Supernova 2000 movie

Supernova – The ill-fated Sci-Fi by Walter Hill

Sometimes, movies are born that, on paper, have it all, as was the case with Supernova before it came out in theaters in 2000.

Yet not even a good budget and a phenomenal cast under the guidance of an undisputed master of cinema like Walter Hill could save the disaster caused by the confusing production. But even by maiming it in this way, is it as completely throw-away as everyone seems to be saying?

The story starts intriguingly aboard the Nightingale 229, a technologically advanced rescue ship led by Captain A.J. Marley, who leads a motley crew of very different talents with the help of his deputy, medical officer Kaela Evers.

Before their next jump into space, the group joins with Nick Vanzant, a co-pilot returning to duty after a long period of drug addiction.

There’s not much time for Nick to get comfortable because the ship soon after receives a distress signal from an abandoned mine in space, but the dimensional jump to the distant system ends badly, and due to a capsule malfunction, the ship’s captain dies tragically.

At that point, as per protocol, Nick takes command and leads the group to the mine, where they find only one survivor, the mysterious young man Troy Larsson.

Only then does a distraught Kaela recognize the son of one of her lovers from many years earlier, a terrible affair from which she had barely escaped.

Moreover, Troy hides from them the real reason for his trip to the mine: an unknown artifact capable of altering DNA and the human mind.

Once the artifact unleashes its power, a struggle for survival quickly begins on board, and everyone tries to repair the ship before it falls into a dying star that is about to explode in a supernova.

In space, no one can hear you arguing with the producers

It seems strange to me to need to defend this movie when whoever worked on it had already immediately forgotten the name Supernova when it came out in theaters in 2000.

Yet the storyline premise of this group of very different people forced to work together against an unknown threat was very intriguing, and the formula of mixing action and horror in an elegant cinematic construction could have been successful.

Moreover, Walter Hill‘s name was still very much in vogue, so there was a ready audience with great interest just because it was his first time directing the sci-fi genre.

Unfortunately, the damage was already done when old Walter stepped on the set, after many changes of directors and scriptwriters, arriving when the shooting had already begun and unfortunately finding significant problems in concluding it.

Moreover, the production was afraid many of the director’s ideas would not appeal to the general public, fearing how he rewrote the story to give it a tone of philosophical mystery with more psychological background for each character.

As if that wasn’t enough, much of the special effects were also rebuilt in CGI, thus losing that prop physicality so unique and necessary to both the action scenes and the horror side in the alien artifact mutations.

For the wise Hill, it was such a harsh disappointment that it would lead to denying his name in the titles, eventually signing himself as Thomas Lee, and never again (at least to this day) attempting further forays into the sci-fi genre.

Yet despite all the plot inconsistencies, we can still enjoy and respect his directing style, the essential choice for each shot, and the elegant camera movements, especially in the first half of the movie, perhaps what the production changed and cut the least.

We all must try to rescue this rescue team

Despite these premises, which cursed the movie to crash into the supernova of cinematic oblivion in 2000, I want to reiterate that it is still a fun sci-fi adventure where we can still admire the director’s talent and his extraordinary cast.

Among them, James Spader is the star and also the one who most insisted on Walter Hill’s direction, partly compensating for the disaster of his previous colleagues.

Better known for his role in the international hit Stargate, Spader returns to the sci-fi genre in a different light with a character who, after a challenging period, must regain trust and rebuild his life.

Helping him is Angela Bassett, the beautiful and talented shipboard doctor with whom he establishes a romantic relationship after initial distrust since she, too, has had a bad experience with drugs because of her ex-drug addict husband.

Although she thinks she has left him in her past, she instead finds her husband with the sex appeal of actor Peter Facinelli, younger and stronger thanks to the influence of the alien artifact, which at the same time pushes him further into madness.

Equally good (though in a too-brief role) is the experienced Robert Forster, whom Quentin Tarantino would bring to the fore as a leading man in Jackie Brown.

Here, too, he manages, however, to make an excellent contribution as the unfortunate commander of a fantastic crew with the pair (between love and jealousy) Lou Diamond Phillips/Robin Tunney and technician Wilson Cruz, who was to have (later cut) a similar romantic relationship with the bizarre A.I. of the shipboard computer, Sweetie.

In the end, as a result (compared to the way it might have to be), Walter Hill wisely decides to focus more on the characters than on the special effects.

So we have several compelling action scenes with the right editing pace, although obviously, many/too many details are lost along the way. I don’t want to deny that it is a film with a lot of problems, but, just as honestly, it still works well as pure entertainment and spectacle, especially considering the current competition in the sci-fi genre (look at the new Star Wars, for example), which seem to me to be decidedly worse than this movie with its long and complicated production.

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