Sphere (1998) Poster

(1998)

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8/10
A fairly decent Crichton flick!
farhan_qu11 October 2002
After reading many users' mixed comments on the movie..i can't help but feel that a majority have underrated the film. True it could have been better, especially in the latter half, but having read the book first, i did not feel it actually falling off midway like the way other viewers have described it. People who have read the novel will acknowledge that the movie does follow the novel fairly closely. Thus comments about Hoffman's role and the ending are unfair, since i feel they are the closest big-screen reproductions of one of Crichton's best works. I feel Stone's character was the role followed the weakest.

Definitely the giant squid thrills are insufficient (note that Crichton devoted a good part of his novel describing encounters with 'the monster'). I guess animation artists were short budgeted...though the film as a whole still is a visual treat...and the atmosphere is rightly captured, with nice music.

Overall, I think the movie is worth watching and is definitely of a much higher caliber than 'The Lost World'. It follows a psychological-cum-sci-fi thriller theme and i feel is better than the similar flick 'Abyss'. As from the novel's point-of-view...it could have been done better though. 8/10 stars!
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5/10
Simplistic movie posing as an intellectual thriller
craig-844-49281614 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's like a children's story. Full of illogical plot twists and the necessity for the audience to take ridiculous leaps of faith to justify what appears on the screen and the reactions of the character to the situations. There is no stimulus to think anywhere beyond the confines of the film... Other than the thought "what the heck is going on?". And in this case, that question arises for the wrong reasons. It simply fails to stay believable within the boundaries of the universe built for the story.

Yes, there are suspenseful moments and some terrifying images, but even those moments are diffused by the knowledge presented in the film that 'all is not what it seems'. And this is the same story told many times before going all the way back to 'Forbidden Planet' and the 'monsters of the id'.

The take-away from the movie is... your perception is your reality. And sometimes it's scary. Or is it: 'your perception is EVERYONES reality?" OMG that really make you think! ... NOT.

I take offense to the reviews that suggest people who did not like this movie are intellectually challenged. If you found this movie to be stimulating to you intellectually.. may I also recommend 'The Berenstain Bear's and the Spooky Old Tree'... I'm sure that one will will have you on your toes the whole time and weeping for it's beauty at your next book club meeting.

I know it's difficult to make a movie... and there was a great effort and much skill and intelligence put in to making 'Sphere'... It simply doesn't deliver on the entertainment nor intellectual fronts.
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5/10
A strangely disappointing adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel that comes off to a smashing good start but very quickly approaches a precipitous downhill.
Michael DeZubiria6 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Sphere is a science fiction film that starts off with a tremendously fascinating story and ignores all of the possibilities that it entails. Four people (you know the drill – a psychologist (Dustin Hoffman), a mathematician (Samuel L. Jackson), a biochemist (Sharon Stone) and an astrophysicist (Liev Schreiber)) are flown out to the middle of the ocean on a top-secret missions (even they don't know where they're going). We would be just as confused as they were about the details of their mission if we had never seen the previews, but even though we already know what they're going to find out there, it's just as interesting to learn about the details of this ship that has been found on the bottom of the ocean, and that appears to have been sitting there for 300 years (well, okay, 288). The story keeps getting better and better as we learn that there is a hum coming from the ship, indicating that there is still something running inside it, and then even more fascinating revelations once we are taken inside the ship.

There can be no doubt that Sphere contains some truly interesting and entertaining elements, and that things like the acting are just as superb as we would expect from such a spectacular cast, but as the movie progresses, we begin to realize how little the film is going to reveal. I can't say that I wasn't completely enraptured for at the least the first hour of the film, but there were just as many bitterly disappointing things about it as there were good things. Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, delivered absolutely brilliant performances in this film, delivering some of the best entertainment in the entire film by themselves. There is a mildly interesting but completely unconvincing ex-romantic tension between Sharon Stone's character, Dr. Beth Halperin, and Dustin Hoffman's character, Dr. Norman Goodman, that is there for little other reason than to complicate the lives of the characters as they try to solve the mystery of this undersea ship.

(spoilers) It's really too bad that the movie completely falls on its face in the second half, because the first half of the film is excellent and undeniably entertaining. There's nothing like a bit of time travel and the suggestion of extraterrestrial life to keep you entertained, and it is definitely a great scene when we find out that the ship is a human ship. This is one of the many things in the film that really makes you think. The thing that makes a great film is that it inspires thought. This is probably the one thing that all of the great films have in common with each other. There are surely a lot of things about Sphere that really make you think, which is another reason that the first half of the film is so good. We see that it's a human ship, which opens a whole new area of possibilities for the film. Harry (Samuel L. Jackson) speculates on the fact that the last entry in the ship's log is an entry into an `Unknown entry event,' indicating that they will never reach the surface to reveal what they've found.

