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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi action violence and some sensuality/nudity

Reviewed by: Carole Stewart McDonnell

Very Offensive
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1 hr. 45 min.
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USA Release:
Scene from Supernova
Featuring: Angela Bassett, James Spader, Robert Forester, Peter Facinelli, Lou Diamond Phillips
Director: Walter Hill
Producer: Ash Shah, Daniel Chuba, Jamie Dixon
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Few sci-fi movies explore sex and mating issues. Even fewer explore sex in the boring work environment of interstellar space. When “Supernova” opens, we get a montage of happenings on the medical rescue ship, Nightingale. A computer named Sweetie is waking up her celibate quasi-creator to play chess. The ship’s pilot is writing a dissertation on cartoon violence. New co-pilot, Nick (James Spader), is complaining about the consistent sex between two of the medics. The tough ever-in-charge doctor, Kayla (Angela Bassett), is telling Nick she dislikes “hazen” addicts and doubts he’s really substance-free. And a mannequin-like robot in a macho pilot’s outfit is limping along the ship’s corridors. The viewer’s hopes run high. Here, we think, is a movie about sex, addiction, sexual addiction and male-female relationship issues. Certainly this is a crew that will not fare well under external pressure.

Scene from Supernova
Angela Bassett as Kayla, the doctor

But somewhere about 45 minutes into “Supernova” a wrong turn is taken. The scriptwriter, David C. Wilson, changes the film. What started out as a film with a relationship-exploring “2001: A space Odyssey” feel turns into little more than a psychopath-in-space film. My acceptance of the overabundant sexuality in the leisurely first thirty minutes of “Supernova” was not merely an exercise in good will and patience. The strong dialog, interesting characters, and claustrophobic setting, hinted at deeper things to come. I was waiting for something to shake these complacent folks up.

Scene from Supernova
Crew of The Nightingale observing an alien object

Something does shake them up. The Nightingale is cruising in the silence of interstellar space when its female computer, Sweetie, detects a distress signal from a distant mining colony. The Nightingale crew’s bad mistake is to respond and to bring external trouble on board. It is also, I think, where the film veers off course. The ship rescues the villainous and creepy Carl Larson who surreptitiously carries aboard his treasure, a phallic-shaped primeval alien device—which has a hypnotic addictive power. The film then drops all attempts to explore its various issues in favor of an old-fashioned violent plot. “Supernova” turns into pure Hollywood mechanics. The bad guy is sex, addiction, greed and violence combined. But what does it all mean? Sex ends and violence moves in. But in the end peace, harmony and true love prevails.

What can be said of a movie in which the only working relationships between a man and a woman is between a computer named Sweetie and her possibly gay computer-programmer creator? The relationship between Nick and Kayla’s characters is supposed to be an example of true and mature relationship with sex and mind and ego perfectly balanced. But these folks first fall into bed under the effect of whiskey and as an act of mutual comfort. But is that enough reason to fall into bed? Unfortunately, the film ultimately fails. Perhaps it was inevitable. The film’s creators did not see anything sufficiently wrong with the stasis and general sloth of the characters. In the beginning of this film, the characters have too much time on their hands and use their time wrongly. The journey this movie takes is basically a Hollywood one. And it’s not as if Hollywood has deep things to say about pressure, addictions, sloth, and sex in a working environment. Perhaps, if the writer or director had added an extra hour to the film and avoided the kneejerk violence typical of Hollywood films, the film would have been different. Perhaps exploring sexual issues, but at least meaningful. But I doubt it. A film that started out with the intention, seemingly, to discuss boredom and man’s tendency to indulge in sloth, sex, and addictions when he lacks inner spiritual resources turns into a film that once again says violence saves the day.

What deeper things? — an explanation from the reviewer, Carole McDonnell

“…I felt we were going to be shown some kind of commentary on using sex and addictions as a way to escape from sloth. It would’ve been one of the few times in an Hollywood movie where sex and relationships are explored in that way. This might lead you to ask me why such a topic would interest me. As a former school teacher and sunday school teacher, I have unfortunately realized that most teenagers nowadays get their views of sex from television and movies. As a sunday school teacher, I’ve had to teach the stories of Hagar and have had to explain why a man who was God’s friend used his slave to have a child. I have had to explain David’s many wives and his treatment of them. Honest discussions about sex are avoided so often by the Christian community. If we don’t teach our children how to look honestly and discerningly at movies about sex, we will end up with good Christian children talking honestly about sex only with non-Christians. And these kids will have no discernment in these discussions. My students have always considered me rather special and rather human and it is because they know that I am a Bible believer whom they can talk to honestly. A very rare combination. The film tried rather dismally to say something about addictions and for that it should be commended. It didn’t stay on the path, however… but chickened out… and ended up being a noble failure…”

Viewer Comments
Even if you are never offended by any movie this movie was still really boring. It did have promise, but the filmmakers screwed up somewhere. Dumb dialogue throughout and I don’t get the part about Benj telling Sweetie to act on her own. I thought Sweetie would, but it turns out the issue is dropped so I don’t get why they put it in. It wasn’t scary either. It was just so pointless. My Ratings: [2/1]
—Ketan Gajria, age 14, non-Christian
“senseless and boring”… I’ve written full reviews for several films on this site, but I can’t really do that for “Supernova”, since my wife and I walked out 15 minutes into the movie. Quite frankly, this film is senseless and boring. We thought this would be a good sci-fi adventure, since it starred James Spader (from “Stargate”) and several other recognizable names. Instead, what it is is a film which tries to be a horror film. I say “tries to be” because, quite honestly, the film is just boring! There wasn’t a single character which I felt the slightest interest in. Scenes which were supposed to be frightening weren’t, and the special effects and makeup were just bad. My recommendation: skip it. My Ratings: [1½/1]
—Timothy Blaisdell, age 36
“a lot of sexual situations”… If a sci-fi plot can “supernova”, than this film is well named… “Supernova”, is a real turkey. It will remind most of its viewers of a bad TV pilot… The film has a lot of violence and some carnage. In that area alone, it stays right on the imaginary edge of a PG-13 rating. There is a lot of partial nudity and sexual situations. The film has no language and one obscene gesture. We have known all along that you can right excellent stories without language. This is not one of the stories. This film might appeal to a 10 year old video game addict that would like a night out. My advice is skip this one and watch James Spader in a very good sci-fi film called “Stargate”. That film does have a plot. I would not recommend this film for teens. My Ratings: [2/2]
—Douglas Downs, age 44