The first big stinker of the new year, MGM's troubled sci-fi thriller "Supernova" has apparently been hammered into its present state by parties other than original director Walter Hill. That would account for the film being credited to one Thomas Lee, a literal nobody, but the project's poorly thought out mixture of believable science fiction and 1990s space opera is a fundamental design flaw, and the finished product's not likely to shine at the boxoffice.
Unspooling wide without the distraction of poor opening-day reviews because it wasn't screened for critics -- French critics might start getting this treatment all the time if they don't watch out -- "Supernova" tries to satisfy the target audience with lots of special effects and action sequences familiar to genre aficionados.
Nary a cliche from the "Aliens", "Star Trek" and "Terminator" universes has been left out, however, and the public is not easily fooled. In fact, the often incomprehensible and always derivative script based on a story by William Malone and producer Daniel Chuba
is only matched by the bewildered or blatantly misled performers.
Lead James Spader
, playing drug addict-turned-co-pilot Nick, who likes the quiet of "deep space," is stiffer than an asteroid as the action hero who tries to save a 22nd century medical rescue spaceship and crew about to be sucked into a blue giant star on the verge of exploding. He's paired up romantically, after the usual spats, with medical officer Kaela (Angela Bassett
). She has to trust him after the captain (Robert Forster) is killed in a "dimensional jump" when they answer a galactic 911 call.
Nick takes over as their crippled ship the Nightingale 229 nearly crashes on a moon where the distress signal originated. With only hours to go before the ship is wiped out, Nick and crew have plenty of time to test the boundaries of a PG-13 rating and engage in zero-gravity sex and several climactic fights that get pretty nasty, but what irks more than the usual pandering to audience expectations is the feeble attempts at characterization.
Crowded with conflicts, corny hardware and other unexplained or unexplainable wonders of the future and overloaded with flimsy devices to create tension, "Supernova" comes down to the typical results of a bad guy drawing innocent people to their doom and not getting away with it. In the process, a somewhat sexually suggestive globe of material from the ninth dimension emerges as the universe-rearranging MacGuffin that Kaela's murderous ex-boyfriend (Peter Facinelli
) means to take back to Earth, alone.
Lou Diamond Phillips and Robin Tunney
as lovers and expendable crew members are joined by Wilson Cruz
's sweet-but-doomed computer nerd, who created the partly self-aware ship computer Sweetie (voiced by Vanessa Marshall
Nearly everyone dies and there is a big bang at the end.
The special effects by Digital Domain and special makeup effects designed by Patrick Tatopoulos whiz by effectively, but cinematographer Lloyd Ahern
II, a frequent Hill collaborator, overdoes the woozy camera moves in trying to spruce up the stagebound action.
MGM Distribution Co.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures presents
a Screenland Pictures/Hammerhead production
Screenwriter:David Campbell Wilson
Producers:Ash R. Shah, Daniel Chuba
, Jamie Dixon
Executive producer:Ralph S. Singleton
Director of photography:Lloyd Ahern II
Production designer:Marek Dobrowolski
Editors:Michael Schweitzer, Melissa Kent
Costume designer:Bob Ringwood
Visual effects supervisor:Mark Stetson
Casting:Mary Jo Slater
Nick Vanzant:James Spader
Kaela Evers:Angela Bassett
A.J. Marley:Robert Forster
Yerzy Penalosa:Lou Diamond Phillips
Karl Larson:Peter Facinelli
Danika Lund:Robin Tunney
Benji Sotomejor:Wilson Cruz
Running time -- 90 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13