By Steve Vivona
MGM, $24.95, Widescreen/Standard
Beyond comprehension, beyond imagination and beyond the deepest regions of this galaxy, life as we know it is about to end! That's how the description for "Supernova" begins on the back of the DVD cover. The PR folks at MGM certainly got the "beyond comprehension" part right!
"Supernova" was disowned by director Walter Hill, who demanded his name be removed from the film. Hill opted for the pseudonym "Thomas Lee" instead of the more well-known "Alan Smithee." After "Supernova" was taken from him it fell into the uncredited hands of Jack Sholder (director of The Hidden and other B-films) and no less than Francis Ford Coppola to pick up the pieces.
Unfortunately they couldn't save this incoherent mess whose only real bright spot is some nice special effects.
The Nightingale is a medical vessel that spends months patrolling deep space for anyone in trouble. They receive a distress call from a far galaxy and are forced to make a dangerous dimension jump in order to reach those in trouble. During the jump their commander (Robert Forster, who needs a better agent) dies, leaving the ship in the command of co-pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader), who happens to be a recovering drug addict.
The crew finds themselves in immediate danger following the jump when they are caught in the gravitational pull of a dying star. The disabled ship rescues a shuttlecraft with a lone survivor carrying a mysterious alien artifact. Karl (Peter Facinelli) explains that he and his partners were on a scavenging party and unearthed this enigmatic orb that has a seductive effect on the crew.
Nick knows that Karl is hiding something and decides to investigate his story. Before long Karl reveals his true nature and starts picking off the crew one by one, displaying unimaginable powers that he derives from the orb. After he seemingly strands Nick on the planet below it falls to Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), the ship's medical officer to stop Karl before the ship is destroyed by the dying star.
Supernova lifts from every good science fiction film from the last 20 years including "Alien," "2010," and "Event Horizon" (another film with major post-production woes but a classic by comparison). The script telegraphs all its moves and the film is utterly predictable.
The DVD has a selection of 20 minutes of deleted footage that makes the plot more coherent and reinserts a major story point that was completely eliminated. The footage also includes an extremely downbeat alternate ending.
All the actors have seen better days, especially the Oscar-nominated Angela Bassett. Also along for the ride are Lou Diamond Phillips and Robin Tunney, whose many topless scenes are probably the fodder for this exclusive R-rated version! It's sad to see this talented crew deliver this stilted dialogue. It's almost as though they knew how this film was going to turn out!
MGM's DVD presentation is very nice. The image is sharp and glossy with strong colors. The widescreen version is definitely preferable over the fullscreen. The 5.1 dolby mix is also serviceable and gives the film a bit of an extra punch, but nothing can really save it. A trailer has also been included.