Lathe of Heaven (TV Movie 2002) Poster

(2002 TV Movie)

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4/10
A Miss
gatebanger11 September 2002
I am at a loss to understand why producers feel the need to remake perfectly good movies into mediocre movies. I just don't get it.

Ursula K. Le Guin's tale of George Orr, a wretched young man with the power to alter reality by literally dreaming up a new one, is a good story with many layers. George falls victim to a well-meaning (at first, anyway) psychotherapist, Dr. Haber, who uses George to remake the universe. George is one of those poor souls who cannot resist the will of anyone he perceives to be an authority and consequently finds himself remaking the universe to Haber's specifications. We all know that the road to a well known place is paved with good intentions, and this supplies the conflict that makes the drama.

If you've never read Ursula K. Le Guin's novel or seen the 1980 PBS film, you might like this effort. Otherwise, don't waste your time. This movie wimped out in several places by watering down the script to avoid any racial overtones, so well handled in both the book and the earlier film. There were other instances where I felt the script writers and the producer were trying to be as PC as possible. The story dragged, and all in all I found it flat.

The casting was OK with one exception -- Lisa Bonet, a generally competent actress, was sadly miscast as Heather LeLache, George's court-appointed lawyer. The role called for an in your face, very black lady with an attitude, not a wimpy cutie.
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2/10
Very disappointing remake
flonesaw14 October 2005
Having read LeGuinn's book and seen PBS's excellent rendering of her story this new version is a crashing disappointment. The first problem is that there is so little left of the story that much of its impact is missing. In spite of being light on effects and budget the earlier PBS production makes much better use of its resources to communicate LeGuinn's apocalyptic drama to the viewer.

What happened to the space aliens? They seem to be replaced by David Straithorn's character who occasionally pops into scenes with sage verbiage. Unfortunately, so much has been stripped that there is no tissue left to connect him to what little plot remains after the producers and directors finished their hatchet job on content and context. Who knows why they did that?

What's left is a nothingness rivaled only by Jor-Jor's apocalyptic reality. In order to understand what's going on here, one might want to read the book, or view PBS's 1980's telling of the story. Please don't waste your time with this turkey, especially since the PBS version is available on DVD.
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1/10
Disgraceful remake
a_gf22 September 2005
Taking into account the original, this remake is waste of time for the viewer, I brief it as chopped scripted, awfully directed and wrongfully acted disposal of tape, I don't call these "things" movies.

James Caan cripples the doctor's character, maybe the main actor deserves some credit, but only maybe. The only difference in which this remake may look better than the original is on the photography.

The story is broken and hard to follow, the main parts of the original are lost, giving way to time wasting scenes of nice settings. What a shame. I strongly suggest to find the original and leave this remake forgotten for years to come. Not even Ed Wood would make this remake worse.
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2/10
Dr. Haber up to his old tricks?
mweller12 September 2002
Ok, how about this idea? Maybe Dr. Haber saw the PBS version of "Lathe of Heaven" from 1980 and didn't like it, SO he used his brainscan device to force George to dream and alter history. As a result we got the A&E version of "Lathe of Heaven." Curse that Dr. Haber! When will he learn that you cannot remake history? No matter your intentions, if you try to make a politically correct, dumbed-down, Hallmark channel version there can be unintended consequences.. like it may suck. Just a theory. Two stars - one for James Caan and one for Ursula.
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3/10
Looks like an episode of the new Outer Limits but there's no awe or mystery here
mfisher4529 September 2002
Like many others, I was very interested in this remake of "The Lathe of Heaven," for several reasons. The book by Ursula K. LeGuin is widely regarded as a science-fiction classic, although I have never thought it was among her best work. I read it after I saw the first "Lathe of Heaven" on PBS in 1980 and realized that considerable liberties had been taken with the story, although it was much closer to the book than this latest endeavor.

Back then, "Lathe" was a bold experiment for PBS and the producers: To make an original full-length science-fiction TV movie on a limited budget that would appeal to an audience used to flashier entertainment. Remember, it was only three years since "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" had revitalized screen science fiction, until then very much in the doldrums. The producers of LOH wanted to make a more intimate story than those blockbuster movies, one based more on human relationships. With their low budget, they looked for places and expedients that would transmit their vision. Although the story was set in Portland, Oregon, they filmed a lot of it in Dallas because of that city's more futuristic architecture. I liked it very much and videotaped it, and have the tape to this day. (Unfortunately but inevitably, the tape had deteriorated significantly when I transferred it to DVD at the end of 2006. Never fear, it appears that it's now available on commercial DVD.)

