Nova Image


By Josiah Teal | October 14, 2022

A deep space sci-fi film, Nova seeks to push humanity to its furthest potential through the use of A.I. and android learning. The title character, Nova (Juliet Chevelle), is a high-functioning android programmed to protect her crewmates aboard an advanced starship in the distant future. Nova is accompanied by her creator, Abilene (Chase Pollock), Captain Flynn (Leila Anastasia Scott), and a host of other androids and military personnel on her voyage through the stars. After solar flares threaten the crew, Nova and her shipmates must prepare for an emergency landing on Mars. Now they must learn how to survive on this distant planet.

Nova’s existence and study of humanity are the central focus of director Dana Cowden’s screenplay. Most of the conflict comes from the captain refusing to trust her android crewmates in addition to battling the ship’s malfunctioning technology. As the narrative progresses, Nova grows close with a young crew member, Lynae (Emerie Mena), and begins to mentor her despite the dangers of their voyage. These are just the critical plot points, without diving into any subplots concerning relationships, A.I., and isolation in the cosmos.

“…must prepare for an emergency landing on Mars.”

Nova has all the bones of a good sci-fi narrative, even multiple ones. There’s the stranded-in-space story, ideas of an android revolt, and even possibilities for flashy sci-fi adventure. Cowden makes the most of her micro-budget and poses several intriguing scenarios for our space trekking passengers. Many scenes are engaging enough on-premise though the plot rarely creates the tension needed for a proper payoff.

Payoff summarizes the majority of the movie’s problems. The plot and themes lay a solid foundation. However, the story constantly feels muddled. There are never enough moments or depth for a character piece, not near enough philosophy for a prophetic cautionary dystopian film. Nor are there McGuffins big enough for a plot-centered spacey popcorn flick. From Nova’s acceptance by the captain, the possibility of an Android revolt, solar flares, and even character deaths, many conflicts lack the consequence or foreshadowing to make an impact.

Cowden understands the tropes of sci-fi and shows a lot of promise as a director within the genre. Considering the budget, Nova boasts some solid android effects and lovely minimalistic sets. But, the sci-fi flick has difficulty choosing a narrative and struggles to create a world. Often it is trying to introduce characters and conflicts the audience never gets an opportunity to familiarize themselves with beyond exposition. With a runtime of just under 90-minutes, this has to operate quickly, but unfortunately, the best moments happen just before the closing credits. I am interested to see the filmmaker’s future within the genre as she fine-tunes her sci-fi prowess. But currently, Cowden’s feature narrative debut sits as a pass; a light pass but a pass nevertheless.

Nova (2022)

Directed and Written: Dana Cowden

Starring: Juliet Chevelle, Chase Pollock, Leila Anastasia Scott, Skye Stracke, Emerie Mena, Ian Wilson, Sai Pina, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

Nova Image

"…shows a lot of promise..."

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