STARRING: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz

2000, 95 Minutes, Directed by: Thomas Lee

James Spader - action hero.

Don't believe me? Well, in Supernova Spader looks seriously buffed - you can grate cheese on those abs! Obviously he has been spending a lot of time in the gym recently - probably along with the rest of the cast, which also looks buffed and includes Angela (Strange Days) Bassett and Lou Diamond Phillips (of La Bamba fame).

The only cast member who looks as if he might be a bit flabby dies early on in the movie. I suppose there is a lesson of some sort in there, but can't quite figure out what it might be. It might also be a coincidence that this particular character seemed to be the most interesting one in the whole bunch: he spent a lot of time watching old Tom & Jerry cartoons while writing his sociology dissertation.

It isn't exactly clear what the rest of the cast members spend their time on, but one wishes that it had been acting lessons instead of working out. However, even the interior of the sleek and silvery spaceship they inhabit resemble your local upmarket high-tech yuppie gym. To be honest, I miss the nerd who sneezed his way through Stargate - at least one could vaguely identify. Here Spader just look constipated the whole time - maybe that's what he suspects movie action heroes really are.

Anyway, Supernova resembles its cast: it's dumb and superficial. The effects and sets are okay to look at, but the plot is vacant. A spaceship crew answers a distress signal and rescues a suspicious stranger from a deserted planet - you can guess the rest if you have been going to the movies at all and have seen the likes of Dead Calm, Alien, Event Horizon and Sphere.

Supernova is an unoriginal and predictable waste of time. Even the movie is aware of this: it is edited in such a cursory way to get the movie over and done with as quickly as possible so that the audience can go home. No effort is made to generate some suspense, add atmosphere or focus on characters.

As part of the video evening in which I saw Supernova, I also watched the original Jaws for the umpteenth time: that movie runs for half an hour longer than Supernova, yet it is much more suspenseful than Supernova can ever dream of being. Maybe because one cares about the characters, who are interesting if not likeable. And none of them are buffed either come to think of it. Time well spent in acting classes instead of the gym I suspect . . .

Supernova apparently had a long and troubled production history. Its director, Walter Hill - of 48 Hours fame - pulled out due to "creative differences" with the studio over the movie. As someone remarked: it boggles the mind that "creative differences" could arise when it comes to such an unoriginal and derivative piece of hokum!

Anyway, Hill wanted his name removed from the movie's credits - can't say I blame him - and instead of resorting to the traditional "Allan Smithee" moniker which the savvy movie-going public recognizes by now, the studio opted for "Thomas Lee" instead. This still didn't work: audiences avoided this movie like something you wouldn't want to step in on the pavement and it lost a lot of money for its troubled studio, MGM.



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