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Solaris /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, Ulrich Tukur 

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh 

Produced by: James Cameron, Rae Sanchini, Jon Landau 

Written by: Steven Soderbergh 

Distributor: 20th Century Fox, Focus/USA Films


Movie Image

Movie Image

Movie Image

(It has come to my attention that my original review of Solaris was much too rampant, obnoxious, and overly critical—when rereading it, I found this to be true. So, I have revised it, in what I feel is a much more communicative way.)

     Solaris is a film about mood and atmosphere. As a motion picture, it is a remarkable visual achievement, but it’s also devoid of emotion. We can admire the structure and tone of it, but it never makes us think a whole lot. The meaning isn’t clear cut in the end, and leaves an opening for many interpretations, but this just makes Solaris less effective. It still is, quite an achievement, on director Soderbergh’s and the actor’s parts. 

     The problem is evident. Solaris is most flawed in the writing department, which is quite understandable because it tries to embrace many theories and issues that most other films would never even think of trying to explore. But, nonetheless, flaws are flaws. This film fails because it has such a strong ambition, but this is also the reason why it works. There is no way Solaris could’ve been better than it already is, and we must come to accept this. Is it worth your buck? At a matinee showing, perhaps.

     The original Solaris was made in 1972, by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. In short, it defied many of the laws of filmmaking, as we knew them, and will always be hailed as a masterpiece. It was thoughtful and insanely intelligent; a treasure, a strike of genius. I suppose that this is the reason why I’m being so hard on this, new, Hollywood-style version. As a rule of thumb, writer/directors should never attempt to remake great films—it has never, and will never, work. The most vivid example of this is Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho. When trying to add to a flawless picture, it can only be for the worse. If Solaris had actually worked, I would’ve been shocked.

     Solaris is also insanely and irrationally pretentious. Most of the time, we’re frustrated, and even annoyed by it. If I wanted to feel uncomfortable during a movie, due to tension, I would do so in the sanctity of my own home. Gaps of silence and squeamish dialogue are used in this movie, in an attempt to make it a more effective picture. But, one thing’s for sure, Solaris is, most of the time, only effective as a heavy, drawn-out mess.

     George Clooney and Natascha McElhone do give superb performances, though. The roles in this movie were noticeably tricky to play, but the two leads definitely proved their acting skills worthy. Clooney captures so many different emotions, playing the part of Chris Kelvin, a psychiatrist sent to the mysterious planet Solaris; it’s hard to deny that his work is anything short of masterful. It’s really too bad that Solaris is, ultimately, a waste of talent.

     Even though flawed in the end, Solaris is just engaging enough to be worth seeing. With spectacular performances, astonishing visuals, and deserving attempts, it bears enough positive features for us to admire it, as well. Trying to remake Tarkovsky is tough, and I think that Soderbergh’s done a passable job. Even though it’s far from a great movie, I expect that most people will be happy with Solaris, just the way it is.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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