SUPERNOVA (2000; Thomas Lee aka Walter Hill)
It's fascinating to see James Spader circa 2000. He was still within his range as sexy leading man. Not to say that he's totally lost that now, but lets just say he looks a lot different 15 years later. The rest of the films cast is notable and includes Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli and Robin Tunney. Bassett is the missed dearly in today's films and though she's far from not appearing in them, it saddens me that she's been relegated to more supporting roles and TV in the past decade or so. Robin Tunney was an actress I didn't mind seeing in films either and she seems to have hit her peak popularity right around the time this film came out, only to move over to doing a lot of television work herself. Just watching the film I was reminded how fickle Hollywood can be about actors. The "It Factor" that seems determine who the stars of the moment are is elusive and fairly random as it always has been. I've had a great deal of respect for actors who take their craft seriously especially in the face of dwindling "popularity". It's a cruel business and lots of very talent people aren't allowed the longevity they deserve. Like I said, this isn't a new phenomenon, but it certainly occurred to me that many of the actors in this film would be somewhat unfamiliar to present day audiences, despite it only being fifteen years old.
SUPERNOVA was part of a short trend of horror science fiction films that came out in the mid to late 1990s. It has some similarities to EVENT HORIZON, which seems to be the more oft fondly remember film of the two. Apparently it was at one point described as "HELLRAISER in space" during a certain point in its development process. It was also described as "DEAD CALM in space" by writer WIllaim Malone. I always find it interesting when a film is pitched as another film "in space", and also when the film being used to describe is itself a remake of another movie (in this case, DEAD CALM was an ostensible reworking of Polanski's KNIFE IN THE WATER). I remember hearing about SUPERNOVA perhaps before it came out as being a troubled production. This was interesting in that, at least for me, the internet was not too much of an entity and I still was able to hear word of the ill-fated project. The credited director is "Thomas Lee", which is actually Walter Hill despite the fact that he quite the film before it was finished. Apparently MGM was stodgy with Hill in not approving several key effects sequences he wanted and also demanded the film be tested before much in the way of effects had been added (against Hill's wishes). After Hill left the movie and after it tested poorly, director Jack Sholder (12:01, NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 2, THE HIDDEN) was brought aboard to re-edit the footage that Hill had shot. When Sholder's recut also tested poorly, Francis Ford Coppola (an MGM Board Member at the time) did his own recut at no small cost and even that failed to test well. The resulting film crashed hard critically and at the box office netting about $15 on a nearly $90 million budget. Understandably SUPERNOVA hasn't been heard from too much since that point, so I found it a very interesting choice for Scream Factory to release it. Not a bad choice mind you as I find films like this to be curiosities to revisit when all the rumors and bad press have died down. It's certainly a good-looking movie (DP Lloyd Ahern II had worked with Walter Hill on his epic WILD BILL film previous to this). The Blu-ray transfer does do it proud in that it pops pretty good I must say. Science fiction films are some of my favorite things to watch on Blu-ray I must admit. The movie opens with a scene featuring actor Wilson Cruz and that is unfortunate as he is probably the weak link in this cast and his performance most certainly took me out from time to time. I loved him on MY SO-CALLED life, but for some reason, his manner of acting is maybe not the most well suited to delivering expository space dialogue. SUPERNOVA is a bit disorienting out of the gate, and it you can almost feel the fingers of an editor attempting to streamline whilst actually making things more confusing. Once the movie settles into its horror elements I was fine with it (though things get a bit ludicrous at times), but I was never able to settle in properly so that made it hard to ultimately connect with it. I do like this cast though so that can carry a film a long way as far as my appreciation goes. Robert Forster is a particular favorite of mine and I always think he is a class act who does his best with whatever material he is given. As I mentioned, I do think it was intriguing for Scream Factory to put this film out on Blu-ray and give it some tender loving care as it has been somewhat neglected in the fifteen years since its initial release. To give an older film a new platform like this for rediscovery and re-examination is an affable choice to be sure.
-"The Making of SUPERNOVA" (25 mins) - This is the standout supplement on this disc for sure. The piece pulls no punches via interviews with producer Daniel Chuba, (uncredited) co-director Jack Sholder and stars Lou Diamond Phillips and Robert Forster. It's a story that I'm sure plays out in Hollywood all the time, wherein a bigger director is brought on to a project and that project's budget balloons and the director takes a pass at rewriting the script. All the interviews touch on the problematic nature of the budget, and the script which was changing on basically a daily basis (which hurt the actors and they prep work they like to do for each scene and the overall arcs of their characters). The phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" is also uttered several times and that's something that always seem to make a movie worse. It's made clear throughout the course of this piece that one thing SUPERNOVA was certainly lacking was a unifying director's vision. It really made me think about how subjective films are and how damaging it must be to sometimes have so much input about which choices to make. It was refreshing to see a retrospective that looks back honestly on how a movie went wrong and how hard the filmmaking process is in general. The more I think about it, the more elated I am that quality films are able to be made at all sometimes.
-Also included are some Deleted Scenes(12 mins), an alternate ending (6 mins) and a theatrical trailer.