It says a great deal about inflation in the movie business that the remake had a "small" budget of "only" $5 million. That would have been a lot of money for the original filmmakers. I also wonder why here in the States we had to wait until September of 2002 to see it when the first comments about it, from a viewer in Turkey, are from February!

But whenever it aired, my reaction would be the same: Why did they bother to make it at all? There is so little of the original here that it is essentially a different work. They have taken the story and drained it of its blood. And what does happen goes beyond problems with temporal discontinuities and paradoxes; these people behave without logic or motivation. It looks like a long episode of the "new" Outer Limits or a similar show, one of those low-budget syndicated series that they film in Canada because it's cheaper there, where there is money only for a few sets, a couple of computer graphics, and a lot of talk in closeup (to hide the spareness of the sets). All of the acting and dialogue takes place in murmurs. I usually like James Caan, but it looks like he's been watching Bruce Willis's recent film work and decided to try the minimalist, non-acting approach.

Now that I've brought up The Outer Limits, remember how the opening credits used to talk about "awe and mystery"? Well, if you want awe and mystery, forget about this remake and go back to the 1980 version; it had much more of those qualities.
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1/10
Ugh...
karmitz28 June 2003
Simply put: it has no soul. It is devoid of character and suffers from being overdesigned and grossly underwritten. The novel and the 1980 PBS version are full of interesting, curious "character moments" and have a healthy sense of wry humor. This version has sacrificed everything--everything--that made the novel and the earlier version so wonderful, so human. George Orr is a mannequin. Lelache is a complete cipher. Dr. Haber exhibits none of the eccentric egomania that should be driving his character.

Lest you turn into a pillar of salt like Lots' wife, avert your eyes...
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A muddled disappointment
McGonigle8 September 2002
This production had a lot of potential. Ursula LeGuin's novel is a long-time classic, but this opportunity to make a new TV adaptation with name actors failed to produce anything but a muddle. Given that there was already a much-loved TV adaptation from 1980 that followed the original novel almost scene-for-scene, the producers' decision to change the basic plot structure of the novel in this version was a good one in principle, but in practice they managed to destroy any hope of showing the characters' relationships develop. The doctor/patient relationship between James Caan and Lukas Haas is so hostile and unprofessional (with Caan shoving Haas into his chair like a James Bond heavy at one point) that I couldn't even believe that Haas would let himself get hypnotized by this guy. The romance between Haas and Lisa Bonet seems to appear full-fledged out of thin air; the plot attempts to provide some feeble justification for this, but the total lack of sparks between the two actors doesn't give us any clue why Bonet has gone from thinking Haas is a psycho to jumping into bed with him.

There's no rule that says a cinematic adaptation can't take liberties with its source material, but unfortunately, in this case, from the plot to the character development to the dialogue, every aspect of this story was handled much better in the original novel. This movie destroys the dramatic tension of LeGuin's novel by trying to compress too much story into too short a time (with tons of ads) and barely even contains enough exposition to enable viewers to suspend their disbelief.

A major disappointment. At one point, the script cleverly refers to "old time TV shows about parallel realities", but in the end, what could have been a refreshing adaptation of a literary classic (with a good cast) came off like a third-rate episode of "Quantum Leap".
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2/10
The Sad Remake of a Wonderful Film
SumBuddy-324 September 2002
I recently saw the original 1979 version of this film, where the screenplay, and professional consultation were done by the author herself. This remake, although it had quality actors, left out the critical material which made the original film (and the book) so unique, leaving this as another Hollywood rehash. James Caan and Lucas Haas both are wonderful in other projects, but they were given nothing to work with in this film. Rather than compare apples and oranges, I simply recommend people forget this film, and search for the 1979 Public Television Production-the first film ever made by PBS, and still the most requested item ever for PBS. Bruce Davison and Margaret Avery are wonderful, and if you realize the limited budget they worked with, you would be proud of that film.
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1/10
Utter Garbage
delbruk27 May 2003
Having just finished reading the book I was curious to see the adaptation of what I felt was one of the best sci-fi novels I have ever read. What was presented was everything that is wrong about adaptations in film.

