Released: November 2002
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by: Steven Soderbergh
Adapted for film from the book by: Stanislaw Lem
Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
Taglines: "There are some places man is not ready to go." and "How far will you go for a second chance?"
Having seen this remake of Soderbergh's and after having read tzu's synopsis of the book, I must say that Soderbergh did a superb job of staying true to both the original movie and the book's plot. There are a couple of elemental twists and liberties that Soderbergh took with his adaptation, but my personal impression is that his additions, in no way, undermined the story at its core. If anything, he helped to enhance the storyline.
The set design, cinematography and direction were superb, in my honest opinion- nothing like what you'd expect to see in a Sci-Fi epic a'la Star Trek. It's dark, eerie, insightful, psychological and very thought-provoking. There were some scenes that distinctly reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey- scenes where Kelvin is approaching the space station in a shuttle and all we can hear are the ambient sounds generated by the ship he is riding in; the absence of music throughout most of the film; the pristine look of the station's interior that made it look incredibly empty while still seeming eerily ominous, despite the bright lighting. All of the technology seemed appropriate and not at all gratuitous.
George Clooney did, after all, play the role of Kris Kelvin with a surprising degree of effect, the only departure from the original character being that Kelvin, in this movie, was a psychologist sent to the station in an effort to discover why the Solaris crew had severed communications with Earth and refused to come home. His performance was well executed and left me, a member of the audience, with the impression that the character was truly as haunted by the death of his wife as he was supposed to be. When Kelvin was first introduced to the "reincarnation" of his late wife, his reaction seemed entirely believable and even realistic. He seemed appropriately shocked, surprised and confused. The slapping of his hands, the reluctance to directly look at her at first, his hesitation to even talk to her went a long way towards illustrating that he was experiencing the impossible. Clooney turned out an amazingly good performance. None of that "hey, look at me! I'm a pretty boy" stuff here. Good, solid, hard acting. And his delivery of dialogue (which served as the backbone for this movie) was impressive to say the least. Nothing seemed rushed at all, which was refreshing.
The role of Kelvin's wife, name changed to "Rheya", was played by Natascha MacElhone. MacElhone's performance was equally gratifying. Her character seemed just as haunted by the past as Clooney's and it was, in a way, fascinating to watch her come to the realization on her own that she is not quite human. The presence of super-human strength was not covered in the film, however the remarkably fast regenerative properties of these mysterious guests was shown rather handily. The character of Rheya was shown to be more tragic than anything. Since she was constructed from her husband's strongest and last memory of her, she was fated to be suicidal by nature, which seemed a severe stumbling block. Coupled with Kelvin's obvious discomfort in her presence did not help to put her suicidal tendencies to rest. If anything, her husband's emotional distance only exacerbated her guilt and subsequent suicide attempts (which failed the first time, but the second time stuck- in this movie adaptation, Kelvin was reluctant to send her to the "annihilator" due to his new-found love for this version of his wife. Realizing that she was not truly the wife of Kris Kelvin and only a dark shadow of her, Rheya had herself destroyed). MacElhone's portrayal of this character, in short, was tragically beautiful.
The other two major supporting characters did their jobs exceedingly well. Snow, played by Jeremy Davies (of Saving Private Ryan), was actually the "Snaut" character from Stanislaw Lem's book. And the role of Helen Gordon, played by Viola Davis, was the Dr. Sartorius character from the original book. Dr. Gibarian, whose named remained the same, was played by Ulrich Tukur and only appeared for a few moments in the beginning of the movie via a video transmission meant for Kris Kelvin. Upon reaching the station Kelvin discovered that his old mentor and friend, Dr. Gibarian, had committed suicide and later learned that the reason had something to do with the appearance of Gibarian's son on the station.
The major themes of the movie seemed to focus on guilt, redemption and atonement for perceived wrongs. The only real drawback that I saw to the movie was that the ending left me with more questions than answers. I was somewhat confused and ambiguous about the ending plot twist, which has undercurrents of something major, but I couldn't get a handle on what really happened.
All in all, it was a very fine film. Sadly, its performance in the box office is lacking, which seems a tragedy. This movie had the soul of great science fiction and showed it to the proverbial "T."
Source: The Internet Movie Database: www.imdb.com