I love science fiction and I was very excited to hear that an intelligent and thought-provoking director like Steven Soderbergh was going to tackle outer space with the man who spawned the Terminator, James Cameron. With juggernauts like that and a very likeable leading man in George Clooney, what could this film not have going for it?
Soderbergh’s first journey into science fiction is a remake of a 1972 Russian film entitled, Solyaris. The original was dubbed “the Russian 2001” and found a cosmonaut getting reacquainted with his long dead wife while orbiting the planet Solaris. It was deep, sensitive and even echoed some of the Russian ideals and thoughts of its time.
In the remake Clooney is Chris Kelvin (same name from the original film) an astronaut who comes to a nearly deserted space station to uncover a mystery. While investigating, Kelvin begins being haunted by his dead wife, Rheya (played by Natasha McElhone). Kelvin finds himself drifting away from reality as he comes face to face with why he maybe lost his wife.
The set-up and sentiment is sound in the remake but this isn’t a 1970s science fiction film that uses its characters to reflect on Russian morals and ideals during the Cold War. Instead we are stuck with Clooney and McElhone who seem like too oddest of couples because there is little or no chemistry between these fateful lovers.
The love between these actors is so forced I felt like I had just switched on a re-run of “Days of Our Lives”. Then the film’s photography finds itself panning and zooming into McElhone’s face as it tries to show her through Clooney’s eyes.
Well if it were me I think he would be thinking, “Hmmm, did I brush today?” or “Boy, is my butt cold!”
As the film drifted from the importance of solving the space station’s mystery and problems and focused on Clooney dealing with a distraught McElhone. I so wanted there to be some sort of space station disaster that would at least ignite some sort of release from the film’s continuous mediocrity. I have seen snails with more gusto than this film.
There has been a lot of talk about the film’s scenes involving Clooney’s naked posterior. If it were McElhone’s posterior the film would probably get a “PG-13” rating but since it’s a “man’s” butt it has to get an “R”. They show more on NYPD Blue for cryin’ out loud.
I believe that Soderbergh’s sentiment for the subject matter is sound and that he did his best to bring forth passion in the space of the film’s waterlogged 90 minutes. Next time, Steve, I suggest you cast someone Clooney enjoys kissing.
1 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.
Written: November 29, 2002