Astronomers released a new high-resolution 3-D view of supernova 1987A this week, which film critics are describing as “visually stunning, but lacking in storyline.”

R.A. 05h 35m 28.03s, Dec. -69° 16′ 11.79″ as the supernova in 1987A

“The effects were breathtaking, with many genuine ‘wow’ moments,” reported Dana Stevens of Slate. “But ultimately, 1987A was a total rehash of SN 1054, with a little Cassiopeia A for good measure. I mean, really, was anyone surprised when the light curve plateaued in the third act?” Other critics pointed out similarities to director Werner Herzog’s obscure 1981 supernova, O Star of Bethlehem, Wherefore Have Ye Shattered: Galaxy of Origin Andromeda.

The New York Post’s Kyle Smith viewed 1987A in a harsh light. “It was completely racist,” he wrote. “The supernova appears in the sky above the southern hemisphere, but not one native astronomer notices it’s there until some visiting Canadian spots it in a photograph? Give me a break.”

There was much buzz about the supernova’s visuals, though some critics, including the Toronto Star’s Peter Howell, singled out the 3-D effects in the gravitational collapse scene—in which the collapsing supernova rebounds upon itself—as “gimmicky.” Others found fault with the projection technology itself.

“It’s well known that 3-D supernovae suffer from brightness problems,” wrote venerable Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert. “But is it just me, or did 1987A only get dimmer as time went on? I gave myself a headache trying to make out the silicon absorption spectra within the expanding cloud of superheated gas.”

There is strong consensus, however, on the stellar lead performance. “Newcomer R.A. 05h 35m 28.03s, Dec. -69° 16′ 11.79″ shines in one of the most brilliant interpretations committed to film this year,” exclaimed Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal, who went on to describe the actor as “one of those rare stars that simply explodes.”

5 August 2010 — 2:40 am