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SUPERNOVA

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli
Director: Thomas Lee
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: MGM/UA
Features: Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 22, 2000

Film ***

No, dear reader, you are not reading this wrong. I am really giving a three star rating to Supernova. As you may have noticed, I did a piece a couple of weeks ago for the dreadful Battlefield Earth, which is likely to be known as one of the worst films of the century. This review for Supernova can be considered somewhat of a companion piece to the other film. Both movies came out last year, and got blasted reviews from just about every critic. Battlefield Earth was very deserving of being blasted, but in the case of Supernova, this is far more successful and enjoyable sci-fi adventure. Itís ironic to note that of these two movies, Supernova got almost a bad rep as John Travoltaís film debacle. It was laced with production problems, had countless script revisions, and the director of the movie, Walter Hill, actually had his named removed from the movie and had it replaced with an Alan Smithee-like pseudonym. With all that negative energy surrounding the film, Iím surprised I came to enjoy the movie. Youíll notice that Battlefield Earth had no such report of any production problems, and look how that movie turned out?

However, it goes without saying that if youíve seen Event Horizon or any of the Alien films, you will find nothing new about the plot, so if you can excuse that element, you are likely to enjoy the movie more. The story involves the crew of search and rescue vessel Nightingale Nine. The ship is made up of six crewmembers: Captain Marley (Robert Forster), second-in-command Nick Vanzant (James Spader), who has just been released from rehabilitation for a brief drug habit, medical officer Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett, engineer Benji Sotomejer (Wilson Cruz), and medical technicians Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Lund (Robin Tunney), who are very much involved with each other.

The Nightingale Nine answers a distress signal, and proceeds to the destination using a dimension jump across the galaxy, much like what was capable of doing in the film version of Lost in Space, but Supernova does a much more impressive job with the jumping sequence. Once the vessel arrives at its destination, which is a distant mining colony, their only encounter is that of a lone survivor named Larson, played by Peter Facinelli, whom you might recall has role model Mike Dexter in Canít Hardly Wait. Of course, by now, you can pretty much see the danger coming, as the ads for the film didnít waste any time in revealing that this stranger isnít at all what he appears to be. Larson is also harboring some hazardous cargo, which is an alien artifact of some type.

When I panned Battlefield Earth, I mentioned that science fiction movies tend to astound me, and that movie didnít at all, and while Supernova is nothing we havenít seen before, the special effects and look of the movie impressed me enough to give it a satisfactory rating. I mentioned earlier about the dimension jump sequence, which is done impressively well. The sound effects editing for this scene is also astounding, and it really pays off watching it on DVD. I like the cast of this movie too. James Spader has always been one of our most underrated actors, and Angela Bassett is always a pleasure to watch.

Supernova is very much a guilty pleasure. As Iíve said before, Iíve given plenty of movies, especially a lot of sci-fi films a marginal pass, because most movies in this genre are just a sight for the eyes. Every once in a while, we will be served a turkey like Battlefield Earth, which lacks any sense of imagination and wonder that Supernova has, but then again, almost any movie has a lot more sense and imagination than that nightmare of a movie.

Video ****

An outstandingly stellar transfer from MGM, who arenít always easy to predict with their releases. This disc used the old tradition of dual-sided playback, with widescreen on one side, and the full frame version on the other. I, of course, viewed only the widescreen portion of the disc. This anamorphic presentation is thoroughly crisp and totally clear, without a single inch of grain in the mix. Most scenes take place in dark settings, and you can tell how clear it is. One of MGMís most outstanding looking DVDís ever.

Audio ****

If you recall my praising comments on the dimension jump scene in this movie, it should give you a hint on how the sound turns out on this disc. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio blasts with a real boom. Speakers seem to pick up every distinctive sound, and the numerous digitalized voices that are heard often in the film are really a knockout in this presentation. A **** transfer all the way!!

Features **1/2

There are only two primary extras here, which are a trailer, and a collection of deleted scenes, some of which are very long scenes cut from the movie. The deleted scenes make up for about 20 minutes, so once youíre done watching the movie, which is only 91 minutes, it will be a big plus to check out the deleted scenes, which also includes a very intriguing alternate ending.

Summary:

Supernova is simply an entertaining, though not very original science fiction package. Filled with great special effects and some very good acting for this kind of genre, I hope you come to enjoy this movie as I surprisingly was.