directed by John Harrison
(Hallmark Entertainment, 2005)

Sure, you can find lots of little mistakes and problems with this story, and the special effects tend to be on the cheesy side, but I certainly enjoyed watching Supernova.

I don't really associate Hallmark Entertainment with disaster movies, but they certainly did a credible job with this one. Not surprisingly, there are a few overly melodramatic moments and one incredibly unnecessary subplot, but these family entertainment guys didn't shirk from blowing a lot of things up, including the Taj Mahal and a major American city. With a total runtime of almost three hours, some may find Supernova a little too long, but one must keep in mind the fact that this originally aired as a two-part television miniseries.

Things don't look very good for the Earth and everything on it. Apparently, our sun is much older than scientists thought, and Dr. Austin Shepard (Peter Fonda) has discovered that it is about to go supernova. Unprecedented sunspot activity will wreak havoc with Earth's communications systems, followed by huge releases of plasma from the sun's inner depths that will rain fireballs down upon the Earth; soon thereafter, the sun will expand to the point that it consumes the entire solar system and then explode. It's the ultimate mass extinction event.

Knowing there is nothing that can be done, Austin e-mails his findings to five illustrious colleagues and flies off to find himself a beach bunny and enjoy the last few days of life as we know it. Austin's junior colleague, Dr. Chris Richardson (Luke Perry) soon finds himself at the very nexus of activity, commandeered by intelligence agent Lisa Delgado (Tia Carrere) at the bidding of a high-ranking U.S. colonel (Lance Henriksen) even before he knows what is going on. Already well aware of Shepard's apocalyptic conclusions, America and other world governments have activated a long-secret plan to gather worthy individuals to be evacuated to underground cities. The public at large, of course, must not be told about the imminent catastrophe the angry sun is sending their way. Meanwhile, as if the whole destruction of the solar system isn't quite dramatic enough by itself, we have a far-fetched and wholly unnecessary subplot about Richardson's wife and daughter being stalked by the escaped serial killer that Mrs. Richardson's testimony helped convict in the first place.

There are, of course, a number of other characters with stories of their own, but a lot of the focus of this film, apart from the scenes of wholesale destruction, revolves around the plan to try and save a remnant of civilization for any possible future. Richardson in particular openly rebels at this idea, and I really don't understand why. If there is any chance for mankind to survive the coming upheaval, why not go for it? Yes, it's unfortunate that only a select few would qualify and that whoever made the selections would essentially be playing God, but isn't that better than sitting back and letting everyone on the planet die a certain death together? Another key theme is the public's right to know. We all know what happens when mankind faces even a local disaster -- massive looting, violent protests, mayhem in the streets, etc. Should the people of Earth really be told they are all about to die?

Maybe you're wondering how scientists could possibly come up with a way to stop the sun from exploding. Stop wondering because there is no way to do that. Mankind's only hope is that the brilliant Shepard made a mistake somewhere in his calculations. It wouldn't be the only mistake in this movie -- take, for instance, the fact that serial killer Grant Cole is sentenced to death in a country (Australia) that does not have the death penalty, or the fact that no character in this Australian setting seems to speak with an Australian accent. This whole story actually lends itself exceedingly well to any number of "things I learned from this movie" lists. Go and check some of them out on the Internet -- they're pretty darn funny. As for the special effects, keep in mind that this was a television mini-series, not a Hollywood summer blockbuster -- the effects may not be very realistic, but I figure the filmmakers did the best they could with what they had to work with.

All criticisms aside, though, I did enjoy this movie quite a bit. Perry isn't bad in the main role, Carrere more than holds her own and Henriksen brings an effective sense of gravitas to the whole story. Even Fonda was good (I usually try to avoid any and all Fondas not named Bridget). Finally, as a serious fan of science fiction and disaster films, I can't ask for much more than the idea of our sun freaking exploding. For a production that originally aired on the Hallmark Channel, Supernova really isn't bad at all.

review by
Daniel Jolley

23 October 2010

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