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Non-Review Review: Supernova

I’m going to be honest. I like B-movies. I have a soft-spot for a nice cheesy bit of entertainment that doesn’t demand to be taken seriously, and I can forgive a movie some bad acting or dodgy special effects, if the core ingredients are at least marginally interesting. Hell, I actually honestly enjoyed Event Horizon, something not too many other people will confess to. However, watching Supernova, a surprisingly lame rip-off that comes from a handful of directors (including Francis Ford Coppola), I found myself struggling to find anything to remotely enjoy. Instead, I spent most of its relatively short runtime counting down the seconds until it was over.

Guess which one of these gives the least mechanical performance...

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Supernova does have two attributes that deserve recognition. The first is the superb special effects. Of course, they’re rendering a completely mundane story populated with two-dimensional characters, but they actually look quite impressive – even more than a decade after the film was originally produced. So the special effects team deserve some credit. The second is the rather wonderful set design. It’s ironic that so many genuinely impressive science-fiction movies end up looking like they were produced on a shoestring, because the major studios blew money on nonsense like this. It creates the impression not that Hollywood doesn’t fund science-fiction, but that it funds the wrong science-fiction.

On the other hand, the wonderful set design is let down by some truly terrible lighting and production design. Somebody evidently thought it might be a good idea to light the ship entirely in shades of purple and blue – seriously, the set looks like it might as well be lit by lava lamp. As I admitted above, I’m not somebody who actively dislikes a little bit of cheese, but the lighting design is an outrageously poor decision for a movie that’s clearly attempting to be unnerving and slightly disturbing – instead, it looks incredibly kitsch, but not in any sort of ironic or intentional fashion. The purple and blue lighting design might have worked for a film lighter in tone, but the use of incredibly bright colours (and a camp robot) seem out of place in a movie that insists we take it all entirely serious.

Dude, lighten up...

In one scene, for example, I’m wondering why the ship’s medical officer lights her quarters like some sort of creepy lover’s den. The light jazz on the soundtrack really doesn’t help – an eighties love ballad might have been more subtle. I’m surprised she’s not wandering around in a purple silk nightgown, or making a bubble bath. While we’re on the topic, the movie also features the worst kind of nudity – stuff clearly inserted into a movie for titillation, where it has absolutely no purpose, but the film isn’t honest enough to concede how trashy it is. I feel a little bit sleazy watching the hyper-jump sequences, in the same way I do watching the infamous “decontamination scenes” in Star Trek: Enterprise. It’s a bad sign when the movie has to break out the nudity less than ten minutes into the film in an attempt to hold our attention.

Of course, there’s really not a lot else going on here that would hold our attention. The movie’s attempts at characterisation are laughable, but not self-aware enough to become interesting. We get a crew so crazy they… wait for it… dressed up a robot like a fighter pilot. Those crazy kids! The captain watches Tom & Jerry cartoons, because he’s like that, you know. Oh, and James Spader’s character takes up and drops a recreational drug habit in the opening five minutes. Because we need a lead character with demons, right? Except for the fact that the addiction is only referenced in passing again.

Not a glowing example of big-budget sci-fi...

Worse, this horrible state of play is introduced in the most ham-fisted manner imaginable. One character suddenly blurts out that he’s done something illegal to another character he barely knows. “I’m assuming you’re not going to turn me in,” he explains. In fairness, the other character notes, “You don’t know me well enough to make that assumption.” But, of course, he doesn’t turn his criminal co-worker in and they bond over it. Because, you know, conflict is for wusses and any character development worth its salt should be shoehorned into the first five minutes of the film, so you can fill the rest of the film with…

Okay, you got me. I’m not entirely sure what the hell is in the rest of the film that takes up so much goddamn time. There’s a bland plot about an alien artifact and a mysterious guest played terribly Peter Facinelli. It doesn’t help that the character is introduced bursting through an airlock like a dizzy drunk. Anyway, the rest of the story is paint-by-numbers. There’s an artifact. It does stuff. There’s betrayal and the new guy isn’t what he seems. Oh, and in case you’re dozing off around the halfway mark, there’s some more completely pointless sex. You need to keep the audience interested.

The ship gives the best performance...

I feel dirty for wasting this much time talking about it. Ugh.

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