There is also a possibly over-extensive excursion into the realm of the psychological element in the film, as the characters are all made to face their fears, some of which are not just your average fears, such as Harry's strange fear of finishing 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The special effects are definitely nothing to brag about, but there are some interesting scenes that take place in the deep ocean, such as the death of Teeny Fletcher (hey, she's black, she had it coming, right?) in the midst of a mass of strange sea creatures, as well as the scene with the thousands of squid eggs. Weird looking things, I've wondered since I saw the film what kind of props they used for that scene. The conversation with `Jerry' is unfittingly childish, but there is definitely a significant element of tension introduced when Jerry gets mad, as well as the scene where Norman contemplated the implications of Jerry's expression of emotions, indicating his ability to get mad.

There are undeniably a lot of interesting things about Sphere, and it surely has the power to entertain, but it goes off the track later in the film, maybe because it tried to answer too many of its questions. There are some unanswerable things in the film, and the movie deals with them by having the characters have a weakly-written discussion about their fears and questions, and their ultimate decision to `forget' what they know using the power that they seem to have gained from the sphere. While this answers the question of how it could have been an unknown entry event when they all made it to the surface, it's probably the weakest ending that the film could possibly have had.

As a strange twist on the science fiction genre, Sphere succeeds, although only in the first half. Like Hollow Man, Sphere could have and should have been a much better film. The unfortunate fact about the film is that it contains a lot of very interesting and very entertaining things that are surely worth watching, but the disappointing ending almost makes them not even worth seeing.
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The best underwater action film!
Damian-Sawyer27 November 2002
This is the rarest of action films - one that engages your intellect not just your senses.

On the seabed in mid-ocean a huge vessel is discovered. A team is dispatched to investigate - and what they find is beyond belief.

Admittedly there were a couple of scenes which I felt missed the intended realism of the film, and occasionally it seemed far too obvious what was going on, but the ending resolved everything beautifully.

I suspect that fans of action films will feel let down by the thought necessary to follow this film, and fans of science fiction may well feel that after the first half hour there is a lack of a traditional sci-fi element. Many people I'm sure will feel that too little is explained, but the point of the film is that it doesn't need to be - the message of the ending is strong enough that we don't need explanation.

I'd particularly recommend this film to anyone who likes psychological thrillers. I was fairly impressed by the action integrated in The Abyss, but Sphere far surpasses it in terms of plot. Most of all, if you like films that simply entertain, this is not for you. It's more about the reactions it causes in you when you follow the story. If you come away from this film unchanged, you've missed the point.
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8/10
Very good!!
Pookyiscute17 November 2005
Excellent! I went into the film thinking it would be bad, since that is what I had heard from someone before watching it.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at what a terrific film this actually was. The only downfall to the film, was Dustin Hoffman. With all due respect to one of the best actors ever, he just wasn't suited for this particular role. He was good in it, but just not the right person for the job.

The film begins with Dustin Hoffman flying over the Pacific Ocean in a helicopter, going to a Submarine investigating a plane crash. As a psychologist, he is impatiently waiting to speak to the survivors, and after having been on the sub for over 3 hours, is upset with the Capatain. However, the Captain informs him there was no plane crash, but rather an arrival of some sort not quite 300 years ago, under the Ocean.

Sharon Stone, Leive Shreiber and Samuael L. Jackson join Hoffman as apart of his team, to go beneath the surface to discover and determine what it is exactly that they have found under the Pacific.

With complete intensity and excitement non-stop throughout the entire film, it will leave you feeling a little disturbed at times, and perhaps a bit paranoid, also.

I would advice anyone who does not have a liking to intense sci-fi type films...this is not going to be your cup of tea, but for those enjoy good horror, intensity and a great story line, you will definitely enjoy this flick!
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9/10
Sphere ****
movieguy-2012 August 1998
Sphere represents a new standard in science fiction. With a solid plot and good acting, it proves itself to be better than the stereotypical childish effects films. Director Barry Levinson provides great visuals that make the spooky underwater environment come alive. The film is a psycological mystery thriller that keeps you guessing to the very end. It has good dialogue and is more concerned with characters and their development than with cool looking ways of killing them off. Based on Michael Crichton's book, Sphere is a breath of fresh air in a genre that really needs it.
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First half is really good – but quickly becomes a load of `spheres'!
bob the moo16 May 2002
When the military discover what they believe to be a spaceship at the bottom of the ocean they bring in Dr Norman Goodman who had once written a report on the protocol for an alien encounter. His report had named a team of experts – this team is also assembled. The team descend to the craft and begin to find some astonishing things about the craft. However when they find a huge golden sphere they begin to experience problems. Problems that become worse when a storm traps them at the bottom of the ocean.

