budget was wasted on the hyper jump at the film's beginning, which is a pity since it was done much better and for less money in Star Wars. (Note to the CGI guys: "glare" is not a special effect.) Since we failed to have some semblance of a nova, I think it only fair to point out that this film is also not "super." Perhaps a title like "Psycho Guy Gets Rescued But Tries to Kill Everyone Because It Seemed Like a Good Idea" or "The Artifact That Makes People Go Crazy and Die" would have been more fitting. I'm not calling for the title to give away the plot of the film, but I don't think it's too much to ask to have my expectations managed.

I also can not attest to the quality of the additional deleted scenes, since after 90 minutes of this film I had to stop and pull my friend's head out of his oven.

Closing Statement

Supernova will undoubtedly be forgotten by everyone within a few years. For those of us who have SEEN this movie things aren't so simple. The electroshock treatment begins Monday. If you're really curious, are a true die-hard sci-fi fan, and have masochistic tendencies, or can sit through Kevin Costner's The Postman without once snickering, you might enjoy watching Supernova. This film is worse, if that's at all possible, than the universally panned and ridiculed Battlefield Earth.

The Verdict

Every copy of this film in existence is to be rounded up, placed on a rocket ship, and shot into the sun, sparing humanity any further needless suffering. MGM is found guilty of tampering with the director to make a film that would pander to the masses, and I also ask that they give back the 90 minutes of lost time I spent watching this garbage. MGM is also hereby held in contempt for releasing a really good version of a crummy movie but releasing really bad versions of good movies on DVD. In light of this evidence, Walter Hill is acquitted of all charges.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 50
Acting: 60
Story: 20
Judgment: 25

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Science Fiction

Distinguishing Marks

• 20 Minutes of Deleted Footage
• Previously Unseen Rated-R Version


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