I remember seeing “Supernova” back in 2000 when it originally came out on DVD. Like most people, I thought it looked great at the time, but really didn’t have much else going for it. My opinion hasn’t really changed since re-visiting it after the movie’s recent Blu-ray upgrade by Scream Factory. The special effects and design are still the highlight of a sci-fi film that suffers from simply maintaining the status genre quo and offering nothing new.
The medical ship Nightingale 229 travels through deep space in the early 22nd century taking on search and rescue missions it’s assigned to. Its six-member crew includes a Captain and Pilot (Robert Forster), a co-pilot (James Spader), a medical officer (Angela Bassett, a medical technician (Luo Diamond Phillips), a search and rescue paramedic (Robin Tunney), and a computer technician (Wilson Cruz). When their vessel, the Nightingale 229, answers an emergency distress signal from a comet mining operation in a distant galaxy, the crew soon finds itself in danger from the mysterious young man they rescue, the alien artifact he's smuggled aboard, and the gravitational pull of a giant star about to supernova. The resulting explosion will be the most massive explosion in the universe.
What was originally planned as a low-budget study of human relationships amongst the stars quickly mutated into a rather lackluster action yarn about picking up a stray and his alien artifact. Of course we all know the object can’t be good and the whole situation goes south very quickly in a matter of 90 minutes. It’s evident by the way the movie progresses in a very choppy and rushed pace that there was more to the story than what we get here. There were 15 minutes of deleted scenes for the movie included, so I can only imagine there has to be even more footage lying in a box somewhere out there.
The cast would be considered an ensemble these days since most of the actors have gone on to do bigger and better things since “Supernova.” James Spader, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Forster, and Angela Bassett were already established stars at the time of this movie’s release. Peter Facinelli went on to play the patriarch of the Cullen vampire clan, Carlisle, in “The Twilight Saga.” Robin Tunney worked on “Prison Break” and continues as a member of the cast of “The Mentalist.” Here they just walk around angry with grim looks on their faces.
“Supernova” is rated R for sci-fi action violence and sensuality / nudity. There are at least two topless shots of Robin Tunney and a rather explicit love scene. Director Walter Hill (operating under the pseudonym Thomas Lee) was definitely fascinated with the human body. He stalls on one shot of Peter Facinelli’s backend for what seems like an eternity. Angela Bassett gets her opportunity to bare all, albeit in the shadows, as well. There’s an acceptable amount of gore as Facinelli’s character continuously gets beat upon. However, even this aspect of the film seems uneven. Sometimes we get to see the carnage, while at others it’s edited out nice and neat.
Although there really isn’t much going on here in a spiritual sense, one line of dialogue that James Spader utters stood out to me. When the crew is coming to grips with the chain of events Peter Facinelli’s character has unraveled, he makes a bold statement. Spader proclaims, “What if they didn't crucify Christ, but they did!" He uses such an extreme example to explain that it doesn’t matter what could’ve been. What’s more important is dealing with what is. Angela Bassett’s character also dramatically makes a comparison between aliens and God when she says, “Whoever they are, they're as smart as God and a lot less nice.” I don’t think so.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray debut of “Supernova” is presented in 1080p Widescreen (2.36:1) with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Special features include a “Making of ’Supernova’” feature, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and theatrical trailer.
“Supernova” isn’t completely void of any entertainment value. It just lacks the endeavor to be anything more than a slick sci-fi action yarn. It will remind you of the awkward era of filmmaking when studios were transitioning from working with real models and sets and moving into the arena of CGI effects. If you’ve ran out of other alien encounter movies, this will tide you over until something new and bolder comes along.
"Supernova" is available now on Blu-ray.