WHY do you make this film? The creativity of the story.

WHY would you bastardize the original concept beyond recognition? Arrogant screenwriters who wish to simplify the material to the lowest common denominator? And this should fall at the feet of Alan Sharp. I would love for this man to answer why he was allowed to alter this story so unrecognizable as to be so utterly juvenile and generic.

From the expanded insignificant characters to the alteration of the basic premise of LeGuin's novel this film is a failure on every level and wholly unwatchable if you have read the book. If not, you may try to follow the convoluted soap opera affair awhile. Either way it plays out with all the flair of an outer limits.
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8/10
not bad, different ... and commendable.
schlipp25 December 2002
let me preface by saying ive seen the 1980 version, and ive read the book.

no movie will ever be exactly like the book it originates from. so why compare. its a rare occasion that an author gets behind the camera (kudos to clive barker) which means that the director gets dibs on interperitation. and books, like music, like visual art, are open to interperitation, every one takes what they want from them. i put this in the realm of american psycho, solaris, and dune. complex novels, different screen visions. when directors take on novels, they bring out what they want, and can, in the time they have.

that said, i think haas did an excellent job. the whole concept behind the story has plenty to grab from. haas chose the elements he wanted to excentuate and illustrate and did so admirably. im not saying its a perfect film. i thought the penny character was totally overdone. and while i would find myself taking issues with some of the inconsistencies, i decided to except them on grounds that its the nature of this world. each waking presents a new reality. so i have no ground to argue the nitpicky stuff. i thought lukas haas was an excellent george orr, but had difficulty pairing him with lisa bonet, thus making thier relationship less believable.

all in all worth seeing as a fan of speculative fiction. i would someday like to see a longer version that has a chance to dig a little deeper into the bits that matter more. making the less relevant bits less obtrusive.
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1/10
what dross
tosinner10 May 2004
The book and previous film aside.. this is just plain dreadful. It's slow, tired, wooden with nothing of real interest cropping up anywhere in the film. I'm sorry to say that I watched all of it - but I was in continual hope that there was going to be something better happen any second.

The premise seemed interesting, it's just a shame that what was such a good idea is closer to having nails pulled when watched. There's just no reason for anyone to feel anything for the characters, there's nothing there to give someone chance to identify with them. All in all it presents itself as a very sterile film, with each seprate scene seeming so forced as to jar the nerves. The hero of the piece, if you can call him that, just mopes around looking miserable and inefectual, and all in all it just bites.

There's no real reason for anyone to want the characters to succeed or fail.. and in general there's not a lot of interest in the whole film. There are no scenes that are just good to look at, no memorable pieces of dialouge or memerable characters... fairly pointless all around in fact.

Avoid.
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1/10
A Terrible Disappointment
RBGatHome16 September 2002
I am not someone who insists that a movie adhere strictly to the book on which it is based. Moreover, I recognize that a teleplay must omit some parts of the book in order to fit in an 80-minute timeframe. However, I expect the essential theme of the book to be maintained. This adaptation fails miserably in that respect.

Rather than paint a picture of the futility of playing God, writer Alan Sharp and director Philip Haas chose to give us a one-dimensional cliché of the self-aggrandizing scientist (James Caan's Dr. Haber) and us a shallow love story. Haber's desire to mold a better world through George Orr's power, his attempt to convince George to join him in the effort rather than resist, and his inability to see that the consequences of meddling with reality are unpredictable -- all of this is lost in Haas' adaptation. Instead, we see Haber using George to obtain successively more magnificent office space and a progressively more fashionable secretary. George's love interest, Heather, is reduced to an odd obsession; Heather's own attempt (and failure) in LeGuin's novel to use George's power for public good never appears in Haas' film.

Perhaps the pettiest departure from the book was Sharp and Haas' choice to have Dr. Haber say "New York" (instead of "Antwerp") as the phrase that induces George Orr's dreams under hypnosis in their first session. Interestingly, Haber never uses the phrase again in any of the subsequent dream scenes. Maybe Haas was embarrassed by his own pettiness.

