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movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis, Ulrich Tuker

Review by Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

Back in 1972, Andrei Tarkovsky turned Polish writer Stanislaw Lem's metaphysical sci-fi novel into a classic, if lengthy, Russian film - and, quite frankly, I'm surprised it's taken this long for an American film-maker to adapt it. Now Oscar-winners Steven Soderberg ("Traffic") and James Cameron ("Titanic") tackle the provocative, philosophical story of a psychologist (George Clooney) who's sent to a space station in orbit around a strange and perhaps sentient planet named Solaris. His mission is to investigate mysterious deaths on-board but, instead, he discovers mind-bending supernatural phenomena that allow him, mysteriously, to be reunited with his late wife (Natascha McElhone) who committed suicide. So here's this facsimile of his dead wife, a humorless, enigmatic 'visitor' in her husband's mind, who is made flesh again. Does she really exist? "There are no answers, only choices." But there are several cinematic problems:1) the lack of suspense, 2) the dull tone of sterile emotional detachment, 3) the awkward inconsistency of George Clooney as an intellectual, introspective scientist seeking redemption, and 4) the murky babbling of 'crew members' Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur and Viola Davis, who finally mutters: "I never get used to these resurrections." Another puzzling aspect is the "Solaris" marketing plan, emphasizing the tepid sex scenes, planting gossipy tidbits about glimpses of George Clooney's bare-bottom. Like who cares? Finally, consider this ludicrous Steven Soderberg promotional quote: "It's '2001: A Space Odyssey' meets 'Last Tango in Paris.'" Not! On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Solaris" is a ponderous, pretentious, floundering 4. It's a weird, risky concept about illusion and reality. Sometimes risks pay off, sometimes they don't. This doesn't.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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