Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Written by Steven Soderbergh. Based on the novel by
Starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 12/1/02
Now, as I mentioned in the video review from
earlier this year, I sat through the old Russian version of
“Solaris” and was thoroughly unimpressed. A long, plodding, boring
sci-fi drama translated from some Russian guy just did nothing for
me, but naturally, many film scholars consider it a classic.
Whatever. My man Andy “Cocktail” Kellam
hooked me up with a freebie to check out the new George Clooney
version of “Solaris”, so for free I will do just about anything.
The plot of the film sticks to the roots of the first film (and, I
am assuming, the book) by sending Chris Kelvin (Clooney) to figure
out what happened to a crew of scientists at a space station
orbiting the planet Solaris. It seems that Solaris’ atmosphere is
producing life-like copies of memories all over the station, and for
Kelvin, that means that his dead wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone, “Ronin”)
has a new life on the space station but she can’t be kept alive away
from the Solaris surface. This means that Chris must make a
choice—stay at the station with the memory of his lost loved one or
jettison the station and leave to contain the cloning that has taken
place on the mission.
Here is the greatest irony of watching the
2002 version of “Solaris”—although it is literally HALF the length
of the original film (about 88 minutes; the original is 165), the
new version is just as boring and it feels too long. In his attempt
to streamline the text, writer/director Steven Soderbergh leaves us
with Clooney on the ship for almost the entire film reminiscing
about his Rheya and people around me were nodding off the whole
night! I never really connected with the Kelvin in this film,
somewhat due to the fact that we don’t get to know him at all
through real time, just through the flashbacks that he has about
what a great marriage he had (or, so it seems). McElhone just
doesn’t work in this role. I don’t know if she doesn’t have the
right personality, or she has annoyingly-high cheekbones, or she
just couldn’t act well enough for me to feel her anguish over the
worsening situation on the space station. The support by Jeremy
Davies is so one-bit that his character’s vice—the tendency to say
“Yeah, listen,...” before each of his lines—lost all of its steam
after the first delivery. Viola Davis, as the station’s commander,
is not bad, but she isn’t given too much to do.
The great stuff in the film is the moody
score by longtime Soderbergh collaborator Cliff Martinez—it fits the
action so perfectly that I kept hoping there would be more of it.
The sets look good because they are so simple, and the film’s
camerawork is more static than most Soderbergh films (he usually
does his own camerawork handheld, but not on “Solaris”) and it works
well with the shots of Rheya looking off into the void. Overall,
the production itself is really nice, but you might only get into
those aesthetics if you are someone that regularly goes to the
movies or has an interest in production.
Otherwise, “Solaris” is remarkably unnotable.
Maybe you are better off reading the book.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard