SUPERNOVA, a production so troubled no director wanted to sign it, arrives on Blu-ray in a not-so-special edition from Scream Factory to clear up the whole sad behind the scenes story.
When an emergency call bypasses dispatch and comes directly to the medical rescue ship Nightingale from Titan 37 – a lunar mining ship evacuated three years ago after the moon went rogue – the vessel's captain AJ Marley (Robert Forster, JACKIE BROWN) makes the command decision to do a dimensional jump to quickly cross the light years' distance. A malfunction during the jump kills Marley, and co-pilot/recovering addict Nick Vanzant (James Spader, CRASH) must take over when the ship leaps into the rogue moon's debris field. The ship's medic Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett, STRANGE DAYS) is disturbed to discover that the rescue call came from Karl Larson, her ex-boyfriend who brutalized her while under the influence of the mind-altering drug Hazen, only to discover that the patient is actually the man's charming son Troy (Peter Facinelli, THE DAMNED) who claims to have been strip mining the abandoned Titan vessel when his "friends" abandoned him. Nick is less trusting when the team discovers that Troy has smuggled an alien artifact aboard that has a sensual effect on those who come into contact with it. Nick does, however, take Troy's word that the Titan has a large supply of fuel left; which the Nightingale desperately needs since the ship needs seventeen hours to recharge its thrusters and incineration when the ship comes into contact with the moon is imminent in seventeen hours and twelve minutes. When paramedic Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips, YOUNG GUNS) starts undergoing genetic changes – becoming younger and stronger – after developing an attachment to the artifact, Kaela realizes that Troy is not who or what he seems and the artifact may be highly destructive. Nick makes his own discoveries aboard the Titan and rushes to get back to the Nightingale, but Troy has taken over the ship and whittled down the crew to just himself and Kaela.
Credited director "Thomas Lee" is actually an "Alan Smithee-type credit for a film begun by Walter Hill (STREETS OF FIRE), recut by its editor/post-production supervisor Jack Sholder (THE HIDDEN), with reshoots and additional futzing by Francis Ford Coppola. Even before all of the tinkering – from a story by producer/visual effects producer Daniel Chuba (AS ABOVE, SO BELOW) and William Malone (CREATURE, FEAR DOT COM) and screenplay by David Campbell Wilson (THE PERFECT WEAPON) retooled by Hill – the film seems like it was always basically DEAD CALM in space with more sex (Forster is the only cast member who doesn't get naked). At almost exactly ninety minutes (well, ninety-one) with extended closing credits, SUPERNOVA is one of those films that has been cut to the bone with the ship's computer – nicknamed "Sweetie" by its programmer Benj (Wilson Cruz, NIXON) – relaying tons of exposition to link badly linked sequences (she never shuts up). Spader and Bassett have no chemistry and, like all of the other cast members, are just mouthing the day's hastily re-written dialogue. Forster lends some gravitas before making an early exit (just as well considering what follows) and Facinelli is your average faux-witty movie psycho underneath increasing amounts of prosthetic make-up courtesy of Patrick Tatopoulos' (GODZILLA, STARGATE) design team. Poor Robin Tunney (THE CRAFT) is so tangential to the story beyond taking off her clothes for two sex scenes (as well as stripping down for the dimensional jump scene). The visual effects – a combination of digital and model work by Digital Domain (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) and producer Chuba's Hammerhead Productions (X-MEN, PROMETHEUS) – impress apart from some of ropey CGI regeneration shots whenever Facinelli takes a hit. The scoring of David C. Williams (SHAKMA) is suitably grand during the space shots but less memorable during the effects scenes (and reaches a low point with the subtly funky scoring for the zero gravity sex scene viewed from outside the ship).
MGM released the film theatrically stateside in a PG-13 cut that eliminated the film's nudity and then on cassette. The subsequent 2000 DVD featured an extended version (which could not really be called a "director's cut" of any kind even though some use the term interchangeably with an unrated version) with an R-rating that featured an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer (as well as a fullscreen option) and 5.1 audio, twenty minutes of deleted scenes, and the film's trailer. MGM reissued the film in 2010 in a four film set with RETROACTIVE, SPECIES IV: THE AWAKENING, and the considerably more entertaining BREEDERS (the A/V and extras are unknown for this set). Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen presentation is clear enough to almost make the film look cheaper than it actually was – although it was still on the low end of Hollywood big budget at twenty-five million – almost as if it were a more recent HD-lensed lower budget sci-fi production. Grain is sometimes heavy (as well as specks of dirt here and there, including the zero gravity sex scene where viewers may be more likely to notice it with their eyes riveted to every inch of the screen), and saturated colors that are noisy and clip in the highlights (and there are quite a few of these scene as the ship gets too close to the rogue moon). The transfer is correctly matted to 2.35:1, although MGM's HD master – presumably the one used here – has apparently screened on television and on some streaming services opened up (rather than cropped to 1.78:1). The film's original mix was in Dolby Digital, and the 5.1 track is sonically-impressive throughout from its employment of the more awesome sections of the score and various explosions, ships, and weaponry blasting back and forth across the front and surround channels (a 2.0 stereo downmix is also included that recesses some of the music cues even further into the background). Optional English SDH subtitles are also included and emphasize just how constant "Sweetie" speaks.
In the new "Making of SUPERNOVA" featurette (24:52), producer Chuba describes how the film was intended to be a low-budget five million dollar feature in concept and production with added value from the effects his company could produce in-house. Things took a turn when United Artists took an interest in the film, the budget went up, and Walter Hill was brought on as director. Hill rewrote the film, but it would undergo almost daily rewrites mandated by the studio. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips describes how the call sheets from day to day read "TBD" (to be determined) and how the actors never knew what scenes they would be shooting and had to learn dialogue just before going in front of the cameras. Robert Forster is also on hand to express his admiration for Hill as well as discuss being made up with heavy prosthetics for his death scene, but he was off the film before the reshoots. Jack Sholder describes how Hill was fired from the film and he would end up recutting the film based on the comment cards from the film's test screening (he also expresses his views on Hill's rewrite from the film which he though made the characters less sympathetic), and then learning from his editor that he had been fired and the reshoots would be directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He also reveals that the zero abrupt gravity sex scene between Spader and Bassett was actually an indistinct angle from the Facinelli/Tunney scene with the actress digitally recolored. The only positive element the participants can agree on is the cinematography of Lloyd Ahern (TURBULENCE).
The MGM DVD had twenty minutes of deleted scenes which are represented here in two segments: the "Deleted Scenes" (14:38) and the "Alternate Ending" (5:25). The deleted scenes reveal that film was always overloaded with exposition courtesy of intertitles with Sweetie's comments less gratuitous (and sometimes sluttier). We get longer introductions to Marley (here doing opening narration rather than the computer), Evers (doing a gory autopsy on a deceased crew member), and Vanzant (doing his own audio diary relating his own personal experience of his rehab rather than the vitals delivered by Sweetie in the finished film). When Vanzant lands on the Titan, that ship has its own computer George (whose dialogue was all replaced by Sweetie in the finished film). There is also a gorier take on one character's death (along with an alternate grislier take of the body before it is launched into space), and a wisely deleted scene with the real Troy. The alternate ending features some additional bits with Troy on the rampage and a more bittersweet finale that alters the time Earth has left before being hit by the titular supernova. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:17) as well as trailers for LIFEFORCE, INVADERS FROM MARS, and THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Not one of Scream Factory's special editions, there is no slipcase or reversible cover artwork (the inside cover features indistinct blue-tinted images of Spader and Bassett). (Eric Cotenas)
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