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Supernova

Starring: James Spader, Angela Bassett
Director: Walter Hill
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 1999
Rating: 2 / 5

When looking at low-grade science fiction films, it is important to maintain a sense of perspective. For example, precious few films match the standards set by the likes of Star Wars and Aliens, yet we invariably compare new offerings to these classics. I was noting this recently while reading another critic's review of Supernova, Walter Hill's unfulfilling futuristic thriller. Should we only hold films like Supernova up against other films of its ilk, or should we look at all science fiction films when analyzing such an offering? One way, Supernova comes across as an entertaining diversion with a lot of potential; the other way, it appears to be nothing more than a cheap hybrid of films we have already seen before.

Nick Vanzant (James Spader) is a discredited Army pilot serving his probation in the far reaches of space. Trying to kick an addiction to a futuristic drug, Nick asks to be placed aboard the Nightingale, a medical rescue vessel commanded by Captain A.J. Marley (Robert Forster). Typically, the Nightingale will float for months at a time before receiving orders to voyage out into space on another mission. The crew is startled, then, when a distress call reaches them directly. The Titan is in trouble on an abandoned mining colony, and the crew is in need of immediate assistance. Tragedy strikes on the "jump" there, and Nick must help his fellow travelers discover what the truth is about the Titan and the colony's lone survivor.

Supernova teases the audience from the outset, hinting at all sorts of mysterious undertakings, only to drop a disappointing revelation upon us at the end. That statement is not entirely accurate, as the film's key plot twist can be spotted thirty minutes into this brief ninety-minute voyage. After all, one of the crew members has a past with the individual sending the distress signal, and it soon becomes apparent how this individual connects to the mysterious stranger now on board the Nightingale. Of course, Nick and his colleagues are not so quick to pick up on these events, and they suffer the consequences. If only the audience were so easily duped...

Supernova borrows liberally from other films, and it seems to toss off useless plot elements for no reason at all. We learn that Danika (Robin Tunney) and Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips) are petitioning the government to have a baby. Why? Character development? Hardly. This film, released in theatres as a PG-13 film, hit video stores as an R-rated one. Why? Director Walter Hill thought that nude hyper-sleep was the only way to go. That said, Supernova, hints at some intriguing options, particularly related to the ship's "jumps" through space and the last moments of the Titan. Alas, when the closing credits rolled less than an hour and a half into the film, I was not sorry to see this Supernova go.

Cast:

James Spader..........Nick Vanzant
Angela Bassett..........Kaela Evers
Lou Diamond Phillips..........Yerzy Penalosa
Robin Tunney..........Danika Lund

Certification: Rated R for violence and nudity.
Running Time: 91 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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[critics]