Supernova (2000) / Sci Fi-Horror

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sensuality and nudity
Running Time: 90 min. (there is also a 91-minute R-rated version)

Cast: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robert Forster, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz
Director: Thomas Lee (aka Walter Hill), Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Sholder
Screenplay: David Campbell Wilson

Review published January 15, 2000

What starts out as intriguing if derivative sci-fi soon descends into meaningless horror and in the end a real letdown from a cast and crew of professionals who should know better. From the fact that director Walter Hill (Crossroads, Brewster's Millions) had his name removed as the director, and that Francis Ford Coppola (The Rainmaker, The Godfather Part II), who reportedly came in to mop up in a few scenes when Hill dropped the project, has no mention whatsoever. The studio invested about $60 million in production, and it shows in gorgeous special effects, but what a mess of a movie!

The plot revolves around a search and rescue team on board a space vessel in the far future. They intercept an emergency distress call from a nearby mining operation while in a faraway galaxy from a man using the name of a former lover of one of the crewmates (Bassett, Contact), a relationship that ended badly. They rescue a young man (Facinelli, The Big Kahuna) who also carries along a strange artifact probably of alien origin, and which is causing bizarre changes in anyone who comes in close contact with.

Yes, it is very reminiscent of many classic science fiction films, from Alien to The Thing, even to many episodes of the classic "Star Trek". Still, the production value was there and a cast that includes James Spader (2 Days in the Valley, Crash), Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster (Psycho, Rear Window), along with a veteran film director like Walter Hill, so the question is "How could things have gotten this bad?"

The short answer is that there appears to be a conflict of vision, and the movie in itself is conflicted in whether it wants to be a sci-fi or horror film, never content in being both at the same time. Given the current wave of horror films (The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, and the teen slasher genre) one understands that perhaps the studio may have wanted more horror and less ponderous sci-fi, which may have spurned Hill's departure.

Whatever the case, it's still a commendable job by the technical crew for some stunning space shots and special effects, and eye candy junkies may enjoy this more than most. Not as bad as you may think it is given the huge box office failure, but definitely not as good as it should have been, Supernova is little more than a waste of time and money with nothing new to offer to anyone watching it.

Qwipster's rating

2000 Vince Leo