Blu-Ray Review: “Supernova” (James Spader, Angela Bassett)

 

Unless your tastes reside in a contrarian based universe, you’ll never confuse Supernova with such sci-fi staples as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner. Its backstory, however, reaches nearly epic proportions as the aforementioned films, mainly thanks to the involvement of directors Walter Hill (Wild Bill) and Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now)

Shout! Factory takes forgotten (and often underrated) movies and puts cinematic tender love and care into the mix, blessing most of their releases with informative and engaging special features. But before we touch the extras, we must delve into Supernova’s narrative:

Supernova - Shout! Factory
Supernova – Shout! Factory

A medical vessel named the Nightingale travels through outer space helping spacecrafts and crews in need of assistance. With world weary leader A.J. Marley (Robert Forster) and no-nonsense Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett) at the helm, along with new co-pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader), the Nightingale should be in safe hands.

A shuttlecraft’s distress signal leads to the discovery of Troy (Peter Facinelli in full bad guy mode) the son of Kaela’s ex-lover and, more importantly, an alien artifact which immediately captivates crew member Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips). Robin Tunney also stars (in an undercooked role) as Danika, Yerzy’s lover who immediately lusts for Troy (Facinelli).

Even at a short 91 minutes, “Supernova” is an outright misfire, a spacecraft that just doesn’t know where it wants to go. If you’re a fan of you’re a fan of Walter Hill’s tough guy driven oeuvre (“The Driver,” “The Long Riders,” “The Warriors”), you may appreciate Nick Van Zant’s testosterone driven heroics – while also realizing the story’s one-dimensional approach to its inhabitants.

Supernova

Jack Sholder, a filmmaker who was hired to do reshoots on the film, said of Walter Hill’s approach: “Everyone was so tough – you never saw through the toughness.”

Most of my fascination surrounding Supernova originates from tying to figure out why two stellar filmmakers (after Hill, Francis Ford Coppola tried to shape the film with his own version of an edit) and a solid cast failed to deliver the goods.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

I was lukewarm after watching “Supernova,” but my appreciation for the film grew after checking out the extras:

The Making of Supernova (25:02) – Although Walter Hill or Francis Ford Coppola are nowhere to be found, actors Robert Forster and Lou Diamond Phillips (the “script was in constant flux” says Phillips) share their candid thoughts on the making of the film. Producer Daniel Chuba also adds that the film started out as a gritty, $5 million budgeted sci-fi  that turned into a $25 million studio flick once Hill came on board and eventually rewrote Supernova. 

Lou Diamond Phillips, although he noted the scenes were “being rewritten every single day,” has high praise for Walter Hill who would later take his name off the film (Supernova’s director is the Alan Smithee-esque moniker “Thomas Lee”).

Supernova - Lou Diamond Phillips
Supernova – Lou Diamond Phillips (Shout! Factory)

Deleted Scenes (14:41) – Along with an entertaining “making of” featurette, Supernova comes with deleted scenes that completely changes the structure of the film.

**A.J. Marley (Forster) espouses his life’s philosophy while looking out into the stars, saying that “even the lack of a pattern has a pattern” while Vanzant offers up a slightly different viewpoint. Several of the deleted scenes point to the complex connection between the pilots, a dynamic that’s completely erased from the final cut.

**There’s also twist that’s revealed in a much more effective fashion during Nick Vanzant’s time away from the craft, and that deleted scene sets in motion the final moments of the action driven third act.

*Another sequences has Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett) performing an autopsy on a fellow crew member. It’s not a scene of significant import, but considering Bassett takes a back seat to Spader and Facinelli’s characters, it’s definitely worth a look.

Is Supernova a good movie? Far from it, but Shout! Factory has lovingly put together another stellar release, this time showing viewers what went wrong with a sci-fi film that could have been operatic in scope, but ended up a jumbled mess of sheer confusion. 

As a Walter Hill enthusiast (“Last Man Standing” is one of my favorite Bruce Willis efforts), I was more than game for Supernova. Considering the deleted scenes showed potential for a more cerebral take on the story, Supernova is a failed film that, once you put all the Blu-ray extras together, has its merits.

Angela Bassett in "Supernova" - Shout! Factory
Angela Bassett in “Supernova” – Shout! Factory

Supernova is now available on Blu-ray. And remember, “if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the universe!” (see trailer below)

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