With a cast like this – you gotta have high hopes. With a director and a writer to match you deserve something fantastic! And for the most part this delivers. The build up is dark, mysterious and exciting. However once the sphere is found it goes downhill. It still has some really good moments – the jellyfish bit is scary and other actions bits are cool. But it gets all muddled up in what the sphere is and who is doing what on the base. It almost manages to hold together until the final half hour then it all just collapses like a flan in a cupboard! It's a shame because for the most part it felt like it was building to something much better, but no.

The cast promised much but didn't deliver. Jackson was great, but I don't think he can be bad – even in a bad movie. Hoffman stutters around like he doesn't know what he's doing. I know he's meant to be playing a character that isn't used to heroics, but he doesn't bring anything. Stone is OK but at times looks like she reading her lines off a board. Coyote is OK and Schreiber is understated by his own hammy standards. It's also cool to see Queen Latifah in a role.

Overall this is worth watching as for the majority it's real good. However you notice that the film has got 30 minutes left to go – make your excuses and leave, by then you've seen the best it has to offer.
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8/10
Great movie
andrewdegenhardt10 January 2003
As I've heard from other people, the first half of the movie is good, and it is. But that doesnt mean that the second half of the movie isn't just as good.

The second half is only interesting if you are patient, listen and watch carefully.

The story is really about how our society is far from utopia, regardless of how intelligent and cultured we are. It opens windows of answers to so many problems that our society is facing every day.
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5/10
Muddled Crichton
mgruebel2 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"I borrowed from good writers ... like Rod Serling" one of the characters exclaims in the middle of the film. Do I ever wish.

Sphere is based on not-one-of-Crichton's best efforts. Instead, go see "Andromeda Strain," which, although long and slow-paced in classic Robert Wise directorial style, creates a real atmosphere as a team of scientists struggles in an isolation facility to save humanity form a deadly virus.

The film is full of cheap scares (like women-sea divers jumping up and screaming when a skeletonized human astronaut is found, one of those stereotypes). And that's pretty much all it tries to deliver.

A bunch of diver-scientists discover a US spaceship from the future. It contains a mysterious sphere, which grants them the power to materialize their imagination to reality. Of course a storm traps them under water (in a great B-flick like "Deep Blue Sea," that old plot device is tolerable), and some of them die under the influence of the hallucinations/creations. Back to the surface, the survivors decide to take away the power granted by the sphere - or is one of them cheating? Sequel time! Fortunately, they did not bother making one.

The movie is mediocre SF fare based on a mediocre SF novel (although Crichton has written some great ones). It replaces genuine wonder with in-your-face sounds or flashes to make you jump in your seat. The characters are so routine you wish they'd just die and get on with it. There is some competent action, and for a while (middle third) the film has spell-binding imagery, so it still gets a 5: watchable, but not really satisfying even on the first viewing.
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6/10
It could have been a masterpiece. It is not.
Razvan Rogoz3 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It borrows heavily from Solaris (the book, not the movie). The entire logic of the movie is based on it but it falls flat in some places. The problem is that while the idea is intriguing, the exposition is plain boring and the pacing is far better in the first half than in the second one.

There are a few plot twists, however, all the end, you are left with a "is this all there is?" feeling.

Plus, while Solaris raised philosophical questions about the nature of existence and the limits of logic, not to mention have some really disturbing and intense scenes, this falls flat.

I've watched the movie for the first half on my iPad but then, I've simply left it in the background and did something else. This is one of those movies with a great potential but dumbed down so it can be a summer blockbuster.

Plus, the characters are 2D archetypes. You have the serious US Navy Captain that is always all business and too cool for school. You have the care free lady genius that is a bit crazy compared to the rest. You have the highly intelligent but insecure genius. You have the an afro- American dude that is considered a prodigy yet acts like he wants to win a popularity award.

Therefore, a contrast is created. The idea is good and the inspiration is clear. It could have been a lot more. But it is dumbed down to the level that I'd rather watch Man in Black than this. You don't get a smart setup and give it a stupid execution. If you want a simplistic movie, go with a simple plot. Don't go all metaphysical and then break it up with the execution.
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9/10
Flashy, sizzling horror sci-fi with excellent claustrophobic suspense.
Silverzero9 May 2003
The fourth Michael Crichton adaptation in line is quite a good one. After the blockbuster success of `Jurassic Park' and minor hits `Congo' and `The Lost World', `Sphere' matches up to theses levels. And with so much talent in store, it certainly is appealing. Academy Award winners Barry Levinson and Dustin Hoffman (who coincidentally won Oscars for the same film) and Oscar Nominees Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson all headline the movie.

