Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solaris

Greetings to all. It's been a while since I've written anything about an older movie, so I'll take this opportunity to provide a little retrospective look before we get into the rest of the summer blockbusters.

Solaris
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney


In my opinion, good science fiction films are few and far between. Aside from the obvious franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, the first Matrix) and the occasional brilliant standalone (Children of Men, Minority Report), we certainly aren't living in a Golden Age of Science Fiction. Solaris wasn't brilliant, but it was a lot better than 90% of the genre that's been presented to us in the past 10 years. Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean's 11 Trilogy) reunited with George Clooney to bring us a meditative, competent look at a near future that is surprisingly personal in a genre full of harsh isolation.


Much of the credit of the film's success has to be given to the production designer and the cinematographer, who crafted a world that seems futuristic but not TOO over the top and captured it in a smooth style that I wish we saw more these days. The lighting was especially noticeable (in a good way) and the contrasting styles between the gleam of the ship and the shadows of the flashbacks complement each other in a very cool way.


Since most of you probably haven't seen this (the marketing for it was terrible if I recall correctly - I had no desire to see it in 2002 when it was released), I'll give you the rundown. The plot revolves around Chris Kelvin (Clooney), a psychiatrist who is still dealing with the loss of his wife. He receives a strange video message from a friend, requesting that he comes to the space station Prometheus and help the crew return home. They've been studying Solaris, a pulsating cloud in space, that apparently won't allow them to return and has been seriously messing with their minds. Kelvin begrudgingly accepts and heads into space, only to find that all but two crew members are dead. That night, his wife appears on the ship - and that's all I'm giving you.


The movie is a great study of the psychology of exploration, the meaning of death, and is a very personal look at Kelvin's character as he tries to make sense of these strange happenings. George Clooney did a great job, subtle and emotional at all the right times. The wife, played by Natashca McElhone (The Truman Show), was also exceptional. Be warned - there's a little too much Cloon-ass for my taste, but the ladies might enjoy it.

There's not much else I can say without giving away key plot points; it had a couple cool twists that I didn't see coming. All I can say is that if you're a fan of sci-fi, give this one a shot. It's not action-packed, there aren't any space blasters or anything like that - it's a slower, visual film that deserves more than it got thanks to bad advertising. Until next time...

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