THE DAY THE WORLD CATCHES FIRE
Scientist Luke Perry worriedly ponders how bad things may be getting
in the 90210 district of Beverly Hills while Federal Agent Tia Carrere prays
they'll put her in soft focus when the sky catches fire in SUPERNOVA.
Planet Earth broils as
'Supernova' plot boils
By RON MILLER
There's apparently nothing new in the world of disaster movies, if you don't want to count bigger and better special effects, like we saw on display in last year's "The Day After Tomorrow," "Armageddon" and a few other recent examples of this derelict genre.
After suffering through the cliche-ridden three-hour film called "Supernova," which premieres Monday night (Sept. 5) at 8 and 11 p.m. on cable's Hallmark Channel, I longed for the days of "The Poseidon Adventure"and "The Towering Inferno." Those films at least were reasonably inventive, were restricted to credible environments (a capsized ocean liner and a blazing skyscraper) and had top-name casts.
(Note: This ISN'T the 2000 space movie of the same name. That was also a turkey.)
Today's disaster films must be global--if not galactical--in scope, even if they use the same tired plot turns that all the older and better disaster films employed. As for the casting, well, obviously all the money went into special effects on "Supernova" because the actors are mostly has-been TV names.
Peter Fonda has the small featured role of the scientist who first discovers that the sun is going to explode into a life-ending supernova. Fonda looks tired and, forgiveably, quite bored by the proceedings. Except for the scenes where he has fled to the Maldives, intent on drinking himself into a stupor with a beautiful lady bartender at least half his age, Fonda looks like he'd much rather be back on his "Easy Rider" motorcycle, smoking dope with Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.
The leading role is played by Luke Perry. You're forgiven if you aren't sure who he is. I believe I saw him last as he rode off into the sunset on a motorcycle as he left the cast of Fox's "Beverly Hills, 90210," where he was the resident mini-hunk. Perhaps Hallmark believes he'll be catnip to the 20something girls who are now late 30something housewives. He still scowls a lot and shaves even less. Most of the time he looks as if he's waiting for his paycheck to be delivered to him between takes.
Perry plays another scientist who gets caught up in the chaotic state of things after word starts to leak out that planet Earth is doomed. Married and a father, he's anxious about his family during most of the movie. No wonder. The writers apparently decided it wasn't frightening enough to have the end of the world looming in just weeks, so they tossed in a homicidal rapist-murderer for good measure. He's just waiting for panicked prison guards to look the other way so he can break out of Death Row and head for Perry's home, where he intends to rape everybody, including the child, and kill them, not necessarily in that order.
Also mixed up in the ludicrous goings-on are Tia Carrere as "Major Delgado," a federal law enforcement officer of some kind, whose job it is to round up vital people like Perry and turn them over to Lance Henriksen, who's the head guy in charge of the U.S. contingent of vast underground cities that 24 friendly nations have built below the Earth's surface in case a supernova comes along. (If you're wondering where all your tax money has been going, this could explain it.)
I once spent a pleasant hour or two with Tia Carrere in the "jungles" of Oahu while they were filming an episode of CBS' "Tour of Duty" there. She was a very fetching lady in the early 1980s. Based on what we see of her in "Supernova," she has now reached that stage of her career when she hopes the cameraman will shoot her in soft focus. Her character is rather mean and nasty in most of her scenes and I msut say all the scowling doesn't do her a lot of good as a sex symbol.
As for Henriksen, well, he became so blase facing demons and other creatures in Fox's "Millennium" TV series that he walks through this role without much emotional commitment. When Perry complains it isn't fair to pick guys like him to survive and leave their loved ones behind, Henriksen says, "Think of it as the draft." This is the ideal guy to have in charge of such a program.
Finally, the writers have also added Emma Samms to the brew of "Supernova," playing a TV news reporter who once was a network star, but now is fighting to keep her career alive. She's the one who stumbles onto the story of Earth's demise and begins to have guilt panic attacks about releasing the news to all of us. Samms, the ex-soap star and "Dynasty" star, still looks quite nice and deserves better than this.
In short, there's nothing remotely "super" about "Supernova," including the special effects. The destruction of the famous St. Louis arch by flaming globules of solar plasma looks like a firebomb attack on a McDonald's. The demolition of the Taj Majal is slightly better, but you've seen all this sort of stuff a million times before and there's no need to wade through three more hours to just experience deja vu all over again.
©2005 by Ron Miller. The photos are courtesy of The Hallmark Channel. This column first posted Aug. 29, 2005.
RON MILLER was for 22 years a syndicated television columnist for Knight Ridder newspapers. He was the national president of the Television Critics Assn. and a National Headline Award winner for his TV columns.
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