The end result is relatively good, but with so much talent on board it could have been a bit better. However, the film succeeds in what attempts to do. There are ample scarifying chills along with a high enjoyability factor. The haunting suspense is soon followed by an equally chilling action. This is good because other chillers such as `The Sixth Sense' built up the suspense, but no action followed. For that film, the scares lost all their quality the second time round. But in `Sphere's' case, the suspense keeps its intensity every time.

The film starts out very well whilst on the surface, but gradually it gets worse only to amount to a satisfying conclusion. The middle scenes aren't bad, but they're a bit too gloomy and eerie. Another quibble is the obvious lack of originality. The main plot of `Event Horizon', which was made the year before that, is quite similar to the plot of this. There are also bits and pieces of other science fictions such as `Alien' taken here and there. Luckily it takes the bests bits and leaves you on the edge of your seat. But the finished product isn't as nourishing as it should be. The plot can get complicated at times, but for the most part it's actually quite clever.

And the glamorous cast of familiar faces insures that the movie never drags on. Dustin Hoffman is well cast as the calm, stable psychiatrist and makes a suitable lead. It's not her most challenging role, but Sharon Stone s believable as the kooky biochemist. She still hasn't received any tough roles after `Casino' though. The most complex character in the film, Samuel L. Jackson drops the usual machismo for some convincing scepticism and abnormal goofiness. The supporting cast including Leiv Shreiber, Queen Latifah and Peter Coyote do their parts adequately, not that they can do much with them.

The directing is good as expected by a great director. Levinson beautifully creates the required intensity and the visuals are very impressive aswell. The glistering shimmer of the huge golden sphere of the title is a delight to gaze at.

The stars flash and the plot sizzles. There are a few plot-holes that it falls into along with a bit of a sag in the middle. Nevertheless, `Sphere' is an impressive sci-fi horror that succeeds on almost every other level. My IMDb Rating: 6.8/10.
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5/10
Disappointing, sadly miscast
ctomvelu123 December 2012
I have written about this film in the past under another moniker, and decided to give it another go under my current name. "Sphere," which tanked at the box office, is an adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel about a mysterious object found in a spaceship at the bottom of the ocean. Dustin Hoffman plays a shrink who is enlisted by the government, in the form of Peter Coyote, to lead a team to examine the spaceship. Once inside, they find the stranger artifact, a simple sphere. What they find in time is that the thing allows those who come into contact with it to manifest their thoughts into reality. Nuff said about the plot. The first half of the movie is pretty entertaining, as we only know what the shrink and his team know. The second half is an utter dog. Looks like they rushed production, scrimped on the special effects, and generally made a mess of what might been another "2001." Hoffman is all wrong for his role, and Sharon Stone as his ex-wife and fellow explorer is also miscast. A better movie on a similar theme is Anderson's "Event Horizon," which unfortunately also suffers from a weak second half. I'd even recommend Cameron's "The Abyss" over this, as long as you don't mind sitting through a movie that is longer than necessary.
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6/10
Great potential falls flatter and flatter as it goes...
secondtake10 October 2010
The Sphere (1998)

Barry Levinson is one of those directors who has no interest in art, or in invention, or in pretension, either. And so his films sometimes hit a popular strain that makes them take off. He has some terrible misfires, for sure, but his best films ("Rain Man," "Sleepers") have people who you relate to, and who have to confront something extraordinary.

That was the idea here, based on a Michael Crichton novel (that should have been a heads up). The cast is headliner stuff. Dustin Hoffman is particularly convincing, Samuel Jackson plays a great type, and Liev Schreiber is sharp. Sharon Stone is a dull fourth. They bond, and realize they have things in common, in the first minutes of the film as they converge and go under water to check out an alien spaceship. Even after they are deep below the surface and beginning their unlikely exploration they make a viewer connect. As much as it borrows from "Alien" and "Aliens" this could have been a good film on its own terms. Even the talking computer/alien has its own edge compared to HAL.

What goes wrong is the plot itself, and not acting, or even directing, can overcome that. As it gets hairier, we need it to be more plausible, not less. Events get increasingly chaotic, so that action and loud noise drive some of the scenes. Subplots are continued but seem increasingly meaningless (at one point, Hoffman and Stone are rushing into the water in an absolute emergency and they start to chitchat about their distant failed love affair). And finally, as people die off and the menace becomes more ambiguous, the movie becomes completely ambiguous, and as a kind of escape valve, announces that any number of crazy thing we have been watching may or may not have been imagined by one character or another.

