Supernova
ALIEN HUNTER. 2003
Director: Ron Krauss

SUPERNOVA. 2005
Director: Walter Hill

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Alien Hunter This derivative film starts out as Howard Hawks' The Thing & ends as Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Time.

In the middle it borrows a surprisingly large number familiar scenes out of everything from the X Files to Alien to E.T. to Contact to Andromeda Strain, just little excerpts from each, so that it can be watched as a "name the movie that scene came from" puzzle.

In interviews as well as on the commentary track, it's obvious the director & screenwrier really believe that stitching together a film exclusively of scenes from other films is a great way to make a movie; to them, originality is antithetical to the process.

Several pillow-shots without cast members visible are literally footage spliced in from other films, so it was in part literally made of pieces of other films.

The filmmakers proudly proceed with plenty of hutzpah & not one iota of imagination of their own. They pad it out with talk, talk, talk, & in between the jabbering, they summarily slaughter (sans gore) all but a tiny handful of the cast.

Alien HunterIn a lab deep in the ice of Antarctica there is an experimental lab developing new strains of corn, because where else would you grow experimental corn.

The story forgot ever to reveal what was so special about this corn for which everyone was expecting a Nobel Prize. It is such a nonsensical story element, maybe the author just felt that while cribbing from so many films, Children of the Corn ought not be excluded.

The corn scientists discover a big frozen thing in the ice & since it is immitting radio waves & might be dangerous, the most rational thing they can think to do with it is to bring it inside & watch it thaw out.

They managed to get it into the deep lab quite miraculously since its way bigger than any door, staircase, or elevator leading underground. The script is explicit about there being only three ways in or out of the lab, & the frozen thing would never have fit down any of them.

Alien HunterHardly anyone gets to have a scene in which they behave like people actually behave. Yet if the director wants a semi-nudy scene, instead of just doing it there is inserted into the script a laughable bit of dialogue to explain why it is necessary for a nubile young maiden to half disrobe.

At the same time the love interest is so muted, the story so sexless, that all the coy assertions that the central protagonist is a horndog add up to celibacy all round. This is like a sleeze-tease for the Christian channel.

The mass slaugher is likewise a tease. The script wants to kill most of the characters but it doesn't want it to be too gory for kids who watch on the sci-fi channel.

So apart from one nonsense scene involving a fork, the violence & bloodletting are totally wussy. Even the title is a tease, as there is no alien that is a hunter, & no hunter tracking aliens. Predator is one of the few films they didn't particularly plagiarise, so of course they needed a title to imply they did.

Alien HunterThe script has elements of parody (possibly on purpose) yet is somehow so humorless that I doubt the one hysterically funny line in the movie was intentional:

With flashlights all round, our hero says, "Maybe we should split up," by which time the cliches had already been so numerous that this one caused my sweety & I to burst into laughter. It was surprising they didn't find some dark basement steps to creep down one by one while stammering into the darkness, "Is - is - anybody there?".

There is an assumption in the script that if a group of scientists encountered aliens, some of them would think it was unimportant, & if a couple of them did think it was important, it'd just get them bickering.

Alien HunterWe're informed that if they ever left their under-ice lab in Antarctica, the alien infection they've acquired would have eradicated all life on the planet within six months.

Although these scientists perfectly understand this, & we're never informed that the genetic corn or the alien disease is making them psychotic, two of them nevertheless feel it is imperative to go out & infect the world.

The script's next assumption is that scientists in such a situation would start killing their rival faction who didn't want to destory the world, so they get to kill their friends in shoot-outs involving either a fork or a magical handgun with limitless numbers of bullets.

The alien itself is somewhat interesting but it's not in the film long, perhaps because it was just too expensive to animate, perhaps because if we saw much more of it we'd realize it's not that great a rubber suit. Whatever the reason, after the endless build-up to unleashing it, it's swiftly dispatched without really getting round to doing anything.

Alien HunterBut the film has one thing going for it: James Spader as a protagonist who except for not wearing glasses is indistinguishable from his Daniel character in the original Stargate.

Though one wonders why an easily employable actor of his calibre would agree to be in a film that seems to consist of random scenes from other films, he infuses even the worst bits with a surprising degree of credibility, plus he's quite simply pretty to look at. He makes the film seem better than it actually is.

The direction is slick if unimaginative & the trumped up happy ending was acceptible if thin. The rest of the cast ranges from adequate to miserable for the younger players, to almost good where the older character actors were concerned, but a really unfortunate performance is turned in by Kier Duleah revealing why no one has hired him for much of anything since 2001 A Space Odyssey: he can't act.

For all its lack of originality & reliance on cliche, the film is an effective entertainment, & I think most viewers will like it more than not, despite that everyone who watches it will be rewriting it as it goes along, since every scene has something that could obviously have been done better.



SupernovaWalter Hill is a director who has thrilled me many times, & I'm just so surprised he made a film as bad as Supernova (2005).

Hill was a last-minute replacement-director who struggled against a lot of studio interference to arrive at this fiasco. He did not pilot the project to its full concluksion, then asked that his name be removed as director, though all reference books blame, er, credit him & will do so forever.

A mining colony on Titan discovers a capsule containing Fifth Dimensional Matter. This matter alters one of the miners (Peter Facinelli), who immediately kills all the others. He is later taken onto an unprepared medical rescue ship along with the strange matter, & he begins picking off the crew one by one.

SupernovaToo much the plot is just standard slasher gore movie but put in outer space rather than the haunted house or the cabin by the lake. As such, it has very little imagination. But what it lacks in storytelling value it tries to make up for with flashing lights & loud noises.

The altered psycho is superpowered & invulnerable, like Jason in the Fridy the Thirteenth films. Since every character one might like gets killed pretty quickly, there's no heroic figure to relate to or vulnerable character to care about.

The ship's captain is played by the likeable Robert Forster, but he's killed off before getting to do one bloody thing. James Spader as co-pilot Nick got abandoned in the mine, gone from the tale too soon & won't return nearly soon enough. Lou Diamond Philips as a med-tech gets his head squashed before he's jettisoned into space. Robin Tunney is likewise tossed into space. Characters' specific jobs in space contribute nothing to events; they're just there to be victims.

SupernovaAt one awful point it seems we are left with only the least interesting characters of all, as disco diva Angela Bassett has a face-off with the superman-psycho.

But Nick (Spader) re-enters the story so it won't be quite as awful as it's been so far. He & the AI computer called "Sweetie" (voiced by Venessa Marshall) turn out to be the best characters, but since the climactic battle is a moronic brawl, it doesn't get a lot better even with Nick's return.

The ending of this turd arrives as a relief more than a climax. As the medical ship is drawn toward a dwarf giant, the fifth dimension matter sets off the titular Supernova, right when the last-two-standing dimension-jump to safety. However, alas & alack, the Supernova promises to grow & grow until it reaches the Earth in fifty years, either destroying the solar system or perhaps changing humanity permanently. How do you spell dum?

The constant motion & colored lights, at least, have the same fascination as a campfire. Also, there's a zero-grav sex scene that looks a lot like it was created with CGI instead of cast members. Spader with his naturally sissy demeaner was kind of fun to watch turn in a stylized pseudo-macho performance, amusingly out of sync with the poor acting of the rest of the cast. That's as much praise as Supernova gets.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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