The Supernova Warning

I have seen Supernova twice. Those who have seen this sci-fi movie from 2000 (with James Spader and Angela Bassett) – or at least know about its history – understand how that admission is not so much a statement but a cry for help. And I watched it again not for the movie’s gratuitous nudity or decent spaceship designs. It is because the ending is so perfectly awful. I will warn you that spoilers are to follow – although I don’t know exactly what I would be spoiling.

In the original ending, the surviving crew members set off an alien bomb to kill the antagonist and propel them back home. Once this act is done, their on-board computer – Sweetie, quite possibly the dumbest, most ineffectual on-board computer in cinematic history – states that the resulting supernova will reach Earth in 51 years, and it will either destroy life on Earth … or … OR … enable humanity to achieve a new level of existence. Cake or death, anyone?

What kind of supernova would bring a new level of existence with it? Granted, the bomb is sort of like a Genesis Device, creating new stuff in the wake of great destruction, but it’s nice to know we have options – the bomb might forgo the whole destruction thing and let us live. If given the choice, I would probably go with new level of existence. But that’s just me.

Sweetie’s prediction gets even more bizarre when you consider the deleted scenes, which include an alternate ending. In the theater, just before the credits roll, we got the warm fuzzies upon discovering Angela Bassett is pregnant. So we really hope Earth won’t be destroyed. Think of the children! But in the alternate ending, which I would guess was the actual original ending, we discover that the crew, by setting off the alien bomb, has destroyed the whole universe. The reaction from the alien bomb will destroy all “third-dimensional matter” in the universe – and it will reach Earth in 257 years, 49 days.

So in one ending, we have a pregnant woman and a possibly benevolent supernova. That’s good. Alternatively, we have the destruction of all matter in the known universe. That’s bad.

So why give this silly movie any ink at all? It’s a warning, a symbolic warning, to keep a grip on your story. Not that the alternate ending for Supernova would have made the movie any better, but at least it felt more genuine. Big explosion, end of the universe, credits roll. Not many movies can hang their hat on that kind of ending.

Also, there were deleted scenes with a giant, living fetus and a more graphic image of Lou Diamond Phillips getting his face punched in. Again, not great scenes – but they would have at least added more character to the movie.

Why the changes? Well, the film apparently had three directors/editors and an unhappy studio. Too many chefs, etc., etc. Maybe there was groupthink, with people taking out or putting in pieces here and there, without any thought to the complete picture. The original ending is too depressing? Then tack on a happy ending. Or at least a less devastating one. Drop in some new CG and an alternate computer voiceover and viola – there’s (more than) a sliver of hope in the supernova coming to engulf our planet!

But why mention the destruction of Earth at all? If you’re gonna go happy, why not go all out – the alien bomb goes off and it spews rainbows, bunnies, and endorphins throughout the universe. Every planet, every being, sentient or otherwise, gets its good vibes, and it is the end of war and jealousy and bad feelings. What’s with the cake-or-death option, a tacked-on, wishy-washy, on-the-fence ending that makes absolutely no statement about the movie whatsoever? If this film is supposed to be “Hellraiser in space,” then you should probably show the fountains of blood from Lou Diamond’s face.


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