But what does that mean about the camera? Isn't there still a differentiation between cinema reality and one character's delusion? Or if these are global delusions including the viewer, shouldn't they do more than simply disorient us? Well, don't hang on for answers. Just hang on. An explosion (of course) caps it all off (why they didn't hit the disarm button isn't explained), and a final logical wrap up that avoids the time travel paradox is warm and fuzzy.
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6/10
Could Have Been a Great Sci-Fi
Claudio Carvalho23 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The psychiatrist Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman) travels from San Diego to the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean to help survivors of a plane crash. Soon he learns that he was actually summoned by Captain Harold C. Barnes (Peter Coyote) to team-up with the biochemistry Dr. Elizabeth 'Beth' Halperin (Sharon Stone); the mathematician Dr. Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson); and the astrophysical Dr. Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber) to investigate an unknown life form in a spacecraft that crashed two hundred and eighty-eight years ago.

The team saturates with helium to travel to a base close to the UFO 1,000 feet below the ocean and operated by the military Alice 'Teeny' Fletcher (Queen Latifah) and Jane Edmunds (Marga Gómez). Barnes, Norman, Beth, Harry and Ted go to the spaceship and discover that it is terrestrial from the future. Further, the computer indicates an Unknown Entry Event, probably a Black Hole that brought the spaceship to the past. Harry uses logic and concludes that if the crew had never heard anything about their discovery in the present days, they will probably dies. But they all are intrigued with a mysterious sphere inside the spacecraft. There is a storm in the surface and the fleet must leave the area, leaving Barnes and his team without communication. Harry sneaks out and enters in the sphere and then his manifestations come to life threatening the group. Will they survive to the power of the mysterious sphere?

I saw "Sphere" on the late 90's but I did not like it. Yesterday I saw it again, now on DVD, and this time I found it a sci-fi with an intelligent story but with a terrible direction. The greatest problem are the characters that are unpleasant, unlikable and emotionally detached and without feelings.

The situation of the fleet leaving the area due to a storm but without leaving a submarine in the area to give support to the group is also a great flaw in the story. This screenplay in the hands of Spielberg or James Cameron could have been a great film. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Esfera" ("Sphere")
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2/10
Bad dialogue, bad plot, bad filmography, awful movie.
shishkani5 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Don't bother.

The writing is terrible - the characters' motives and actions make no sense whatsoever. As a viewer we are asked to accept so much incredibly bad stuff . . . yeah, it makes perfect sense that an 'alien' would communicate by mapping a keyboard onto a sphere and numbering the keys in a spiral fashion starting from the center. Perfect sense. Or that you could mistranslate 'My name is Harry' into 'My name is Jerry' but not mistranslate anything else that he was saying.

Or how about the 'inevitable' conclusion that the fact nobody knows what happens in the future means that everyone died? I'd say it's a lot more likely that information of that nature would at the least be kept confidential, or (as they weakly wrapped up the plot) simply not spread beyond the surviving crew members Don't get me started on the other plot holes. What the hell happened to the dark-haired woman? Oh there's a noise outside. Huh, it's her dead body. What could have done this to her? NOBODY EVER KNOWS OR BOTHERS TO FIND OUT.

And the dialogue was really awful too. 'You know me. I believe everything'. There were very few lines in this movie that sounded like a real person would ever speak them. Samuel Jackson's character was a mishmash of weirdness - he spent far too much of the movie seeming like some sort of evil agent of the sphere, when it turns out that he's just a raging idiot. Well played.

What really bothers me is that underneath all this crap, is a halfway decent idea. I have not read Crighton's novel, for all I know it is tolerable or even decent. But whatever it is, this adaptation is absolutely godawful. I feel stupider for having watched it; I feel stupider for being a member of a race which has other individuals who would rate this miscarriage of filmography as anything other than utter dreck.
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10/10
Holy Moly!
clydfrog29 August 2001
Best movie I have seen in a long time. I first saw `Sphere' on the big screen when it first came out and I have rented it a few times and then went out and bought it on VHS. A little bit of the story for you-Dustin Hoffman plays the part of a psychologist and thinks he is going to counsel the survivors of a plane wreck in the ocean. There is more to the situation than Hoffman knows. At the supposed crash sight Hoffman teams up with Sharon Stone and Samuel Jackson as part of a top team of scientists assembled in high-priority situations. While under water the team finds the unexpected and their worst fears become reality. This movie is perfectly intriguing and very well written. The twists and turns in the movie fit together like puzzle pieces that paint the best psychological thriller that I have seen. Hoffman is of course at his best and Stone and Jackson are right there beside him the whole way.
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5/10
It started off really well...
KineticSeoul8 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I thought the start was pretty good, with it's mystery and tension. Which is composed of navy divers and scientists. They are deployed into the deep sea to investigate a mysterious alien object which is in the shape of a sphere. The thing is once the crew finds the sphere it becomes really boring without much substance. This just didn't seem like one of those deep ambiguous movie that people will watch over and over again to understand a bit better. Majority of the film is composed of hallucination, strange things going down with paranoia and horror. I did think the cinematography with it's claustrophobic settings was quite effective. With the style of a film such as this, I expected a bit more depth to it. I remember watching this movie as a kid in a theater and was confused about what was going on. However watching this now as an adult, I still couldn't get myself to appreciate the story. It just wasn't a rewarding experience, despite the really good visuals and special effects. I also give this movie a 5 because at least it tried to build tension and horror without relying a lot on blood and gore.

