Based on Stanislaw Lem’s Sci-fi novel (and subsequent 1972 Russian film adaptation) Solaris, Steven Soderbergh turns out his most ambitious project to date
Directors: Steven Soderbergh
Producers: James Cameron
Writers: Stanislaw Lem (novel) Steven Soderbergh (screenplay)
Features: -Commentary by Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron -Theatrical Trailer(s) -Steven Soderbergh's "Making of Solaris Special" -HBO making-of special -Still of Screenplay
Chris Kelvin - George Clooney
Rheya - Natascha McElhone
Gordon - Viola Davis
Snow - Jeremy Davies
Based on Stanislaw Lem’s Sci-fi novel (and subsequent 1972 Russian film adaptation) Solaris, Steven Soderbergh turns out his most ambitious project to date (yes, giving us a believable Jennifer Lopez performance in Out of Sight is a close second. I’m not sure about Full Frontal but do we really care?). Re-teaming with Clooney (Oceans 11) and under his own script, Soderbergh turns out a melancholy Sci-fi drama that is driven more on the emotional arch of the characters than the current trend of panache effects ridden action adventures. With great sets, top-notch cinematography, a moody score, and some solid performances Soderbergh manages to give a new take on the sci-fi genre.
Opening in the dreary rainy future we find our main character Chris Kelvin (Clooney) under a somber mundane existence. Quietly going to work and cooking meals-for-one, his life is interrupted when a distress message from his friend (in a space station around the planet Solaris) is delivered to him. He’s then enlisted to go on a one-man mission to bring back his friend and surviving crewmembers. Once on the space station Kelvin has to unravel the mysterious circumstances of the failed mission to study Solaris and the eerie return of his dead wife Rheya (McElhone). As the story begins to unfold we began to understand the emotional turmoil Kelvin is faced with when reintroduced to his reincarnated wife leading to the films somewhat ambiguously illusory ending (I’m not going to give it away, just watch it). Also, a must see is Jeremy Davies’ (Saving Private Ryan) transcendental hippie-like expositional Snow and Viola Davis’ (Far From Heaven) “no-you-didn’t?” Gordon. Both actors show remarkable skill and turn out truly memorable performances.
Although received with lukewarm reviews and a lackluster draw at the box office Solaris died a mediocre death. The cause probably either due to the weird ad campaign and/or the fact it really was an emotional drama set in space didn’t help any. Returning this time on a nice DVD edition the film is giving a second chance. 20th Century Fox has included a Commentary w/ both Producer James Cameron and Soderbergh, Theatrical trailers, “Making of Solaris Special”, HBO making-of special, and Stills of the screenplay. The highlight being the commentary, Soderbergh and Cameron do not disappoint. Talking about all aspects of film and including their own interpretations of character development, scripting, and editing (yes, there was a 10+ minute alternate version of the docking sequence and Soderbergh almost used Radiohead as temp music.. weird!) Both Cameron and Soderbergh give a deserving and critical spin on the movie and its subsequent release.
Although a slower emotionally paced movie, Soderbergh’s Solaris is deserving of a proper viewing. The disc makes a good buy for those interested in adding to their Sci-fi collection and a notch in the chalk board for Cameron commentary’s on DVD (To Mr. Cameron: Please do one for the Abyss and Aliens!).