First, let me just say that “Supernova” is a bad film. I mean really bad. There are bad
films; films that started out with all the best intentions and, at first, looked
like everything was going fine, but turn out terrible for all sorts of reasons. And then there are misbegotten films; Films
that started out badly, got worse as the production went along, and ended up a total
disaster. “Supernova” is one of those movies.
never heard of the MGM film, it’s no surprise. It barely got released in January
2000, and the really sad thing about it is that it is probably the only one of two Hollywood studio sci-fi films made to date (the other being Saana Lathan in “Alien” Vs.” Predator”- another sucky movie) with a black woman as the central and female lead character, and, not in the background supporting. And,
no, Zoe Saldana in green makeup as an alien doesn’t count. I’m talking about a
black woman playing a black woman in a sci-fi film, and she’s a central character in it.
The film actually started development in 1990 and
went through an army of screenwriters, eventually changing the original concept, to a sort of “Alien”/”Event Horizon” sci-fi/horror hybrid.
director of the project left before shooting started, and was replaced by Jack
Sholder (who directed the really terrific 1987 sci-fi cult minor classic “The
Hidden” – Check it out if you haven’t seen it). But the studio wasn’t happy with what he was
doing, and immediately replaced him shortly after shooting began, with Walter Hill.
choice, Hill not only directed great films such as “The Warriors,” “The Long
Riders,” “The Driver” and “48 Hours,” he also wrote the screenplay to “Alien.” Though
he had a great interest in sci-fi, he had never directed a sci-fi film before, and was eager to do one, and started with “Supernova” by doing rewrites on the script.
Unfortunately, he immediately ran into trouble in the form of studio interference, when the
studio cut the budget of the film halfway during shooting, and a number of
special effect shots Hill had planned, were squashed.
got even worse, as Hill once said in an interview: “We limped in, in post
we had a tremendous amount of effect stuff to do. They decided they wanted to
preview the movie without the effects. I said this was insane, it’s a science
fiction movie. The effects had to be added. They wanted to see how it played. I
told them it would be like shit, terrible, very bad preview, you will give up
on the movie. These previews under these conditions are political. ‘Are
you saying you won’t preview the movie?’ I said ‘You own the God damn
thing. If you want to preview it, I can’t prevent you, but I won’t go.’ They saw this as defiance.”
Not surprisingly, the test previews went very badly. Hill walked off the film and then, in an
unbelievable move, MGM rehired Sholder to re-edit Hill’s cut of the film.
the film again and, of course, it tested poorly. So they fired Sholder and went
back to Hill, hoping he would be able salvage the film. Hill said he wouldn’t come back unless
they pumped in the money he needed for special effects and reshoots. The studio
said no, and Hill told them go jump.
The story then
gets ever stranger.
Francis Ford Coppola, who was on the board of MGM at the
time, proposed that he supervise the editing of the film, which the studio
agreed to, and gave him a $1 million to do it. Reportedly he also directed a number
of new sequences and reshoots as well.
the Coppola cut with audiences, and, you guessed it, it performed very badly. So Hill officially took his name off the film, and replaced it with “Thomas Lee.”
MGM then decided it was a hopeless case, and dumped
it in theaters two years after shooting began, where it died a quick box office
there are those (a few admittedly) who
like and defend the film as one of those “so unintentionally funny and bad, that it’s
good” movies. So it’ll be good news for them that Shout Factory’s horror specialty
label, Scream Factory, will release the film on blu-ray on January 13, 2015.
It’s just too bad that Angela Bassett got stuck in a stinker like this. It would have been nice if the
film had been a sci-fi classic.