***Official "SOLARIS" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Seth Paxton, Nov 27, 2002.

  1. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Thanks Jack. [​IMG]
    Solaris 10 of 10
    NO SPOILERS
    Haunting, somber, patient, subtle, beautiful, thoughtful, introspective...this film is not a narrative, it's a poem. At every moment it skirts direct confrontation, instead relying on innuendo and implication. It leaves moments of quiet for the viewer to digest the story for themselves, to make of it what they will, and to philosophize to themselves a bit.
    This is a thinking viewer's sci-fi, not unlike 2001 or Zardoz. And in that way I found it to be far superior to something like Minority Report.
    Soderbergh brings all of his usual style - dialog over the top of other scenes, many quiet moments with no dialog (not unlike 2001), many unscored moments with only soft dialog, using focus (or lack of to be precise) for various effects, same color palette of golden hues and blue hues, etc. Basically all the things I mentioned in my Out of Sight discussion in the cinematography thread.
    But then there are the 2001 scenes, so many that it had to be intentional. The film often feels like you've stepped into 2001, in a good way. It's not a ripoff, it just treats the material in a similar fashion. I even caught a Starchild-like moment.
    The cast is thin, really only 5 parts, and each is done exceptionally well. Clooney has some moments that are just perfect (one frightened reaction is not only so well done, but it flies in the face of what you would expect were this a normal Hollywood film).
    Beyond all this execution is a deep and thoughtful story. Man's relationship with god and creation, love, forgiveness, human needs, and more. It's the kind of film that can open a lot of doors in your mind, bringing forth all sorts of thoughts about the meaning of life, but without forcing you to go there.
    In fact, that's the finest thing I can say about the film. It never once forces anything upon the audience. It just lays things out and lets the audience come to it.
    Finally, the score is just remarkable. Again 2001 creeps in. The score is a cross between Ligeti's 2001 stuff and the kind of score used for the final scene in Traffic, if you can imagine that (is that scene Eno or Martinez? I assume Martinez since it is his work here in Solaris). It's softer than Ligeti, but more intense than Martinez's Traffic work.
    I can't recommend the film highly enough if the above review sounds like your type of film.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Solaris". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.
    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    My one word review: Ponderous.

    Not everyone is going like this film. It's annoying to watch for the first 80 minutes. I get the whole metaphysical-ness of who are we-ness notion. But I found it clumsily brought to the background (because it never does show up in the foreground). What is that spark that we find in another that completes us, and in the same breath, has the capacity to cut us to the quick? Is it a state of mind? Is it a physical/chemical/biological thing? Is it none of the above? Is it all of the above. Is love perfect or meant to be imperfect? What would you risk for love? What are you willing to give up to be with the one who's left you? Those are issues presented, but in such an understated manner, many audience members will not quite grasp the undertones for such issues, nor care about them because of the characters aren't really characters, but more like symbolic in their roles of the tale. I think I grokked it, but I didn't care for the presentation of it.

    Go see it only if you're in a serious mood, and not too tired.

    I give it 2.75 stars or a grade of B-.

    (Follow up note - On the Hollywood.com site, it listed Solaris with a 2 hour running time, so I initially stated I was annoyed by the first 100 minutes of this film. I should have said "first 80 minutes" as I was subtracting the last 20 minutes, i.e. the 3rd act, from the erroneous 120 minute running time when I made my statement earlier.)
     
  4. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Solaris purports to have a deeper meaning beyond its cool exterior but underneath its surface is nothing more than elementary school philosophical ideas and theology that is very rudimentary at best. It is all smoke and mirrors or should I say an endless amount of dreams and flashbacks that plods along and really doesn’t amount to anything. Very few films fail at the box office on its own accord. This one self-destructs right out of the gate.
    In my view, Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us is more contemplative and achieves far greater results with his exposition about the human condition than anything Solaris ever hoped to be.
    Bottom line: Solaris feels and looks like an arthouse film wannabe. It must be one.
    ~Edwin
     
  5. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I'm just going to come out and say it - it's better than Tarkovsky's version. Stephen Soderberg's Solaris manages to find a balance between big-idea science fiction and character-based drama that has often proved elusive on film, and does so with a storytelling economy and shifting perspective that has become Soderberg's trademark.
    This is no small accomplishment. One of my major issues with Tarkovsky's Solaris is that it's clearly the work of a man without interest in the genre; how and why the Visitors exist is almost irrelevent once they've appeared. Soderberg, however, acknowledges that this is going to be important to a segment of the audience, and spends some time addressing the question of just what Rheya is. This gives the story direction, raises ethical questions, and invites the audience to think about them without spoon-feeding answers.
    Clooney and Natascha McElhone both give very good performances. McElhone has the really tricky one - her character is mentally unstable to begin with, and when she appears as a Visitor there's a distinct alienness to her. The look and sound of the movie is impressive, too. Every piece of costume and every prop feels like it's part of a future world that evolved from our own, rather than being designed as a unit, and the special effects are understated, but beautiful and haunting. The same can be said about the soundtrack, which is the oddest for a major-studio film this side of Punch-Drunk Love. It's beautiful, but also very alien.
    The film falls just short of superlative - as much as I appreciate the shorter run-time, there are parts that seem too truncated, especially toward the end; Kelvin's reaction to his first visitor doesn't feel right to me (and didn't when Tarkovsky did it, either); and some dialogue doesn't work: Although Soderberg respects the science-fictional elements of the story, he isn't completely comfortable with them. But Solaris does continue a string of solid films from Soderberg and smart science fiction in general, and is well worth seeing if you like either.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]¾
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Solaris 5/10

    I found Solaris to an unfocused set of images. I feel the creators did not know what they wanted to say, and could only give us vagues pieces of a story without cohesion. The desire to deal with profound emotions is wholly undermined by the extremely cool emotionally detached style of the movies -- the viewer is pushed away from the emotions, providing no way to empathize with the characters' conflicts.

