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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/22/99



Supernova
200 (2000) - MGM/UA

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Supernova Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B-

Specs and Features

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 13 deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1) and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


A long time from now, in a part of the galaxy far, far away, an intergalactic ambulance called the Nightingale is out on a three hour tour... when suddenly it gets a distress call from a mining colony on a distant moon. The Nightingale holds a crew of six. There's the ship's navigator, Benjamin (Wilson Cruz), who's having a relationship of some sort with the ship's sexy voiced computer "Sweetie". We also have Danika Lund (Robin Tunney) and Yerzy Penalosa (Lou Diamond Phillips), who are having a pretty aerobic relationship in any corner they can find. Let's not forget the doctor with a dark past, Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), a former military pilot with his own demons, Nick Vanzant (James Spader), and their captain, A.J. Marley (Robert Forster), who's working on a Ph.D. on cartoon violence in the 20th century. Good for him. Wasting no time whatsoever (maybe because the filmmakers had no idea what they hell they were doing with this film), we jump right into it. So by the 15-minute mark, we've established all the characters and their quirks, had a huge special effects sequence, lost a major character and, for those observant enough, we've seen clips from every event to come in the film. Very observant viewers may even figure out the whole film at this point.

The huge special effect is actually pretty neat. In order to get to this mining colony moon, the ship has to "dimension jump," which is like a scientifically viable (or not, but who cares) lightspeed. The problem is, when they get to their goal, they're orbiting a planet in the middle of a supernova. Oh... and during the jump, they get hit by debris and have lost most of their fuel. Fighting gravity and waiting for the ship to recharge for another dimension jump (which, when it does they'll only have about 10 minutes to do so - re: foreshadowing), we finally meet the guy who sent the distress call and caused all the ruckus in the first place. During the call, he claimed he was Carl Larson, a name Kaela recognized and considers "her worst nightmare". But is he? When he finally shows up, he's a strapping young man who calls himself Troy (Peter Facinelli), Carl's son. And under his arm he's carrying an amazing secret. A secret that can either be the cause of, or the complete end of, all life in the universe. And he'll do anything to keep it, including offing anyone that gets in his way.

Anyone who follows Sci-fi movies probably knows the twisted history of this here film. Supernova was one of those studio messes that everyone loves hearing stories about but hates being part of. I can't even pretend to know all the ins and outs of this production. All I do know is that Walter Hill started it, director Jack Sholder (The Hidden) jumped in and at the 11th hour, Francis Ford Coppola tried his best to help make the film watchable. Did Hill screw something up? I seriously doubt it. My theory is that Hill wanted more money to finish something, and MGM said no. Hill walked (or was fired) and MGM scrambled to fix the film with what they had. It's the same old song with different words, and we've heard it all before. Supernova is not a bad, as-in-awful film. It's just a bad, not-very-good film. It does have a few somethings going on inside that make it watchable. First off, the special effects are actually pretty interesting. And, the cinematography is also pretty, with great camera effects and color lighting - it all makes for some delicious eye candy. On the flip side, the acting is stiff, the dialogue is pretty bad and the character development is awful. But the good thing here is, you can still watch it. That's what counts, right? And watching it on DVD, is like having the sugar that makes medicine go down. How's that for a recommendation?

On DVD were treated to a pretty top-notch video presentation. It's a double-sided disc, with anamorphic widescreen on one side and a full frame on the other. Both look great. The colors are crisp and vibrant and the blacks are deep and ripe. I didn't detect any unwanted noise in the picture and all of the lines are clean and detailed. Overall, it's a really great picture. The sound is also pretty sweet. There are plenty of directional effects and there are a few neat sound cues in the rear channels that will make you look around the room. It's not a balls-to-the-wall ride, but it does pretty well for what it is.

Supernova is also a special edition of sorts. This is the extended R-rated cut, which won't matter much consider all of 5 people saw this thing in the theaters. Apparently, a lot of violence was edited out for the theatrical release and it was put back in here. It probably amounts to less than a minute, but let's give MGM props for trying. Along with the extended cut, we get a trailer (very MTV, but in crystal clear anamorphic), a production booklet (I think this will be the last time I list this as an extra) and a series of deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are essentially elements of a darker version of the film. I can't really say what makes it darker, because that would give the ending away. But it presents a new opening and closing which gives us a little bit of a darker spin on things. I think I like the lighter theatrical/video version over the ideas presented in the deleted scene supplement, so I agree with whoever chose to get rid of this path. The quality of these clips is on par with VHS and show some grain and artifacts that are nowhere in the original film. It's clear to me that these were pulled from an analog video master of some kind.

I don't think anything could have made this film better. It was pretty much relegated to B-movie status, and not very good B-movie at that. Personally, I think that this could have been one of the greatest special editions of all time, if MGM had the balls to face the "studio politics" aspect of the film and let Walter Hill cut a deal to revisit it. Like Brazil before it, this would make a great disc for a DVD producer to line up in about 5 years. How cool would it be to preserve the stories here and get the truth out on why this film failed and what it could have been if the studio had let Walter Hill have his way. Sure, maybe it would still have sucked, and maybe we'll never know (odds are we will never know), but Supernova still has the potential. As it stands now, it's just a below average, studio made Sci-fi flick, that reached for the stars but fell flat on the ground. Hard. And once again... how's that for a recommendation?

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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