Astral Atrocity

Star-Crossed 'Supernova' Bursts With Nudity And Nonsense.

SUPERNOVA IS THE first mainstream sci-fi film to ask the question "How much sex can you have in outer space?" and the first to give the only reasonable answer: "A lot."

I think Supernova may have been planned as a $60 million soft-core space-porn flick, as it was originally supposed to be over two hours long and have an R rating. Somehow, between blast off and docking, this space opera's rockets exploded prematurely, and director Walter Hill removed himself from the project, about an hour was cut out of it, and it was re-rated PG-13. As a result, there's this weird, skeleton of a movie, with lots of nudity concealed by digitized shadows and quick cutting, and a plot that's been so pared down it's tantamount to reducing Remembrance of Things Past to the sentence "A man eats a cookie and remembers a lot of stuff."

As a result of the re-rating, there were a lot of kids in the audience, one of whom summed up the experience of most of the theatergoers when he leapt from his seat as the credits rolled and shouted, "That sucked!"

Which isn't to say I didn't love the film, but only because its star, James Spader, is so cute they could just make a movie of him staring at the camera for 90 minutes and I'd pay to see it. Nonetheless, I'd be remiss in my duties if I recommended that anyone else go anywhere near this non-movie.

Director Walter Hill had the good sense to remove his name from this project (he's credited as "Thomas Lee"), though I think he probably gave up on being an artistic genius years ago, when he started directing movies like Another 48 Hours and Red Heat. I mean, Red Heat starred Jim Belushi, so I'm not sure where Hill gets off thinking he'd better remove his name from Supernova before it tarnishes his pristine reputation.

Anyway, the story, which unfolds quickly albeit unevenly over the incredibly brief 83 minutes not cut out of this film, takes a little bit from Alien, a little bit from cheesy film-noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, and a little bit from Behind the Green Door.

It starts in the far future when an emergency medical spaceship receives a distress call from 300,000 light-years away. Yeah, I don't know how they could receive this call either, but the theory of relativity is the least of their problems.

So, to get to the sender of this distress call, they must "jump" across hyperspace. Apparently, underwear is lethal in hyperspace, because they all get naked for the jump. The women, of course, are wearing the classic mammiform space suits, and the guys are all incredibly buff, so the undressing scene is pretty much the highlight of the film. Then the "jump" starts, and things get all psychedelic, with swirling colors and computery effects and an inexplicable close-up of a nipple, as if to say "Hey, even though we're now in hyperspace, let's not forget that there are naked people here."

When they finish jumping, the captain is reduced to a smeary mess, having gotten all jumbled up during the difficult 30-second, 300,000-light-year trip. That leaves co-pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader) in charge. Vanzant, however, is a recovering drug addict and ex-convict, so second-in-command Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Basset) hates and distrusts him, at least until about 20 minutes into the movie, when some heavy mood music starts playing and they get it on. After that, she seems kind of fond of him.

Meanwhile, the two emergency medical technicians (Robin Tunney and Lou Diamond Phillips) are so busy testing the effects of weightlessness on each other's naked bodies that they fail to notice that the young man they've rescued is somewhat unusual. Like, he has superpowers and can't be killed.

This may be due to the unusual item he's brought aboard, a sort of great-whatsit that is partially composed of "ninth dimensional matter." As we all know, ninth dimensional matter is totally gnarly stuff, and you don't want to mess with it.

After this, the plot basically does the standard stranded-in-space-with-a-fearsome-alien-presence-on-board shtick, à la Alien, Aliens and Alien3, and Titanic. (I didn't actually see Titanic, I'm just assuming that was the plot.)

On the plus side, the spaceship is really cool-looking, as are the space suits and shuttle crafts and other futuristic bric-a-brac. Also, as I mentioned, it stars James Spader, who really doesn't get enough screen time. Not only is he cute as a Tamagotchi, he's a really good actor. Sadly, he seems to have put on a lot of muscle mass for this movie, which, judging by what happened to Nicolas Cage after he bulked up for Con Air, is not a good sign in terms of the quality of his future performances.

If you're actually interested in seeing this, though, you might want to wait a bit. Since this film is really at its best when the greatest number of characters are naked, and since there's more than an hour worth of footage from the unreleased, R-rated "Director's Cut" lying about unused somewhere, there will no doubt be an "uncensored" version in the video stores as soon as this film leaves the theaters (which I'm guessing will be in about 45 minutes).

Supernova is playing at Century El Con (202-3343), Century Park (620-0750), El Dorado (745-6241) and Foothills (742-6174) cinemas.

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