Even as a standalone movie, this film is a poor one. Lisa Bonet's character, Heather, was completely unbelievable. Are we really supposed to accept that a successful and self-assertive lawyer will drive out to a remote location and jump into bed with a psychiatric patient about whom she knows very little and that she will remain there with him for days in the face of his increasingly obsessive behavior - simply because he says he feels he knew her from a previous life? In another scene, we are given hints that George's friend, Manny, may be more than he seems. He appears in each of George's realities, and he seems to recall all of them. Yet the film does nothing with this; it is simply a loose string left for us to puzzle on. The final scenes are rushed and confusing, leaving the viewer with the sense that Haas simply ended the show in order to fit into the time he had available.

Philip Haas has not made a decent movie since his 1995 `Angels and Insects.' This version of `The Lathe of Heaven' continues his streak of losers. If you want to see a good film adaptation of LeGuin's book, buy the 1980 PBS version instead.
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1/10
Horrible...
forward110 September 2002
One of the worst remakes I've ever seen. The original PBS movie is the one you want to see - a true classic. This version ignored most of the important plot lines of the original book, and left me angry and frustrated. I watched the original movie (made in 1980 for a fraction of the cost) just to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. Please - don't waste your time or money on this travesty.
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7/10
Provocative, highly watchable
Rogue-3212 September 2002
I haven't read the book or seen the original film made in 1980, so I have nothing to compare this remake to, and I enjoyed it very much. The story is a fantastic metaphor about how we shape/dream our own realities, and there are excellent performances from Haas and Caan (both with double a's in their names - coincidence?....) I would most definitely want to see the original version now, since it has been recommended so highly by my fellow reviewers here at the site.

Wanted to add that I've since seen the original, and I actually liked the new one better, believe it or not - I thought the story evolved with more clarity in the remake and the overall feeling it left me with was more satisfying than the original as well. Both excellent, though.
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Nothing Like the Other One
Jalea15 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The 2002 remake is nothing like the 1980 version. It is recognizable in terms of story line. The doctor, the dreamer and the lady are there with two other recurring characters, Mannie and Jenny.

If you compare the two films, you will be disappointed. I appreciate the fact that the new 2002 remake is different from the original. The 1980 version I think is a work that stands alone.

*spoilers*

I liked the ending a lot, particularly the fact that in the end, no one appeared to be in control. Karma also appeared to be at work since the manipulative, ego-maniacal doctor ended up becoming a patient who was helpless and dependent the opposite I think of his original self.

Mannie was a mainstay whom I appreciated and seemed to be the only one who really had a clue, other than George himself. A very interestingly different take on the subject.
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7/10
The film carries a message worth exploring
Toma509 December 2007
Although more subtle than the earlier (1980-PBS) version the star power and the set atmosphere carries the same message that we all create our own realities to some extent. Watch for the changes in all the people with each passing dream; much like the Butterfly effect you can see how small changes in reality can change everything more than you can possibly control. All the main actors did their part to make the film work; they could have muffed it but they held their own through all the changes believably. Some of the tag lines between the principles also work well in that they help tie the plot together in an otherwise shifting universe. This film is a good introduction to the book and takes nothing away from it. If you are looking for more read the book – you will be rewarded.
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8/10
Breathtaking premise with a superficial execution
arch2913 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I was surprised that most of the other comments here are negative. I greatly enjoyed this film, perhaps because I haven't read the novel or seen the 1980 PBS version (which is heralded by IMDB'ers as being much superior). I think that Le Guin's premise and plot are so masterful and breathtaking that even a superficial rendition, in a too-short film such as this one, is compelling.

In this version of _Lathe_ I found a theme that later recurs in Le Guin's _Earth Sea_ trilogy: The characters say the phrase "always now", expressing their desire to treasure this moment and live in it forever. Compare this to Earth Sea's metaphor that each life is a word spoken, bounded on both sides by silence (birth and death). There's a yearning to defeat that death by living in the moments in between, forever. Yet, perhaps that too would be a kind of death, were it even possible.

