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Supernova

A standard-issue intergalactic actioner, "Supernova" appears headed for a deep-space rendezvous with audience indifference. Pic was directed by Walter Hill, who removed his name after the proverbial creative differences; editing was reportedly completed by the likewise uncredited Francis Coppola. Whatever the appropriate divvying of credit or blame, pic is an embarrassment to no one, but neither is it a feather in any cap.

With:
Nick Vanzant - James Spader Kaela Evers - Angela Bassett A.J. Marley - Robert Forster Yerzy Penalosa - Lou Diamond Phillips Karl Larson - Peter Facinelli Danika Lund - Robin Tunney Benj Sotomejor - Wilson Cruz

A standard-issue intergalactic actioner, “Supernova” appears headed for a deep-space rendezvous with audience indifference. Pic was directed by Walter Hill, who removed his name after the proverbial creative differences (“Thomas Lee” perhaps aims to avoid the blatancy of “Alan Smithee”); editing was reportedly completed by the likewise uncredited Francis Coppola. Whatever the appropriate divvying of credit or blame, pic is an embarrassment to no one, but neither is it a feather in any cap. Expertly mounted and bolstered by solid perfs from a strong cast, it nevertheless seems too lacking in any special edge of distinction to reach beyond the sci-fi faithful.

Very much in the post-“Alien” vein of dark, downbeat outer-space dramas in which earthlings with three-day beards battle a shape-shifting alien intruder, tale kicks off in the early 22nd century aboard a small, medical-rescue spaceship. Attention centers on co-pilot Nick Vanzant, who has recently emerged from rehab and is played by a newly bulked-up, deep-voiced and dark-haired James Spader.

The other crew members are Capt. A. J. Marley (Robert Forster), gruff medical officer Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), engineer Benj (Wilson Cruz), medical tech Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips) and paramedic Danika (Robin Tunney).

One small novelty here is the understated paralleling of cosmic energies and sexual interplay. Yerzy and Danika are getting it on as tale opens, and Nick and Kaela soon taste the pleasures of zero-gravity whoopee. Crew members doff their clothes whenever the spaceship’s “dimension-jumping,” which adds to the slightly randy atmosphere.

After this thematic foreplay, crew and ship dimension-jump to what seems to be a standard rescue situation, but soon grows strange and perilous. At the site, the only person they find alive is an odd young man named Karl (Peter Facinelli), who has lost all his colleagues after what seems like the outer-space equivalent of a falling-out over shares in an Internet startup.

In reality, of course, Karl is more lethal than bereft. Endowed with powers from the ninth dimension, the interloper makes love to Danika, then starts picking off crew members, growing more youthful and muscular as he does.

The battle from there is energetic but thoroughly predictable in its shape and outcome, which leaves pic feeling competent but programmatic. Still, vivid perfs and polished tech credits deserve kudos. In particular, Lloyd Ahern’s lensing compellingly renders outer-space environments that look painstakingly authentic.

Supernova

Production: An MGM release of a Screenland Pictures/Hammerhead production. Produced by Ash R. Shah, Daniel Chuba, Jamie Dixon. Executive producer, Ralph S. Singleton. Directed by Thomas Lee. Screenplay, David Campbell Wilson; story, William Malone.

With: Nick Vanzant - James Spader Kaela Evers - Angela Bassett A.J. Marley - Robert Forster Yerzy Penalosa - Lou Diamond Phillips Karl Larson - Peter Facinelli Danika Lund - Robin Tunney Benj Sotomejor - Wilson CruzCamera (Deluxe color), Lloyd Ahern II; editors, Michael Schweitzer, Melissa Kent; music, David Williams; production designer, Marek Dobrowolski; art director, Bruce Robert Hill; set decorator, Nancy Nye; costume designer, Bob Ringwood; sound (DTS stereo), Jim Webb; supervising sound editors, Michael Kirchberger, Mark Stoeckinger, Jay Wilkinson; visual effects supervisor, Mark Stetson; special makeup effects designer, Patrick Tatopoulos; assistant director, Jeffrey Wetzel; casting, Mary Jo Slater. Reviewed at the MGM screening room, N.Y., Jan. 14, 2000. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 MIN.

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