5/10
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6/10
It will have your attention but it's too psychological for its own good
Michael Crichton, a science-fiction novelist and screenplay writer for several of his own adaptations has had many of his ideas become successful and iconic pieces in cinema. The best of Mr. Crichton's work is by far everyone's favorite prehistoric predator film, Jurassic Park (1993). That and Westworld (1973) twenty years before. There's something about Crichton's work that has many of the same motifs that show up in a lot of his other written works. One of the most notable elements is the discovery of a new science by humans and it ends up becoming more than humanity can handle. Re-emphasizing this again is in this Crichton adaptation that went largely unnoticed. Was it because it was bad? No but as a final product, there's a lot left to be desired with this sci- fi thriller.

The story to this movie is about a group of doctors in different fields that travel to the bottom of the ocean to analyze a UFO that has something mysterious inside. The mysterious plot device that's inside the ship is a giant perfectly shaped golden sphere. After visiting it, strange things begin occurring on the ship and it's up to the small crew to figure it out. Directed by Barry Levinson (who has produced other Crichton adaptations) shows that he has competent direction in how he wanted the story to play out. Yet his pair of writers didn't seem to know how to make it work to the fullest extent. The writers on board for this production were Stephen Hauser (which was his only credit) and Paul Attanasio. Both of which flesh out the characters and do create some high-strung tension scenes with minor psychological elements but when it comes to explaining the orb, they miss it almost entirely.

The underwater crew is made up of Dustin Hoffman (a psychiatrist), Sharon Stone (a biochemist), Samuel L. Jackson (a mathematician) and Liev Schreiber (a doctor in physics) and two operators; Peter Coyote and Queen Latifah. Of these characters, only Latifah (who has a minor role) seemed slightly out of place; all the rest act fine in their roles. That means distinctive personalities and charms. The actor who viewers would probably find the most likable is Hoffman who has a knack for being mostly nonchalant through each situation he's put into. I guess shrinks are supposed to be this calm? Not sure, but it gives him the right amount of charm. The connection these characters have is that they were all associated with Hoffman's role. Funny how popular 80s singer Huey Lewis even had a small scene stealing moment at the beginning of the movie. Random but a treat.

The sphere plot device is also a treat when things start rolling (pardon the pun). However, this is exactly when the problems begin to arise. In order for strange events to happen, there's got to be reasons to back up and justify these moments. For this case, there is only one explanation given amongst a slew of other questions that go unanswered. One thing that really threw me off was when Hoffman's character discovers a cabinet worth of a specific item. Who stocked that thing? I could see if it was a mind game or hallucination but it was for real. Tell me who had the time to do that? I have to admit, moments like those will keep its audience guessing and with Hoffman's character being a shrink, the psychological aspect to the film does help make the tenseness quite intellectual. The only problem is that parts of it only theorized possible reasons but never gave definitive solutions. These of which were all based on observation.

The only other negative part to the presentation of this movie is how it deliberately splits up its acts into chapters. There is no need, for two reasons. One being that, the audience will figure out when the next act is because each "chapter" if you want to call it that fades out to black. The other reason is that giving a title for the next sequence can somewhat spoil the upcoming surprising scene that audiences may not see coming. Instead, audiences are presented with giant bold print stating exactly what's headed their way. Why go through the trouble of shooting yourself in the foot like that? But enough on that, the last bits of the film still work in its favor. This belongs to the cinematography shot by Adam Greenberg (The Terminator (1984) and Rush Hour (1998)) and the music composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Since Greenberg has been the director of photography before for bigger projects, he shows that can effectively conceal the illusion during the underwater scenes. As for music, Goldenthal who isn't always the most memorable actually surprises this time. That means creating themes for certain aspects of the film, which includes creepy piano keys and quite wondrous sounding strings. It really stuck.