*SOME MINOR SPOILERS*

One of the plot's most engaging elements occurs when the two nexuses simultaneously attempt to redirect the course of the world. Very nice, but a little disappointing in its execution here: There's no real climax or feeling that the two of them are battling each other, nor does the world respond in a sufficiently dramatic way. An alternate approach would have been having the world torn asunder, perhaps literally if not only in the sense that two separate versions were created, one for each of them. The erupting volcano was a nice symbolic touch and the film could have used more of this type of world-rending imagery.

The words spoken at the beginning and end of the film: "The mind, that ocean where each kind does straight its own resemblance find. Yet it creates, transcending these, far other worlds, in other seas" are from Andrew Marvell's beautiful 72-line poem "The Garden", published in 1681. There are so many literary, film, and TV works that borrow from _Lathe_ (I'm assuming that Le Guin was the first to explore these ideas, since she published it in 1971). One of the most striking of these is the film _Frequency_: A seismic timescape event ripples forward into the present, but those who are close enough to hear the ham radio remember both the new and the old histories. That powerful irony is my main attraction to stories like these: The protagonist must cope with the duality of knowing that the world had another fate - one that is now irretrievable.

I'm also reminded of Greg Egan's novel _Permutation City_, where simulated worlds, upon termination, "find themselves in the dust", thereby resuming their existence. Greg Egan's _Quarantine_ is also related: The protagonist can subconsciously influence the world to stave off countless undesirable fates.

Another example is the film _Dark City_, which is powerfully reminiscent of _Lathe_: One again, the protagonist can influence the world subconsciously. In addition, people have their memories replaced, but this isn't enough to change the essence of who they are - there's something more to us. Even the plot is similar: People keep appearing in different roles, but the town is so small that they meet the new versions of each other again and again. This irony is spooky. The beginnings of both films (waking up disoriented, in a new iteration of the world) are also very similar, and remarkably, so are their ends (protagonist rediscovers his true love, meets her again and they both know, somehow, that they're connected).

Finally, _Lathe_ is very similar to the "many worlds" theory. In fact, the premise could be explained as George Orr jumping from one parallel universe to another with each new dream. However, this is contradicted by the fact that the world feels deja vu, implying that the new universes didn't exist before he dreamed them into being.

Two great novels that explore "many worlds" very poignantly are James P. Hogan's _Proteus Operation_ and Greg Benford's _Timescape_. They evoke the terrible agony of knowing that an alternate world exists, in turmoil, but that it can't be contacted or saved.
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1/10
What were they thinking?
kryall9911 September 2002
This has got to be the worst remake I have yet to see! If A & E was too concerned with being politically correct to do this correctly, they should have left this alone. As it is they produced a senseless watered down version that made no sense because they ignore the fact that it all is a dream world created by George Orr. Where are the aliens, the plague, gray people, etc. While I like both Lisa Bonet & Lukas Haas, neither was suited for this movie. If you want to see this produced correctly rent the original that is finally available after 20 years of petty arguing between the writers and PBS or read the book.
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10/10
Alternate alternate realities
stevenforbis8 September 2002
Anyone who knows anything knows that the original version of this made-for-A&E movie was a made-for-PBS movie from the late '70s (PBS's first, if memory serves), and it was just fantastic.

So, remaking it would have to be a disaster, right? Wrong. In this case, the subject matter of the movie is alternate realities and it turns out that an intelligent remake can be different and yet as good as the original.
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7/10
A quite good sci-fi movie
serdarkness15 February 2002
This movie is about a peculiar man, George Orr, whose dreams sometimes come true in real life! He goes to Dr. Haber,a psychiatrist, for his problem but realizing that Orr's dreams really come true, Dr. Haber begins to use Orr for his own gains. It's a good psychological sci-fi movie. Of course, the best thing about this movie is the stunning acting of James Caan.
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Better--see the 1980 version; best--read the book.
rellis-731 October 2002
This new version leaves the relation between George and Haber obscure, leaves out the Aliens, and hence the philosophical point of the book, and adds a tawdry romance between George and Heather. Instead of coming to love each other through their adventures, Heather falls for about as cheesy a pick-up line as I've heard of: "I knew you in a former reality, or in a dream." The transformations of Penny are unnecessary and unattractive. Is Manny supposed to be George's guardian angel or something? This would not need to be explained, but should have been dealt with further.

