Supernova [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (13th January 2015).
The Film

“In the farthest reaches of space, something has gone terribly wrong.”

You have to wonder if the irony of that tagline was lost on those handling the marketing for “Supernova” (2000). Sometimes, the behind-the-scenes catastrophes that plague a feature film are vastly more intriguing and interesting than the resulting picture. There’s little argument against “Supernova” being such a film, because whatever back room dirt that hit the public airwaves is infinitely more engaging than the film, which is mostly a bore. Intended to be the celestial love child of “Event Horizon” (1997) and “Dead Calm” (1989), this baby came out one chromosome shy of a complete set. Truthfully, given all the turmoil it’s a wonder something moderately coherent was even able to be spliced together. Of course, whatever it is audiences saw on screen likely didn’t match up with what they expected - the film’s trailer sells it as an adventurous galactic romp featuring a fun, chummy group who meet a mysterious stranger, set to the music of Sugar Ray’s “Fly”. It is included on this Blu-ray and, yes, it is more entertaining than the film itself.

Set in the 22nd century, a deep space medical crew receives a distress call from an ice moon, where a mining operation has been ongoing. Their captain, Marley (Robert Forster), decides to answer it, sending the ship on a 3,000-light year jump to offer assistance. That decision proves to be fatal, as Marley’s Space Jump Protection Pod (not the scientific term) malfunctions, leaving him looking like a distant relative to Jeff Goldblum’s Fly post-accident. Thus, the rescue is overtaken by co-pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader, curiously playing the hero), who deftly brings a young man (Peter Facinelli) on board despite some major post-flight turbulence. Medic Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett) recognizes the man’s name as that of a former lover, but his face doesn’t match up. The young man, Karl, reveals he was her lover’s son.

Karl brings with him a radiating object, something the on-board computer describes as “ninth-dimensional matter”, capable of essentially rebooting life on a universal scale. The crew is understandably eager to jump back to their own galaxy and remove this enigmatic alien threat, but Critical Ship Part was damaged during arrival and it’ll take nearly every remaining minute they’ve got – before being sucked into the giant blue star hovering nearby – until it’s able to jump again. So, in the meanwhile Karl has sex with a naïve young crew person (Robin Tunney) before killing her and just about everyone else on board. Except our two leads, who must battle an ever-strengthening Karl intent on using the alien relic for… some purpose. He isn’t really clear on that; he just REALLY wanted to get it.

There’s a remote possibility that “Supernova” might have at least been more entertaining had Spader taken on the villain role and Facinelli were made the hunky hero. Instead, Spader’s pragmatic co-pilot is a bore, while Facinelli looks like a frat boy in rage mode after an intergalactic kegger. Any real gravitas the film had wound up in a heap of gooey flesh when Forster made his exit. From that point on, it’s a lot of terribly generic sci-fi writing, Lou Diamond Philips shirtless, decent deaths, and random crew sex scenes. On that last bit, see if you can tell that when – spoiler alert – Spader tries out Bassett’s vacuum tube it’s actually from an earlier romp between Tunney & Philips; the filmmakers simply had Tunney’s skin darkened to match Bassett’s. The CGI work, which was perhaps mildly commendable back in its day, looks about on-par with the Sy-Fy Channel’s current output.

Once the misery that is watching talented actors wade through a cesspool of compromised ideas finally ends, be sure to enjoy the seven full minutes of credits that conclude your feature presentation. I remember seeing “Supernova” back when it hit theaters, and the passage of nearly fifteen years since had me recalling it was decent despite being decidedly mediocre. Seeing it again was a hard reminder that it not only hasn’t aged well, it didn’t have anything going for it in the first place. Although talent like director Walter Hill (who had his name removed from the final film) and Francis Ford Coppola (who oversaw editing after it turned disaster) couldn’t help to make this a good film, it’s likely their cinematic sense is the only reason it’s halfway watchable at all.

Video

Nobody can blame Scream! Factory for not doing any sort of restorative work on the film’s 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image. Now, I agree that even the worst of films deserves to be presented as best as possible because there’s always a fan out there who will appreciate the effort, but “Supernova” is an ugly film, and you can only polish a turd so much. The MGM master used here exhibits heavy grain (not noise, though it gets really close at times), there’s dirt on the print, and white flecks, and it’s a bit soft and muddy. It’s also bathed in a blue hue (thanks to the orbiting star), which totally washes out the image to such a degree that nothing has detail or texture. Scenes that aren’t blue simply look flat and unimpressive. On the positive, there’s no DNR (clearly, given how much grain prevails) and black levels are pretty stable, so there’s that? Anyone who owned the previous DVD will likely find this a godsend; most will find the picture to be as ugly as the film. Fitting.

Audio

Sorry, but the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit) doesn’t save the day, though at least it isn’t a total slouch. The multi-channel offering has a decent presence, allowing the film’s electronic score some room to play. Dialogue is clean and balanced, though at times it sounds a bit canned. Blame ADR, probably. There’s not much to the low end, just a couple moments of mild bass here and there. The biggest issue is an audio dropout that occurs around the 21-minute mark on both the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. The disc also includes an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. Subtitles are included in English.

Extras

While some of the bigger names, with all their knowledge of the production melee, aren’t seen here there is a lot said about how troubled the production was thanks to some candid subjects. Along with a making-of featurette, the disc includes a theatrical trailer, deleted scenes and an alternate ending.

“The Making of “Supernova”” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 25 minutes and 1 second. A handful of the film’s cast & crew – producers, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Philips, etc. – provide some unvarnished recollections of their time working on the film. Nobody is crass, but nobody holds back, either. Those who have wanted to hear additional tidbits about the chaos on set will want to give this a viewing.

A reel of deleted scenes (1080p) runs for 14 minutes and 40 seconds.

An alternate ending (1080p) runs for 5 minutes and 27 seconds.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

“More from Scream Factory” includes the following bonus trailers (1080p):

- “Lifeforce” runs for 1 minute and 27 seconds.
- “The Incredible Melting Man” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Invaders from Mars” runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Unless you’re a glutton for bad sci-fi, this is one tough watch. If you’ve seen it before but haven’t revisited it in years, don’t; it’s worse than you remember.

The Film: D+ Video: C Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: C

 


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