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movie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Queen Latifah, Liev Schreiber, Marga Gomez, Pons Maar

Review by David Wilcock
1 star out of 4

With his successful books and movies, Michael Crichton is doing well. With early successes with Westworld (1973) and Coma (1978), and recent films such as Jurassic Park (1993), his films have been entertaining. However, he seems to taken a wrong turn somewhere with Sphere. This $100 million mess by good director Barry Levison (Disclosure) is dull, long winded, and a huge disappointment. Considering the huge budget, the all star cast, and a story by Crichton, Sphere is majorly disappointing.

The film opens with Norman Goodman (Hoffman), a psychologist who thinks he is visiting an airplane crash to console the survivors. However, when he arrives, he his told by supervisor Barnes (Peter Coyote) that he is actually investigating an spacecraft. Along with Goodman is mathematician Harry Adams (Jackson), biologist Beth Halperin (Stone) and Ted Fielding (Liev Schrieber.) They investigate the spaceship, find a massive sphere inside, meet an alien intelligence called Jerry, and basically weird crap happens.

Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way with Sphere. The film starts off entertaining enough, but throughout this very long movie, it just gets sillier and sillier. The film jaunts along from scene to scene, never fully explaining what is going on. The actors and directing don't help, either. Hoffman is on autopilot (and almost seems embarrassed) throughout the movie, churning out dull lines, and probably wondering what the hell he is doing in this movie. Stone is useless, displaying no emotion, and fails to convince the audience that she has any feelings for Hoffman. The only person who seems to be having fun in this movie is Jackson, who's funny as the mathematician who slowly goes crazy and entering the sphere. But he's hardly in it, and by the end of the film he is just as dull as Hoffman and Stone. The same goes for Peter Coyote, who hams it up as the officer, but is then killed off halfway through. The director, Barry Levinson, who directed the better Crichton adaptation Disclosure (1994) messes up with the drama and the action. The drama scenes are, quite frankly, boring, and the action scenes suffer from overkill, with Levison throwing the camera all over the place (much like the godawful Speed 2, 1997)

The writing doesn't help much, either. Although Crichton is great with plots, he's terrible with dialogue, and practically every line in Sphere is a dud. The speech is too simple, I was hoping it would be a bit more intelligent. Practically every line is just stating the obvious. None of it is smart. Also, where the hell did the budget go? The sphere itself is impressive, and there's a few nice special effect shots, but where the $100 million went is anyone's guess. There's a giant squid attack in the picture, but not once does the audience see the squid, even though the film has a massive budget. I assume the picture was trying to build up tension by not showing the squid, and if handled correctly it probably would. But the whole scene is done badly, and I was just hoping we could see the stupid squid.

Finally, the film has no idea what genre to be. Levison can't handle his own plot. It leaps from hokey sci-fi, to horror, and finally The Shining/Event Horizon psychological thriller. And, of course, the film is very much like The Abyss (1988), although in it's defense, Crichton did write Sphere before The Abyss was released (and is far superior to this rubbish.) It's not all that bad though. The plot is all right, there's a few jump scenes (although nothing very scary) and there's the occasionally interesting bit. But overall, Sphere is a big waste of some fine talent, a lot of money, and a potentially good movie. Not really worth seeing.

Copyright 1998 David Wilcock

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