Anyone who wants to experience this story should read the book, which is considerably better even than the 1980 film version.
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Emblematic of what's wrong with movies today
nyc_2qt2bstr812 September 2002
I agree with the consensus. This film stinks. The true plot is brusquely steamrolled over in order to force the emphasis toward a badly cast romance between George and Heather.

This type of butchery is very common these days. Look at most of the `original series' on the Sci-fi (sic) channel. Get a bunch of young and beautiful people into spaceships, fill it with flashing lights, a crotchety alien with a bony forehead and the personality of your uncle Irving, derivative dialog about `shields failing' and `re-routing emergency power', don't EVER have an original or though provoking story-line and voila you get the distilled pap that passes these days as science fiction.

Its unfortunate that style, special effects and sex-appeal are what now count instead of real dialog and story. The original Lathe of Heaven wasn't perfect, but everything about it, from the slow build-up of George's relation with Dr. Haber, to the philosophical discussions about righting the world's wrongs made for an engaging and genuine exercise in science fiction.

Big budgets, merchandising tie-ins, vapid music and a bland dumbed-down appeal characterize far too many productions these days.
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8/10
This is a great movie!!
robreal12 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great movie!! Pay no attention to those expecting it to be true word for word to the original. Who cares about "compared to the book" or "compared to the original". Everyone needs to just judge the movie for what it is.

This is a great movie. Obviously from the above paragraph I have never seen the original or read the book. Therefore my opinion is completely objective and unbiased, rather than being biased by something I watched 25 freaking years ago.

To me this movie is similar to the Butterfly Effect. In the Butterfly Effect, his flashbacks change reality (or arguably jump him through alternate realities). In Lathe of Heaven, his dreams do that very same thing. Although it is not exactly the same, as he cannot willingly dream whatever he wants.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the end. It's pretty much open to interpretation. One could argue that the entire thing was a simple dream of Lukas Haas, OR a dream of James Caan. I can't figure out what I think of the end. Perhaps it was all dreamed, perhaps not. In the end . . . no one seems to remember anyone! Lisa Bonet and Lukas Haas don't remember each other, Manny doesn't say or do anything to indicate he remembers Lukas Haas, and of course James Kaan is completely brain-fried. In fact, the only person who seems to have a clue what's going on is James Kaan's secretary . . who is now some sort of doctor herself. So maybe, just maybe, she made the suggestions to James Kaan at the end when he was in the dream machine, which triggered the final outcome of the movie! She had him dream that he was brain-fried, she was a doctor, and Lukas Haas wouldn't remember any of it . . . that way she had the upper hand. Like I said, it's open to interpretation, there are a number of different conclusions that could be drawn.

"In the original . . . blah blah blah" and "In the book . . . blah blah blah". Who cares? The movie is what it is, enjoy it for what it IS, not compared to where it came from. It's a remake, it doesn't have to be true to the original.
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This is a good film despite what other people say.
Rockgirl78-12 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Contains Spoiler!! This is a good film despite what other people say. I Watched Lathe Of Heaven several times already. This is a fable about a young man named George Orr who has the ability to make dreams a reality. When he is caught using a pharmacard to get drugs to make him stop dreaming he is taked to court and ordered to see a shrink. Enter Dr. Walter Haber. He starts off trying to help George and ends up using him to improve the world in his image, of course. George slowly begins to realize that that the good doctor was just using him to unsure is career and improve the world but with disasterous results. Heatheris the girl that George falls in love with but every time George dreams he loses her over and over again. She in a way plays a part in the sceme of things.

Manny is his friend/guide/Guardian angel who helps George even though George has not idea that he is helping him.

The ending is cool because Dr. Habar ends up as a patient and George gets his life back and fixing what Dr. Habar has done. He gets the girl, heather after he meets her again at a restaraunt.

James Caan is a brillant and a brillantant actor who plays Dr. Habar with charm and humor. Lisa Bonet is a great actress is very talented and playes Heather with great feeling and emotions. Lukas Haas is brillant as George who becomes a victim of Dr. Habar and returns as a hero.

This is good film for all Ursula Le Guin fans and scifi fans alike. I enjoy this film because it has action, romance and suspense too.
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