ninth symphony films - movie reviews

SOLARIS (2002)

DIRECTOR  -  steven soderbergh

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  99 minutes

RELEASED  -  27 november 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  solaris

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $47,000,000
solaris - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from solaris at

buy the dvd from solaris at

in the distant future, a psychologist is summoned to a space station that orbits a planet called "solaris" to investigate strange happenings.

james cameron considered directing but opted to produce instead. daniel day-lewis was considered to star.


picture from solaris

picture from solaris

picture from solaris


two out of four possible stars

The patience of the average moviegoer probably won't be sufficient to enjoy the extreme slowness of Steven Soderbergh's latest cinematic creation. Soderbergh has attempted to bring to the screen a rather more eccentric creation than his very mainstream Ocean's Eleven and something resembling much more Full Frontal. This director seems to be making a career jumping from the most Hollywood-esque pictures to avant-garde filmmaking and right back to Hollywood again. And although Solaris features a major Hollywood star, it definitely resembles more the "artistic" view through a camera's lens.

Soderbergh both wrote and directed this picture, which is based on a Polish novel by Stanislaw Lem. The film almost resembles a play in that all of its scenes take place in just a few inside locations. The winding maze of a space ship that George Clooney wanders around for much of the film has the look of a sterile hospital and sometimes the characters do as well. The characters not only look as though they belong in the hospital, but they sometimes act as though they do too. Aside from a few poignant emotional outbursts, George Clooney is very much devoid of facial gestures and seemingly "normal" human expressions.

The tiny cast in Solaris makes sure that the audience will have to pay much attention to only a few faces, and when most of those face are reciting somewhat repetitive dialogue, it is hard to keep one's attention on the screen. Perhaps once one has accustomed one's self to the very slow progression of the film, the artistic approach to filmmaking taken by Soderbergh can be appreciated. This film was certainly not made with the wants and needs of main-stream Hollywood in mind and while it may not actually go far enough with its off-center approach to story-telling, it still can be termed unique, as far as wide-release Hollywood pictures go.

What is missing from this picture is a few uproarious emotional outbursts. George Clooney has just one scene where he gets up and really increases the volume of his voice, and the person sleeping in the back of the theater probably will wake up during that scene. It's probably too bad that the emotion of this picture was so soft, because with its complete focus on character development, additional outbursts would have been welcome. The movie is so quiet emotionally, that it actually makes the soundtrack seem deafening.

And it must be said that the sweeping, long moaning violins of the orchestral score become quite unbearable during more than one scene in the film. The music doesn't change that often and is usually just drones on incessantly for interminable amounts of time in scenes that often extend for just a few minutes too long. And within each scene, many of the individual shots also extend for just a few seconds too long. And this stems from the characters not always having interesting things to say. What they say at first might be good for the story, but often the characters drone on saying absolutely nothing new.

Especially Jeremy Davies's character, who never really makes much sense, but still says the same thing over and over again, with the same annoyingly simple gestures. This simplicity will definitely grate on the nerves of more than one audience member, and may even drive a few to drink. Because this picture should carry a warning: "not for the hyper." The writer/director of Solaris should have done one of two things to make his picture more palatable. The script should have been beefed up or there should have been more eye candy. And since its obvious that the director wasn’t going for a Star Wars like escapade into space, the fact that the screenplay easily leaves half of the audience looking for their pillows, it seems that Soderbergh made a mistake in writing and directing this film. The operative word here is passion, and this film just doesn't have enough of it.

Which might be considered particularly ironic considering that all the performances in the film were much more than tolerable. In fact, everyone, including Clooney, gives about as much as can be expected through his or her characters. Natascha McElhone, though she could stand to gain a stone or two, plays her character (as Clooney's wife) with as much feeling as she possibly could, given the dialogue she had to utter. And that word, "utter," could probably sum up this entire movie. The repetitive dialogue and moaning soundtrack really make the ambiguous ending seem that much worse. The alternately creative and out-of-focus cinematography might provide good visuals, but with the lack of attention paid to making the dialogue vibrant and emotional, this study in character is a little on the boring side.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content © 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs © 20th century fox 2002
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact