Supernova (“Thomas Lee”, 2000) – Shout Factory have taken it upon themselves to become the new leaders in Blu-Ray genre film releases. Since launching the Scream Factory label, they’ve dug up cult classics and overlooked oddities from the genre movie vaults that are stacked with special features and fueled by fan service. Yet, in Supernova the company just might have delivered their most niche release to date. This schlocky 2000 horror/sci-fi flick isn’t a long lost gem, it’s not a cult classic, and quite frankly it’s not even any good. However, it is a notoriously troubled production: a tiny sci-fi B-movie that was elevated to big budget status when director Walter Hill and a few then B-level stars like James Spader, Angela Basset, and Lou Diamond Phillips signed on board. Hill was forced to shoot with an unfinished script, while actors showed up to set every day with no clue of what they would be filming. Hill was fired in post and Jack Sholder (Freddy’s Revenge, The Hidden) was brought onboard for reshoots. Then Sholder was fired and none other than Francis Ford Coppola was hired for additional retooling and edits. In the end, none of the directors took credit for the messy movie that barely registered with audiences. Oddly, the good folks at Shout seem to be releasing Supernova on Blu-Ray purely because of that notorious production. It’s as if they put together an entire Blu-Ray just for the making-of documentary.
Taking a cue from Alien (which Walter Hill never gets enough credit for), the film is about the crew of a spaceship who follow a distress call and end up with a damaged ship and their own private distress issues. They end up finding a single survivor in their rescue mission and unsurprisingly that survivor ends up being a suspicious jerk that slowly bumps off the crew one by one. It’s pretty standard stuff executed in a pretty standard way.
Admittedly, the budget was large, so the old timey practical model space effects looks rather slick. Spader does his best playing an ambiguous hero rather than his usual sleaze bucket and the other actors try as hard as they can not to seem confused and lost in the haphazard production. There are some pretty hysterical moments of cheese (like a zero gravity sex scene complete with ridiculous sexy sax solo) and some amusingly garbled clusters of scene combining the work of three very different filmmakers and an army of panicking producers. There is some camp fun to be had here, but it’s just not a movie that offers genuine thrills or consistent camp value. Nope, Supernova is just a big dumb messy movie with an amusingly troubled production back story. Had someone at Shout not taken an inexplicable interest in getting the movie released on Blu-Ray, it’s likely this swill never would have been transferred into HD and I’m still uncertain as to whether or not that’s a good thing.
The film itself looks and sounds quite good on Blu. Clearly this thing wasn’t given a painstaking Criterion scrub job, but the disc definitely offers are far prettier homevideo presentation that Supernova deserves. So, good job to whoever had the unfortunate task of making that happen. The special features section kicks off with a handful of deleted scenes and an alternate ending that suggest Walter Hill’s original darker, trippier vision while also confirming that the movie was essentially unsalvageable in any form. The best part of the whole disc (and presumably the only reason it exists) is the 25-minute “making of” documentary featuring the likes of Jack Sholder, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Forster, and producer Daniel Chuba. Everyone comes off refreshingly honest through their interviews, discussing the ridiculous nature of the production through sly grins, lamenting the loss of Hill’s vision for the film, barely remembering Coppola’s involvement, and generally marveling at the fact that they can finally be honest about this mess all these years later. It’s hardly a documentary that justifies the price of the disc in and of itself, but continues Shout’s amusing commitment to documentaries about filmmakers admitting where they went wrong and that’s always more interesting than the usual back-slapping fluff that weighs down most special features sections. Supernova is by far the oddest movie that Shout Factory have released since getting into the genre flick game and even if I can’t exactly say the movie deserves this special treatment, I applaud the company’s commitment to these sorts of weirdo releases.