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Film / Supernova

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Supernova is a 2000 science fiction film directed by Walter Hill and produced by MGM and effects studio Hammerhead Production. Starring James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Wilson Cruz, Robin Tunney, and a pre-Twilight Peter Facinelli. Voice actress Vanessa Marshall provides the voice of ship's computer, "Sweetie".

The story begins with the medical ship Nightingale 229 and its crew-Captain Marley (Forster), ship's doctor Kaela Evers (Bassett), Medics Yerzy Penalosa (Phillips) and Danika Lund (Tunney), and computer expert Benj Stomejar (Cruz). Into this mix comes new co-pilot Nick Vanzant (Spader), a recovering "Hazen" addict. There is tension between Nick and Kaela as she has a dislike of Nick as her abusive ex-lover, Karl Larson, was also a Hazen addict.

The ship receives a distress call from an abandoned mining station, and the message is from Kaela's ex, Larson. The crew makes an emergency jump that leaves their captain dead, and the ship too close to the gravitational pull of a blue giant star. When the crew retrieves a pod from the mine, it contains not Karl but his son, Troy Larson (Facinelli). Scanning the ship, they find an alien artifact that Troy claims to have found buried in the mine.

Whether or not the film squanders its promising beginning to become a generic slasher film in space is debatable. (And whether or not that's a bad thing.) Director Walter Hill had his name removed from the finished film (using the post-Alan Smithee name "Thomas Lee" instead.)

Not to be confused with the British sitcom, or the 2005 speculative apocalypse miniseries of the same name.

This film contains the following tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. Sweetie is as nice as her name, and exhibits remorse when being unable to learn fast enough to prevent Benj's death.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The alien artifact is a Genesis Effect bomb designed to create a supernova, wiping out any civilization advanced enough to have discovered its hiding place and creating virgin higher-order matter in their place.
  • Apocalypse How: At the end, the 9th dimensional bomb goes off, creating a supernova whose wavefront will reach Earth in 51 years... but whether it destroys the planet or creates a Monolith effect is left up in the air.
  • Artificial Gravity: The Nightingale uses rotation to create its own gravity.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Sweetie, the ship's computer. Benj has been tinkering with her, making improvements, something he knows he'll get in trouble for if it were ever reported.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: If the supernova wavefront doesn't destroy the Earth, it will have this effect on humanity, according to Sweetie,
  • Babies Ever After: For Kaela and Nick. Averted for Yerzy and Danika, who actually wanted to have children together.
  • Blind Jump: Averted. However, even with precise calculations the Nightingale ends up too close to a blue giant star.
  • Boarding Party: In one-in the deleted scenes, Nick uses the real Troy's corpse as a decoy when entering the ship.
  • Body Horror: What a malfunction in one of the d-jump units does to Captain Marley.
  • Came Back Wrong: Karl gains super-human strength and healing powers from constant exposure to the alien artifact.
  • Captain's Log: Captain Marley keeps a log that's actually his doctoral thesis.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted. Captain Marley states that "if they want to reach the mine within our lifetimes", they need to jump within a certain amount of time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The joke Benj tells about the "creature" formed from the two astronauts sharing the same dimensional stabilization units. Not two minutes later, the captain dies from being in a malfunctioning d-jump unit. It's also how Nick and Kaela escape Karl at the end of the movie.
  • Culture Police: The captain, while narrating his dissertation, mentions that violent animation like Tom and Jerry has been outlawed.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: The movie had two scenes of this trope. The first scene involved Danika struggling in the vacuums of space before succumbing to asphyxiation after being ejected from an airlock. Another showed the corpse of Yerzy—Danika's lover—careening into space after he was struck in the head by Troy and disposed of via an airlock.
  • Exact Words: When Nick boasts of being in tougher situations than the one they're in now, Kaela asks if he was being honest. He cites their near-crash into the planet as an example of a tougher situation, that being less than an hour before.
  • Explosive Decompression: Averted. Danika dies when she's thrown into space from suffocation and exposure, but does not explode.
  • Eye Scream: Kaela manages to nail Karl in the eye with a laser scalpel. It barely even slows him down, and the eye heals in under a minute.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Called "dimensional jump" or "d-jump" in this story.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The death of the Nightingale's captain.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • What happens when when your d-jump unit malfunctions. Poor Captain Marley, we hardly knew ye.
    • Also, what happens to the REAL Troy Larson as a result of the alien artifact, in the deleted scenes.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Anyone who tries to go through a jump unshielded gets warped into a horrible abomination, probably still alive and begging for death. Even two people riding in a shielded pod is dangerous. Hell, normal, single-person travel in a shielded pod is said to be disorienting (one guy complains of irregular bowel movements), and they have to travel naked. The ship's captain dies thanks to a damaged pod, and Nick and Kaela end up swapping eye colors (and some bodily fluids) when forced to ride in the same pod.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Peter Facinelli is totally naked a lot.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Robin Tunney appears in sex scenes and topless multiple times.
  • Population Control: Couples must apply for permission to have children, which Yerzy does for Danika and himself, as she wants them. It's not said how this is enforced though.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The movie's premise starts out similar to Pitch Black, but ends up Dead Calm in space.
  • Robo Sexual: Benj is just a little too close to Sweetie, the ship's computer:
  • Subspace Ansible: Played straight. It takes five days for the Nightgale to receive the distress call from the mining colony, which is over 320 light years away and requires a d-jump to get to.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Happens twice, in the deaths of Danika and Yerzy. Yerzy at least was already dead when his body was ejected, Danika was not so lucky.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer for the film makes it seem like it's a horror comedy.
  • Zero-G Spot: There's a module on the ship which seems to have been built solely for this purpose. It also has windows, so you can watch the action from outside. Kael and Nick have sex in there early on. Later Danika and Troy do as well. Kaela and Nick lure Karl up there and set off a grenade, launching him and the artifact into space.