Supernova (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

The online film critic, James Berardinelli, identified three factors that are a sure sign of trouble for a studio release:

  1. It is released in January, AFTER the holiday movie season.
  2. It is not pre-screened for critics.
  3. The director lost control of the project, and asked to have his name removed from the credits. (This used to result in the official pseudonym "Alan Smithee" The new pseudonym is "Thomas Lee")

He further noted that Supernova was marked by all three disaster conditions.

The director situation was especially troublesome. This project was started, but not finished, by Walter Hill. Rumor has it that the additional footage and at least some of the final edit was performed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola himself! Another director, Jack Sholder of Wishmaster 2, also worked on the film.

It is a space epic more or less directly derivative of "Alien", by way of "Event Horizon". A small space crew answers a mysterious distress call, and ends up taking aboard a mysterious artifact which turns out to be irreconcilable with human life. Actually, they went Alien one better this time. This particular artifact is incompatible with the entire physical universe.

This film is really for genre addicts only. There is nothing original or deep about it. I feel confident you'll know exactly what's coming in every scene. In its current 90 minute cut, it's too short for interesting character development, it has several plot holes, and it has a sappy happy ending. It also features a very odd impersonation of Tom Cruise, as performed by Peter Facinelli, who mimics Cruise's smile, his voice, and his mannerisms. Facinelli is taller, and not as handsome, but the overall effect is remarkable. It is almost as if it were calculated.

Strangely, I found the DVD worthwhile in a sense. Oh, the movie is completely predictable, but it isn't as bad as people said it was. I suppose critics were predisposed to hate it because they were shut out of a pre-screening, and because they were aware of the director troubles in the production. Who's going to write a good review of a movie obviously dumped by the studio and three directors? Don't get me wrong, it isn't a good movie, but it had some decent visuals, more or less capable characterizations, and was mercifully short, so I was able to watch most of it without the FF.


Lots of topless nudity from Robin Tunney and Angela Bassett's body double. The theatrical film was rated PG-13, but the version on the DVD is rated R. According to reports, they also added back some violence.

And the DVD was very revealing:

There are more than a dozen deleted scenes, all fully scored, and these allow one to visualize the ways in which original Walter Hill movie was a completely different film - with a philosophical overlay and a deeply distressing ending. (The evil guy is not destroyed by being ejected from the ship and - oh, yeah, the entire universe is irreversibly doomed! You might call that "downbeat".)

DVD info from Amazon

The film itself is not the reason to rent the DVD. In my opinion, there is a good reason to rent it, although of great interest only to film buffs like me who wonder how things change, and why they go wrong. See the main commentary to the right.

In the deleted scenes, there are other sub-plots, an explicit autopsy was performed on a character who was cut from the final version, another live person was found on the contaminated colony, the computer voices were different, two different computers were later consolidated into one, etc. From these deleted scenes you can see the movie that might have been and compare it to what resulted. I won't tell you that the other movie was better, but it was different, probably much longer, and I found it interesting to speculate about the reasons why the various directors moved toward the final version.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Supernova was a fairly high budget attempt at a SciFi thriller.

The story takes place on a deep space paramedic ship. As we are introduced to the crew, we learn that the new co-pilot is a recovering addict, the female doctor had a disastrous relationship with someone addicted to the same drug as the co-pilot, the captain is a nut on 20th century history, and paramedics Robin Tunney and Lou Diamond Phillips spend all of their spare time fucking. Engineer Wilson Cruz is also in love - with the ship's computer.

After we get this liberal dose of character development, the film actually starts. The crew receives a distress call from the very man that the doctor had the affair with, and it comes from the farthest reaches of the universe. No problem. They have the ability to "dimension jump," which requires that they take off all of their clothes, then seal themselves in pods. This allows them to travel millions of light years in seconds. Once they arrive, the person they are rescuing is not what he purports to be, and he has smuggled aboard an Alien "thing" that proves as deadly as he is.

Supernova had decent sets, and some reasonably talented people like James Spader, Angela Bassett and Robin Tunney, but the whole is much less than the sum of its parts, and the film was full to the brim with rather weak special effects, probably an attempt to make up for the poor plot. In the end, it is really just a testosterone actioner with nothing especially new or interesting.

The Critics Vote ...

  • James Berardinelli 1.5/4

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Scored a deplorable 9% from all critics, a little better 20% from the elite group, but the 20% was based on 2 out of 10, and one of the positives said, "supernova, although predictable, isn't half bad". In my mind, that's fairly accurate, but not really very positive.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It is one of the biggest money losers in the past decade. The production costs ended up around $90 million, and it grossed only $14 million. In other words, it had a greater cost and a smaller gross than Battlefield Earth!
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a D for the movie, C for the DVD. It's not a good sci-fi movie, but it's not as bad as people said, and the DVD is fascinating.

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