As I was walking out of the theater, two girls behind me were cackling that "Solaris" was the worst movie they had ever seen. They derided its slowness and lack of dialogue. "Say something. Say anything!" they howled. If not for a brief glimpse of George Clooney's ass, which they also derided as "lacking roundness" and "grotesquely hairy," but maintaining a certain "aesthetic quality," the two girls commented they would have committed suicide.
While I do not often find myself sympathizing with teenage girls, I must concur, except on the points regarding George Clooney's ass, which was "firm yet subtle." Director Steven Soderbergh has made a film with about as much excitement as a turtle race. The only thing I was thankful for is that Soderbergh's version is about half as long as the original 1972 Tarkovsky version. Apparently, this was the lesson Soderbergh learned from watching the original: Keep it bad, but make it shorter. Nice job! I'm sure Hollywood executives are ready to let you remake any one of a number of other long-winded Russian space operas.
Clooney plays a psychiatrist named Chris Kelvin. After finding out that strange things are happening on a space station near Solaris, he heads off to see what's wrong. What he finds are two freaked-out people, Snow (Jeremy Davies) and Gordon (Viola Davis), and a couple of other crew members who are dead. Soon, Kelvin is waking up to his dead wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone), and he's discovered the big secret: Solaris is somehow able to create replicas of dead human beings who held major importance for those aboard the station.
This film is essentially a meditation on the curious nature of memory. And when I use the word meditation, I'm being very accurate. You sit there, look around, and wonder why everyone is catatonic and how long it's going to be before you can get the hell out of there and do something else. "Solaris" is seriously slow. Soderbergh seems fascinated by things like rain hitting a window and light shining onto a floor. Minutes go by between sentences. Frankly, if I wanted to immerse myself into some kind of nihilist freak show, or discuss the nature of theology, I'd enroll in a freshman philosophy course where I could listen to all the 18-year-olds babble incessantly about what it is they think they know about the world.
That "Solaris" is a wide release ought to be a major embarrassment to the studio since this is clearly a film that belongs in an arthouse theater where all the pompous twits who like to sit through such drivel can go and have themselves a fine old time. Anybody who goes to this film at the local multiplex expecting to be entertained will be in for the shock of their life. It's the cinematic equivalent of getting a lecture from your parents about the nature of life.
To spread the word about this Solaris review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.