The film has competent acting, cinematography, music, interesting psychological elements thrown in and some tense thrills. However, the writing sorely lacks in clearing up much of the plot device that is directly involved in the story other than giving a small assumption only based on observation. That and the chapter segments are a bit unnecessary.
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6/10
The power to actualize your thoughts and fears
Wuchak9 May 2015
"Sphere" (1998) is about the discovery of a huge spacecraft at the bottom of the ocean and the humming, maybe living, sphere found inside. A team of scientists are sent down to investigate – a psychologist (Dustin Hoffman), a mathematician (Samuel L. Jackson), a biochemist (Sharon Stone) and an astrophysicist (Liev Schreiber). Two notable characters at the station on the ocean floor are played by Peter Coyote and Queen Latifah. Mystery and (some) horror ensue.

Based on Michael Crichton's novel, "Sphere" intermixes elements of other scif-fi flicks, like "Forbidden Planet" (1956), "Solaris" (1972), "Alien" (1979) and "The Abyss" (1989). Like those movies, the plot involves a small group of people who are isolated from society and encounter the unknown. The theme is the actualization of one's thoughts and fears and the potential for good or, more likely, bad that comes with it. Are we mature enough as a species to handle such power?

Of course, we already have this power, just not to the degree depicted in the story (seemingly). Anything important that we do, whether productive or destructive, is formulated within first and then manifests without, like a song or a book or a loving relationship. If we truly knew the power at our disposal we'd hardly be able to sleep at night we'd be so excited!

The first hour or so is quite good because the film definitely makes you feel like you're at the bottom of the ocean. The mystery is engaging and the actors formidable. Unfortunately, some parts of the second half don't work so well. The sea snake scene, for instance, is really weak, particularly the way Stone's character responds to the situation. It seemed more like a dream than reality and maybe that's what the director (Barry Levinson) was shooting for, a cross between reality and nightmare, but it comes across wrong. Lame parts like this destroy the illusion of the movie. As far as the ending goes, it features tricky material that's not easy to pull off and the movie's only half-successful with it. The fact that it's somewhat successful is largely due to having great actors. They pulled it off.

Despite the rushed vibe of parts of the second half, the theme is great. This isn't a slasher-film-in-space, like "Alien," but is more thought-provoking, which isn't to say it's as good. However, there are some harrowing and creative aspects, like the jelly fish sequence.

While many lambaste "Sphere," it wasn't the box office dog you might think in light of the bad press. It made $37 million (in 1999 dollars) in the USA alone, which is hardly a clunker. The problem was that it cost twice that to make.

The film runs 132 minutes.

GRADE: B-

QUESTIONS ON THE THEME (***Don't read further unless you've seen the film***)

Why is it that the dark side of the human subconscious is empowered by the alien technology/entity? Why not the positive side? The four scientists (and the others) strike me as quality souls who pretty much have it together. While not perfect human specimens, they're strong people who have their phobias and destructive emotions under control. So why aren't their GOOD, PRODUCTIVE thoughts & desires manifested rather than the bad? I could see if the story took place in a prison and the characters were pieces of sheet, but that's not the case.

Also, who or what does the sphere represent? The Fountain of Life (Psalm 36:9)?
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5/10
Disappointing but watchable
Zazwaz1 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sphere is a science-fiction/horror film based on the book by Michael Crichton of the same title. Now, I have not read the book, but in my opinion films based on books or vice versa should not be compared to the source material. Reading the book makes you prejudiced against the picture. It's either better or worse than the book, you don't judge the film as an independent work.

Sphere is about a team of scientists who are gathered by the US government to investigate a mysterious spaceship found at the bottom of the pacific ocean. It soon transpires that the ship has been there for more than 300 years. As they explore it they discover a mysterious sphere, and as they study it strange things start to happen.

I won't spoil the story too much, but there is a really interesting concept here involving time travel and first contact with alien technology, and they completely ruined it. Soon after they discover the sphere the plot descends into complete nonsense and remains that way until the end.

The acting on the other hand is superb, not that you could expect any less from an all star cast with Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharon Stone. The characters are well developed and the drama is believable.

Sphere is a tense film, and despite the dissatisfying plot it keeps you watching and there are some good jump moments. The editing is done well and the underwater cinematography is great.

All in all sphere is a film that, in my opinion, has a plot with a lot of potential that gets lost halfway through, but remains enjoyable though good direction and solid acting. If you like sci-fi horror and are looking for something a little different I suggest you give this a try.
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9/10
great movie
pfm_kaos14 May 2005
I gave it a 9 due to the fact that they didn't explain everything out for me. So often I watch movies and can easily predict everything that is going on, and how it is going to turn out. This movie is not that way. Great suspense from beginning to end, and it will leave you thinking when it is over.

