DirectorThomas Lee, Walter Hill
Release Date(s)2000 (January 13, 2015)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B+
When it comes to nightmare projects that went way beyond the original intent and ended up being a complete disaster, few recent projects have quite as big a story tell behind the scenes as Supernova. What was originally meant to be a low budget sci-fi/horror film, changing hands between different writers, directors, editors, and producers, became something entirely different, with a marketing campaign that missed the mark completely. All you have to do is see the original theatrical trailer for the film, following it up with the film itself, and it’s clear that this was a project truly deserving of the moniker “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
All of that being said, I kind of dig Supernova, and not really in a ‘so bad that it’s good’ way. It’s far from being the pile of manure that most people might lead you to believe, especially the people who put it together. It’s clear while watching it that it had a lot of different ideas from a variety of sources that didn’t quite gel. But still, this is a movie with a lot on its mind that actually looks pretty good, has some pretty good practical effects, and also has some effective scenes in it. It’s just a bit of a jumbled mess when it comes to the story and the way that it’s cut together. The ending of the film is far from satisfying, most of the CGI is severely dated, and character dynamics are almost nowhere to be found. The actors don’t seem entirely committed to the project either, mostly because they were being given constant rewrites all throughout the production that prevented them from fully understanding what they were working on.
The film was originally developed by William Malone (who most will know from the [in my opinion] excellent House on Haunted Hill remake) and was to eventually be directed by Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper). This never came to be, and the film was developed more over the years until Walter Hill was hired to direct it. Since Hill was partly responsible for the Alien franchise coming into being, this seemed like a good choice at the time. However, Hill quit during post-production due to the studio disagreeing with him on nearly every decision he made, going so far as to previewing the film without any finished visual effects. The film was handed over for re-editing and re-shoots by Jack Sholder (The Hidden), but after more abysmal test screenings, the film was shelved for two years. Dusted off in 2000 and given another round of editing duties by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, the film finally got a release that year and bombed horribly with both audiences and critics.
Looking back at it all these years later, you certainly can’t look past its high points, of which there are few. It’s more akin to something like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine or even Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon, but much slower and less interesting, obviously. I still don’t think it’s quite as bad as most critics at the time made it out to be though. Sure it’s flawed from top to bottom, but it’s still quite watchable, even if it isn’t all that original or has a story that’s entirely coherent.
For Scream Factory’s debuting of Supernova on Blu-ray, it appears that a previous HD master has been utilized. I say that because it isn’t quite as up to snuff as you would expect a film from 2000 to be. It’s certainly not terrible, but it is problematical. Right off the bat, there is an extremely heavy amount of film grain on display, much more than I expected. This could mean that there would be a lot of fine detail to reveal, but unfortunately the contrast is way too high to allow that. The film’s color palette, which is at an almost constant state of blue with grays and violets occasionally, is represented well enough. There isn’t much variation in this area, so there’s little to comment on. Black levels are pretty good without being amazing, and the overall look reeks of artificial sharpening (none of which, I might point out, was performed by Shout! if this is indeed a ported transfer). There are also some small specks of dirt here or there, but nothing entirely intrusive. I suppose any kind of transfer for a film that bombed as badly as this one did is a bit of a marvel. It’s technically clearer and more precise than its DVD counterpart, but it’s far from perfect. On the audio side of things, you get two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. The 5.1 track opens things up from time to time in the rear speakers with some added LFE, but sounds a bit muddled overall. The 2.0 track has less directionality and bass to it, but clearer dialogue exchanges. Neither track really excels above the other, but both do a decent enough job. Like the visual presentation, the audio is far from perfect but never severely lacking. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
For the extras selection, Shout! went to the trouble of putting together a nice short documentary on the film titled The Making of Supernova, while also including the horrible theatrical trailer, a set of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and some previews for other titles from the Scream Factory line. We don’t really get to hear anything from Walter Hill or Francis Ford Coppola, unfortunately, but this is a nice set of extra material, which is much more than I was expecting from a release of this film.
Supernova is one of those films that just didn’t live up to its full potential, but it did manage to find a small group of fans on video. The fact that that small group was enough to warrant any sort of high definition release of the film is great. It gives me hope for other less than savory titles to be dug up and pulled out of obscurity. As for the film itself, like I said, I dig it, but I’m definitely in the minority on this one. It’s a sort of a haze of bad rather than full-on terrible, and I also think it’s a release worth supporting, so check it out.
- Tim Salmons