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James Spader
goes the sci-fi route
with a paint-by-numbers script

James Spader

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

By now, virtually any sci-fi movie junkie can tell you the plot of a typical Hollywood space opera without seeing it: A crew of a seen-better-days vessel goes to remote system, finds alien/bad person/person affected by alien object, and brings he/she/it aboard said vessel.

Eddie Rice Jr.Crew gets offed one by one in gruesome fashion aboard suddenly claustraphobic ship. Brave captain/crewman/strong silent type battles alien/bad person/person affected by alien object and is defeated and assumed to be killed.

Alien/bad person/person affected by alien object stalks comely female. Comely female battles back and does surprisingly well, until a), she blows up vessel with alien/bad person/person affected by alien object insde it, b) she lures alien/bad person/person affected by alien object into airlock with her comeliness and/or gratuitous nudity, then blows it into space, or c) brave captain/crewman/strong silent type comes back from the dead to rescue comely female and TOGETHER they blow up seen-better-days vessel with alien/bad person/person affected by alien object inside it.

No matter what, big things go boom inevitably in Hollywood's formula sci-fi.

"Supernova" follows this plan nearly to the letter, as a rescue vessel answers a distress beacon from a remote mining colony.

En route to the colony, the captain meets a particularly gruesome end (this one is for Trek fans who yearn to see graphic transporter accidents) and the ship suffers some heavy damage. The rest of the crew meets the sole survivor (Peter Facinelli) of the supposedly abandoned mine, who is the son of a man who was once romantically involved with the ship's doctor (Angela Bassett).

From the first moment we meet him, he acts suspiciously enough to make Mother Theresa paranoid.

Shortly thereafter, all heck starts breaking loose, as delineated in the outline above.

SupernovaWhile "Supernova" is certainly predictable, it does have its moments. There are some gen-u-wine whiz-bang special effects and the cast is solid, particularly the nearly unrecognizable James Spader in the taciturn hero role. Robert Forster as the ship's luckless commander and Lou Diamond Phillips as an amorous crewman also turn in solid performances in a picture that overall doesn't deserve 'em.

Be warned: "Supernova" sat on a studio shelf for more than a year before seeing the light of day — never a good sign — and was quickly dumped onto the marketplace during a time of year when new releases are generally few and far between. There IS a reason for such shabby treatment, folks.

I can't think of many reasons to go see the movie (and, it appears, neither can the moviegoing public, which is staying away in droves), especially in a theater full of obnoxious, restless teens as Da Queen and I did (at least we got a couple of passes for our trouble).

"Supernova" IS a great looking movie, for those who must venture out to see it. Spader is reasonably interesting as an action hero, a radical change from the soft-spoken cerebral sort he usually plays. Still, these are mighty poor excuses to plunk down hard-earned cash on a movie that reminds me of seeing a paint-by-numbers done by a four-year-old hanging in the Louvre.

There are too many other good movies out there; don't waste your time with this.

Theater or Video?
Well, much as I hate to say it, the gorgeous special effects are better seen on the bigger screen. See it in that format only if you've already seen "The Green Mile," "Toy Story 2," "Bicentennial Man," etc.
DVD at
VHS at

See other information about "Supernova" at Internet Movie Data Base.