If the writers/producers were to tell all about the plot, the best part of the movie (not being exactly sure what is going on) would be ruined.

As they talk to the ''unknown'' creature through the computer, this gives the movie a much more eerie feel.

A must watch for anyone who likes movies.

Rent it or buy it today.
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3/10
Too many unanswered questions
ryan mcdaniel15 August 2012
The first 30 minutes of this movie was compelling but after that it just fell flat. With all the new technology in the ship wouldn't 5 geniuses be a little more interested in what was inside? Not to mention the Sphere itself. With something so interesting you think the director would want to titillate us a little with its powers. Did anyone else notice how emotionally detached the characters were? After every tragedy that included deaths of supposed friends, there just sitting around sipping coffee trying to figure out what happened all the while, smiling!? This really could have been a great movie, its got all the elements. The director just blew it.
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4/10
Very disappointing
dlee767412 April 2008
I happened to have read most of Michael Creightons novels including this one. Usually with the movie versions of his stories you lose something but this one it lost a lot. They changed a lot of the story, now i don't complain about that normally because i understand you have to change stories to make them good movies. But the changes in this made it worse. The acting was especially bad. This was probably Samuel Jacksons worst performance. The movie starts out okay i thought it could almost be a good movie, but it went way down hill the last 30 minutes of the movie. Anyway this movie was just a complete bust and i don't recommend it. The only reason it got a 4 is because i like the story.
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7/10
the book by Michael Crichton is so much better, but the movie's a fun ride too!
MovieAddict201625 July 2002
The book sphere, by Michael Crichton, is excellent. The movie on the other hand, falls short. The film of course, doesn't follow the book exactly, like all book-to-movies, however, it does follow pretty closely, considering. Dustin Hoffman fits into PERFECT character. He plays his character just like the book plays him. Quiet. Not very excitable. Samuel L. Jackson, was also good. However, my casting flaw would be Sharon Stone. She's horrible, not playing her character at all well. However, for some reason people don't like this movie, even despite Sharon Stone and some other flaws. I watched this before the book, so I don't like it because I read the book. I like this film before I read the book. So, I don't get why people don't like SPHERE. I mean, sure it's not great, but it's entertaining enough on a friday/saturday night to watch along with some popcorn. Give this film a break. Rent it.....I'm sure you won't be too dissapointed.
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4/10
Muddled and unfocused sci-fi thriller
Leofwine_draca29 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A largely disappointing thriller adapted from a book by Michael Crichton, which is both overlong and boring at times, although not totally without merit. The film starts off well with the initial underwater exploration of the alien craft, and the sphere itself, a most impressive creation. Sadly after this set-up, it seems that nobody really knew where to go, so instead it becomes standard run-of-the-mill fare with the members of the undersea station getting bumped off one by one (although the varied deaths, including jellyfish attack, fire, etc. are impressive and well-staged). The confusing storyline involves the alien sphere channelling people's unconscious thoughts and fears and bringing them to life, thus turning everybody on each other and killing themselves. It sounds more exciting than it is.

The big budget is impressive, both in the underwater visuals and special effects, which are limited and kept to a minimum rather than over the top as per usual. The photography is interesting, the sets varied, and the action, when it occurs, is accompanied by an old-fashioned music score which adds to the excitement. Sadly, for the most part the film just sort of meanders on with not much occurring and nobody getting any closer to discovering the truth.

Dustin Hoffman is good, as expected, as the lead, although his heart doesn't seem to be in it. Sharon Stone is merely adequate as the female crew member, sometimes embarrassing when she supposedly loses it. Samuel L. Jackson is once again excellent as the first crew member to go inside the sphere, who may or may not be a villain; his edgy turn is one of the film's highlights. Liev Schreiber is a pretty ineffectual although likable scientist who doesn't seem to figure much. Peter Coyote has a minor role as an official who gets trapped in a closing door and cut in two (like in DEEP STAR SIX). Rapper Queen Latifah is unnoticeable in a very minor bit part as a technician.

There are some effective scares, like the arrival of the giant squid, plus the genuinely scary attacks by water snakes which lunge at the camera. Also some nice touches, like the book that Jackson reads that's blank after page 87 (probably the cleverest bit of the film). Sadly the long-expected ending is rushed and a disappointment, relying on that old, old cliché of a bomb timer ticking down as the participants rush to escape, and culminating in a huge explosion that looks nice but seems to be a weak way of tying up all the loose ends. Although SPHERE has its moments, it's undoubtedly a bad film, a flop that had people staying away from the cinema in droves. I would recommend it only to the most dedicated sci-fi fan who might get a few thrills from it and doesn't mind wasting a couple of hours in the process.
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