Far and Away


The most charming thing about Supernova—a frivolous sci-fi adventure set in the 22nd century aboard a medical emergency spacecraft—is its giggly preoccupation with Kinky Space Sex. Couples retire to the ship’s zero-gravity chamber for free-floating coitus. The medics travel from one distress call to another by “dimension-jumping,” a high-risk process that requires the jumpers to cocoon themselves in a polyglass pod without any clothes on. (This occasions much frantic disrobing and the odd lingering glance.) And the romance between the ex-junkie copilot (a newly beefy, endearingly glum James Spader) and the testy doctor (a death-glare-hurling Angela Bassett) is quite a treat, with a seduction-scene discussion of how pears get into pear-brandy bottles.

Supernova has apparently fallen victim to the transparent damage-control tactics of studios in possession of perceived stinkers: a January release with no advance screenings. (Given that many reviewers are only too happy to oblige when told what to think, it’s no wonder these fears are self-fulfilling.) Original director Walter Hill has removed his name—the blame now falls on the nonexistent “Thomas Lee,” a bland, new variation on Alan Smithee. And yet, Supernova is no real cause for shame—by no means a good movie but silly and strange enough to recommend. On the one hand, it plumbs the standard deep-space-panic scenarios pioneered by Alien (on which Hill served as cowriter and coproducer); on the other, it shamelessly aspires to the cheap-thrill tawdriness of daytime soap—the plot loosely concerns the reemergence of a villainous type, rendered unrecognizable here thanks not to plastic surgery but to the rejuvenating powers of a glowing pink ovoid. The “alien artifact,” as everyone nervously calls it, inspires much hyperventilating about ninth-dimensional matter and natural selection. Don’t bother paying attention—the script’s one-track mind reduces it all to a parting joke about an intergalactic impregnation.

** More sudsy nonsense. Not Love, Just Frenzy: The title reads like an indictment—but of what, exactly? A huge hit in Spain, this squalid trawl through Madrid clubland is less titillating than it is unpleasantly in-your-face. The setup suggests a low-rent Friends: When three neatly differentiated female roommates (man-eating bitch, loveless doormat, nominal heroine) look for a fourth, they end up with a possibly serial-killing gigolo who used to date one of them. The mode is loud and assaultive: rank Eurotechno soundtrack, sub-Wong Foo drag queens, an egregiously gory shooting, a violent black-comic finale involving corpse disposal. Absurdly, it took three men to write and direct this. You imagine it’s the sort of thing the young Almodóvar came up with in his sleep—and discarded without a second thought.