    The movie commits one of my story-telling sins: it tells rather than shows. It tells us that the Chris Kelvin's wife, Rheya was emotionally damaged as a child, suggests she is a troubled adult, but she is depicted as a well-adjusted person. The narrative tells us that there are marital problems instead of showing us the marital problems. It told us that a squad of soldiers went to Solaris, and vanished, but never showed us how such a thing could happen. It told us that Gordon, the Solaris chief engineer I presume, would absolutely not leave her room and indicated she was extremely distressed, but showed to her to be out and about and behaving fairly normally. It told us that "Solaris" (the astronomical body) seemed to aware of those investigating it, but we were not shown this to be the case (the visitors were never actually connected with Solaris -- it's only presumption they were created by it). We are told there is a way to vanquish the visitors, but we are not shown the process.

    For a movie so uninterested in dialogue comapred to the visuals, it is sadly ironic that the important story elements are crudely stated rather than demonstrated.


    The movies themes are a mix the "What is life?", "What is morality?", "What does it mean to be alive?" -- these gain focus for a while in the middle are are treated with some intelligence and insight. But they don't go anywhere, and are lost again in the imagery in the end of the movie.

    I had high hopes: the Steven Soderburghs strength as a story-teller combined with James Cameron's skill with the visual. But those were lost, leaving a movie with a weak, poorly told story poorly combined with sparse images that do not support the narrative.
     
  7. David Ely

    David Ely Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] (As a stand alone film)
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] (As an addition to the Tarkovsky film)
    I would like to know if the people who enjoyed this film have seen the Tarkovsky version. After seeing Soderbergh's Solaris on Friday, I can't see how anyone could enjoy this film just by itself.
    As a stand-alone film, it is a complete mess. It is much too erratic without any focus. I believe all the problems are caused by the incredibly short running time of 98 minutes. That just not enough time to tell this story properly.
    But .... I have seen the Tarkovsky film MANY times. Because of this, I fell in love with Soderbergh's version. Not with the film as a whole, but what it added to the story.
    Bascially we have three different versions of the same story. Lem's novel gave us the scientific version, Tarkovsky gave use the philosophical version and Soderbergh gives us the love story. The love story presented in this film is handled very well. I truly felt the regret that Chris had for those last moments with his wife, and his wanted to fix what had happened.
    One moment of the film that hit me extremely hard emotionally was when
     
  8. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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  9. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Producer

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    Well those of us (me) who were waiting for a relatively faithful adaptation of Lem's book can keep on waiting -- but more about that later.
    Steven Soderbergh's Solaris is an uncompromisingly philosophical film. It is not science fiction. It is to some extent a love story, but fundamentally it asks the following question:
    What is the difference between a real person and how that person is perceived and remembered by others? What is the difference between who we really are and who we think we are?
    These are very interesting questions and Solaris is very effective in forcing us to consider them.
    My gut reaction to Solaris though was more one of admiration than enjoyment -- I just wasn't emotionally involved in spite of the excellent performances and the brilliant cinematography. Not enough time was devoted to developing the characters and giving us a stake in their fate.
    In any case Solaris is absolutely unique in one respect -- it makes not concessions to conventional Hollywood story telling (show 'em everything twice, make that three times to make sure even the dull ones will get it). All the information is there, but many things are just seen as wonderfully rendered details in the background. A personal favorite was the pills: uppers, downers, the futuristic gives you only the proper dose bottle -- NOTHING is spelled out, but everything is clear. In terms of visual beauty Solaris is also difficult to rival.
    I'd say that my biggest problem in seeing this film were my preconceptions and expectations -- now that I know what I'm in for I may see it again just to gauge how I would react to it the second time around. I certainly recommend it to anyone who is willing to devote themselves to a film whose purpose is you to make you think rather than to entertain.
    An amazing side note is that this film was made at all: there were maybe 20 people in the huge auditorium I saw it in on Sunday and a few walked out. Enjoy it while you can -- this is probably the first and last big budget art film you will ever see [​IMG]
    I started re-reading Stanislaw Lem's book last night after seeing the movie, but I really need to finish it before commenting on that aspect -- it is a very short book (~180 pages) and certainly recommended to anyone interested. Unfortunately the English translation I saw some years ago was beyond horrible, translated from Polish to French to English (I am reading a Polish to Bulgarian translation). Hopefully there is a new better English language edition??? I'll post again when I'm done.
    Ted
     

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