Director: Walter Hill
Cast: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Peter Facinelli, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz and Robert Forster
Plot: A medical space shuttle answers a distress signal which leaves them with a broken vessel, a mysterious stranger and a possible alien artefact.
Every now and again, you will sit down and watch a movie, coming out of the other side, unable to escape the feeling that you just subjected yourself to 90 minutes you will never get back. Supernova is that kind of film.
It suffers from being one of those below par Sci-Fis that just struggles to get off the ground. It tries to come across as a devoted follower of the Alien series (a crew of non-military spacemen answer a distress signal and end up getting killed off one by one by an alien organism), but ends up feeling more like a Star Trek wannabe. The Alien vibes are there deep down. Space is a very good setting for a horror, because there is so little we know about it. All we have to do is write in this weird, glowing alien treasure and suddenly, any Sci-Fi fan worth his salt knows it is only a matter of time, before things start going pear-shaped. However, Supernova never goes beyond that trickling tension, its more horror-based attempts missing the mark drastically. It doesn’t help that this movie’s villain is Peter Facinelli’s bland stranger. The actor goes for charming and mysterious, but just ends up sucking the screen time away from more worthwhile sides of the story (a bond between Wilson Cruz’s engineer and the ship’s AI doesn’t really go anywhere). Eventually this movie turns into a kind of B Movie slasher film, with all of the shocking revelations that awkwardly aren’t as shocking as the writers or directors seem to think they are.
Supernova actually has a bit of behind-the-scenes tension as well. Walter Hill, known for his honest action movies like 48 hours and Red Heat, was the man in charge of directing this, but because of a falling out with the producers, he refused to be credited. The film goes under the pseudonym of Thomas Lee, Hill abandoning all ownership of the project. It is interesting to look back at Supernova and try to figure out where Hill’s creativity came into play and where the producers watered it down. There are moments early on that suggest we are onto something good. The first death is particularly gruesome and surprising, and some of the tension, before the heavy-handed slasher tropes come into play, does work. However, it just slowly trips up on itself and becomes a tired waste of time, with dull action sequences and poor pacing. The light at the end of the tunnel is the casting of James Spader. He plays the drug addict, who comes to this quiet medical ship as his rehabilitation program, hoping to enjoy the peace of deep space. However, he ends up becoming the captain of the crew and taking on this dangerous mission. Spader keeps the cheesy dialogue, grounded, somehow coming out of this movie with a note-worthy performance. Perhaps it was the fact that by the time, the lines came around, I was bored out of my skull, but I did love the scene where Spader stands up to this almighty monster, John McClane style, and simply monotones the fact that he is coming to kill him and there is nothing he could do about it. A small thrill in a sea of boredom.
Final Verdict: Supernova is a mess, dull and unsure of its identity. If it wasn’t for Spader, I would have wasted 90 minutes on nothing.