Dr. Gibarian, part of a team at a space station studying Solaris, makes an urgent and self-described bizarre video request to his friend, civilian psychiatrist Dr. Chris Kelvin, to come to the station to deal with an unspecified phenomenon aboard, that phenomenon with which Chris' experience and background may be able to explain and solve. Chris learns that his trip is sanctioned by the space program as a security force had been sent to the station to investigate, that security team which is now missing. When Chris arrives at the station, he finds only two surviving team members, Drs. Gordon and Snow (Dr. Gibarian committed suicide), who are both acting nervously. Chris also finds two unexpected people there, the first, who Chris only sees fleetingly, being Dr. Gibarian's adolescent son Michael, and the second being Chris' deceased wife, Rheya. Chris and Rheya had a passionate relationship in all its good and bad before she committed suicide. Apparently, these appearances of loved ... Written by
George Clooney is shown traveling in a sleek slightly futuristic rapid transit train but the rear projection/blue screen out the window clearly shows the current day "Merchandise Mart" station of the Chicago CTA Subway. Also during his journey the train he passes going the opposite direction is a present day subway train. See more »
[Chris's memories, in voiceover]
Chris, what is it? I love you so much. Don't you love me anymore?
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There are no credits at the beginning. All the credits are at the end of the film. See more »
A cafe house/minimalist version of Stanislaw Lem's story
SOLARIS, directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring George Clooney, is one of those pointless remakes Hollywood has been making these past decades that adds almost nothing to the original classic. The movie itself is good. Not great or even close to being bad or a misfire, just good. Soderbergh basically boiled down the complex and epic story, as seen in the Russian film, into a simple MINIMALISTIC love story. Which made me wonder why did they even bother remaking the movie if all the science-fiction and metaphysical elements were thrown out? The story could have easily taken place entirely on earth. And instead of Solaris, the story could have been set in a mystical setting, like a haunted castle or an ancient archeological find. If you're going to set in space, might as well give the outer space aspect some sort of meaning to it. The minimalistic approach is interesting but the result is pointless. Having Rheya come back from the dead, sort of speaking, and her problems adjusting to her new reality reminded me a lot of the replicants' plight in BLADE RUNNER, which is what I think Soderbergh tried to do here. Who's reality is it?
My only criticism about the movie is the use of dreams and flashbacks. In the film, the Solaris planet takes a person's main dream while they're sleeping (there's even silly close-up shots of Clooney's cranium). These dreams are seen as "flashback" in the movie. Dreams are rarely that linear. One doesn't dream about one specific thing or person (in this case Kelvin dreaming about Rheya) all the time. And dreams are impressions of reality. So when Rheya comes back, looking exactly like Kelvin's wife, for me this points out to an obvious weakness in the whole concept of the Solaris planet going into a person's mind and grabbing their version of reality. If this was the case, the reincarnated Rheya should have looked slightly different that the Rheya on earth. Oddly enough, the way Soderbergh approached the idea of a planet reincarnating a long lost loved one into flesh reminded me of the SPACE 1999 episode, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, more than the Tarkovsky movie. But I find that the SPACE 1999 episode, even with all its faults, was more epic and poignant than Soderbergh's version of the Stanislaw Lem's story. There's just something anal retentive about Soderbergh's direction which prevents any kind of emotions to seep to the surface.
Unlike most people though, I wasn't bored at all with SOLARIS. In fact, movies like ARMAGEDDON, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK 2 or THE CORE were a thousand times more boring than this flick. It's just that the film's outcome is so predictable and that the script and filmmaker did nothing to alleviate this predictability that the pointlessness of the whole project comes to the fore. Good beginning. Predictable and flat ending.
And then there's another odd point about Soderbergh's SOLARIS: where did the money go? The film reportedly cost $80 to $100 million to make. The cast is tiny (four or five actors). There are very few special effects and the sets look like your standard spaceship sets you see on a TV show like STAR TREK VOYAGER. Why spend that huge amount of money on a simple, predictable love story? The film should have cost $30 to $40 million, not $100.
I love the Russian film a lot. But I can't say that Soderbergh create a disaster here or disservice to the Russian version or the book. It is a typically Soderbergh flick, which, on this aspect alone, sets it apart from the Russian movie. And like I've said, the film by itself is good. But in the end, it looks more like an episode of SPACE 1999 or THE TWILIGHT ZONE than a real movie.
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