Sphere

G

It’s not easy for science fiction films to be too original these days. It seems as if possibilities for plots are quickly becoming exhausted. But there is simply no excuse for how unoriginal, to say the least, Sphere is. It begins promisingly, with a group of scientists (a shrink, a marine biologist, a mathematician and an astrophysicist) being presented with the possibility that an alien ship has crashed on the bottom of the ocean. They are sent down there to act as a welcome wagon for these aliens. That’s a satisfactory storyline for a mainstream science fiction flick. But that’s the storyline, nothing more.

I don’t like to reveal plot twists, and I won’t do it here. But when details began to be uncovered, you can’t imagine how disappointed I was. I won’t say what exactly it was, but what Sphere turns out to be about is something that I have seen numerous times on Star Trek and even once on a kiddie show called Are You Afraid of the Dark.

And it’s all a shame, too. With a cast of Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson and Liev Schreiber, it hurts to see this film go to waste. And although the movie does generate some intrigue and suspense it all goes down the drain when we get the stunningly unsatisfying explanations. And we are not satisfied with anything that they give us! The ending is implausible and makes you cringe. Director Barry Levinson (brilliant in the earlier Wag the Dog) takes an unexpected stab at bringing depth and meaning into Sphere and fails miserably. The movie only works when the characters talk to the “alien” in the computer room. Those scenes are intriguing and more suspenseful than any action sequences here.

Dustin Hoffman is brilliant as usual, Sharon Stone is watchable and Samuel L. Jackson is effectively unemotional. But Levinson fails to put this cast to good use. The possibilities of the idea that he is working with elude him and he settles for the truly terrible resolution of Michael Crichton’s novel, on which this film is based on. If you want a better sci-fi film go see Dark City. A better Levinson movie? Try Wag the Dog. Although Sphere isn’t terrible, with all of the better movies out, if you wind up seeing this one I’ll never let you read one of my reviews again.

-- Eugene Novikov

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