Supernova is another one of those films that suffered from too much involvement from the people who were sending money for the film’s production. Often, there’s a difference between a director’s vision based on the script and a producer’s idea of what’s going to make the most money at the box office, and Supernova is a prime example of changes made to the product that were actually a detriment. Throwing more budget at a movie doesn’t always work; despite lots of cash, Supernova failed to create an explosive sci-fi film, but Scream Factory’s release highlights what could have been.
James Spader looks freaking ripped in this movie, and that’s one reason you should really take a look anyway. I mean, let’s compare then and now:
Sorry, but I’ll take the young James Spader any day, even if old James Spader did do a pretty mean job on The Office. Not only that, but Supernova features Robin Tunney – you know, the mousy, quiet lead from The Craft? – in all manner of undress, with a quick intro sex scene with another cut dude, Lou Diamond Phillips. What a great way to make an impression!
Supernova is all about the sex and nudity, since it’s a pretty prominent part of the film throughout its 90 minutes. It serves little purpose besides allowing the viewer to recognize that there are people onboard the Nightengale that like each other, yet it sort of becomes a staple of the film – the entire crew is kind of cozy, and then Walter Hill/Jack Sholder (the two both worked as director at different times) throw in a menacing being that threatens to break up the relationships on the ship.
The problem, though, is that none of the characters in Supernova feels particularly likable or realistic. Spader’s Nick Vanzant is curt and abrupt, as is Angela Bassett’s character Kaela Evers. Neither of them act like they like each other, as Sholder says in the making-of featurette on this disc, and that’s probably the most accurate statement I can think of to describe the people of Supernova. It’s not just Evers and Vanzant, though; though Phillips’ character Yerzy has a fairly sexual relationship with Tunney’s Danika, most of their interactions are either spent having sex or bickering with each other. In the end, it’s difficult to tell what Yerzy, Danika, and Benj (Wilson Cruz) even do on the ship.
Just like in life, Supernova doesn’t spend much time with these characters’ deaths either. Almost all of them are anti-climactic; when Karl Larson (Peter Facinelli) gets on the Nightengale, Supernova feels like it splinters into different pieces of what could have been. It’s also not sure what to do with the overpowered Larson – since the piece of ninth-dimensional matter he brings on the ship makes him regress to youth, the strength he gains is way too much for the film to handle. That’s why, when Danika simply gets ejected into space via a vacuum tube, it feels like a waste of a death. It’s not like I want to see Robin Tunney’s head explode, but I’d sure like to see Danika’s. The same is true of Yerzy, who also regresses to a stage of his youth where he can do push-ups standing on his hands (though I’m a young 25 and I can’t do this, so I must be doing something wrong). Though he’s so strong, Larson dispatches him with nary a problem, again into deep space; it’s all just kind of boring.
Also going on is Vanzant’s escapades on Titan, but these scenes are significantly cut down to the point where he kind of miraculously shows back up on the Nightengale without a conclusive reason for it. Supernova does not handle the different aspects of its plot well, most likely due to its fluctuating script and directors. Its conclusion is all sorts of bad, from the very easy killing of Larson to the quick and tidy wrap-up. Things aren’t all happy at the end of the film, but Vanzant and Evers will have to wait 50 years before anything bad happens to them.
Ultimately, Supernova has an exciting premise and some good special effects for its time, but it fails to effectively round up all of the spare parts of its plot. The characters are one-dimensional and the action doesn’t live up to the potential of an early scene where Robert Forster is dematerialized into a stringy pile of flesh. Still, if you’re a fan of horror in space, Supernova does have the budget for good SFX, just not the best storyline to blow you away. But to reiterate: Robin Tunney’s boobs, a lot.
Good stuff here. There aren’t any commentary tracks, but there is a nice making-of feature with Lou Diamond Phillips, Jack Sholder, Robert Forster, and Daniel Chuba that pinpoints where everything fell apart. It’s about 25 minutes long and recommended viewing after you watch the film, when you’re left scratching your head and thinking, “That was it?”
Also included is a set of deleted scenes totaling 14 minutes. This is another attractive feature of this disc, because these scenes add a lot to Supernova that you don’t actually get to see – a lot of Vanzant exploring Titan, including a weird baby-faced guy who was exposed to the ninth-generational material. Another must-watch to see what could have been in Supernova.