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Review: Solaris 451

Solaris was one of several movies to hit the theaters this Thanksgiving weekend, and it won't be the most successful. The 1961 sci-fi novel has also been the source material for a 1972 film. There are numerous reviews - far more for Solaris than Die Another Day, suggesting that the critics were hopeful (Salon, NY Times), or maybe just tired of Bond, James Bond. I saw DAD as well this weekend, and my capsule review is simple: it sucked, the Bond franchise has definitely jumped the shark (two words: invisible car). But Solaris is worth a few more words.

Lem's novel is a really good work of sci-fi, not light reading but worth the effort to comprehend. The new Solaris movie is only 90-odd minutes long, and at that it's too long.

Comparisons will be made to 2001 and Apocalypse Now, two other slow-moving, philosophical movies. The problem is that both of those movies actually had interesting things to say, and managed to keep the viewer's attention despite being slow-paced. Solaris is simply slow. Long sections of the movie have no dialog and no background sounds whatsoever. When there is background music, it lacks the classical majesty of 2001 and is actually a bit annoying. These flaws might be forgivable if we were truly interested in the plot, but we aren't: it's a trivial love story, told many times before. (Most of the interesting parts of Lem's book have been sliced away to leave only the love tale, and the sci-fi twist is not enough to save it, IMHO.) I found myself nodding off during parts of the movie.

A couple of the reviews I read didn't quite grasp what was going on, especially the end. I found it quite clear and straightforward: the movie gives you plenty of clues so there shouldn't be any doubt left in your mind when the credits roll. Admittedly I approached the film with substantial knowledge about the book, but... it should have been clear to anyone.

Overall: it's pretty. The effects are well-done, at least you aren't short-changed there. As far as sci-fi movies go, it isn't bad - there have been so many worse sci-fi movies that I'll take whatever I can get. And at least they had the decency to make it short; if this movie were 2.5 hours long instead of 1.5, it would be intolerable. I'd recommend it to sci-fi fans. I'm not sure I'd recommend it for non-fans, however; if you want a love story, go see Ghost or something.

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Review: Solaris

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  • wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by carpe_noctem ( 457178 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:34PM (#4789449) Homepage Journal
    This is such a hopelessly short review that I have no idea what the commenter actually thought of the film. I've really been anticipating this one, too...the 1972 solaris is one of the greatest films I think I've seen. Well, can't troll too much least Katz didn't write this review. ;)
    • Tarkovsky's Solyaris (Score:5, Informative)

      by an_mo ( 175299 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:43PM (#4789504) Journal
      I guess it must be hard to compete against one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
      Andrei Tarkovsky has made incredible movies that leave undeletable impressions on your mind. Here is the imdb links to Tarkovsky's Solyaris []
    • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

      by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:52PM (#4789871) Homepage
      carpe writes:
      "This is such a hopelessly short review that I have no idea what the commenter actually thought of the film."

      He was pretty clear in the review. It had good points (visually impressive), it had bad points (plot was overworked and unoriginal), some groups might like it (sci-fi fans), some might not (non sci-fi fans).

      Not trying to be a dick, but this is a farily good review. Most people take the tact that if they don't like it, it sucked, period, and you won't (or shouldn't) either. Michael had the presence of mind to look at this from more than one angle.
      • Re:wtf (Score:3, Informative)

        by Night Goat ( 18437 )
        The main problem with the review is that after reading it, I still have no idea what the movie is about. I know it was based on a science fiction book by Stanislaw Lem, but as I haven't read any of his books, that doesn't influence my decision on whether or not to watch the movie. The only thing I got out of the review is that the movie was slow-moving and confusing to some audience members. I need more to go on than that, sorry.
    • Re:wtf (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@[ ] ['mon' in gap]> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:55PM (#4789881)
      This guy is way off base ... Solaris wasn't great but it wasn't bad either. It needed a little more meat on the plot but it wasn't bad.

      Some portions of the score were fantastic to. there was a montage with an amazing sountrack --it was based on electromagnetic recordings from deep space (I haven't read this from anywhere, but I have heard NASA recordings of deep space and there is no mistaking them).

      This version of solaris is really about the changing perception of the universe to the main character -- although they tread pretty lightly on that theme. If you want to see a well executed movie with a neat soundtrack that will make you think just a little bit but not quite enough, go see Solaris.

  • Invisible Car?! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by kaosrain ( 543532 )
    Die Another Day has an invisible car?! I heard it was crap, but with this information, I'll definately be seeing it!
    • Re:Invisible Car?! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CanadaDave ( 544515 )
      The invisible car thing would actually work with current technology, only using today's technology it would be far too expensive. For the same reason that large-area solar cells are too expensive. But as soon as large-area electronics becomes a reality, than you'll be able to pattern circuits onto anything. So technically it would be possible to pattern Bond's entire car with pixels. Each pixel would be comprised of a 3-layer RGB light sensor, and a active LCD pixel, or better yet, an orgranic LED. This could all be deposited on a plastic skin (which I think Bond had) or directly onto the siding of the car. The tricky part would be the software. But with some fancy software and some interpolation, it could easily be done. Even the windows of the car could have these sensors on them, and still appear transparent (or tinted, whatever). The tricky part would be the wheels. But you could just put covers over the wheels, so that part was pretty fake.
      • Actually, a slight correction to my above post...

        Patterning directly onto the car's siding would be many, many years away. However depositing it on a plastic foil could be done in a few years and then shaped and glued to the car's surface.

    • "I swear, officer, I never saw him coming!"
    • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:58PM (#4789898) Homepage
      In a recent UK documentary on the making of Die Another Day the producer of the film explained that the Invisible Vanquish was an extrusion of the idea of adaptive camoflage systems that both America and Britain are developing.

      The Car in the bond film is a bit of fantasy loosely based on reality.

      Adaptive Camoflage is designed to be fitted to the Reactive Armour plates on modern tanks using liquid crystal or simmilar technology. The system can be used in the case of a prepared position where the tank commander walks say 100 feet downrange prior to the tank being positioned, takes a digital photo of the position and then moves the tank into place.
      The picture is then used to 'paint' the plates on the vehicle to resemble the area the vehicle was moved into so an enemy unit approaching from a distance will find it hard to visually aquire the tank.

      This system can also be used to 'best-guess' the colours required when stopping in the battlefield (albeit without jumping out for the snapshot). For example; a tank could stop half in front of a building and hedge and be 'painted' in the colours of the building & hedge.
      This only works against an enemy unit approaching from one direction and even then would only work from several hundred meters away (unless the enemy approached in a straight line directly toward the tank).

      This system will likely be implemented and refined over time but a vehicle which could appear 'invisible' under close inspection is rather far-fetched and something very much based in Science-Fiction
  • Bad adaptation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reitoei1971 ( 583076 ) <reitoei AT gmx DOT net> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:36PM (#4789468)
    Its sad they ruined this by turning into a love story. The movie cast away Lem's real intents. The book (as are most of Lem's) is about the lack of communication, the mystery of the mind and loss. I dont think hollywood audiences have the attention span to see all that Lem encompasses, which might make them think a bit too much, but surely they can stomach a little more than this! I would highly recommend the book.
    • Re:Bad adaptation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kungfuBreaks ( 537144 ) <{ten.epacsten} {ta} {skaerBufgnuk}> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @09:52PM (#4790360)
      Soderbergh didn't 'turn' Solaris into a love story, he merely emphasised the love story over other narrative elements, which is a perfectly reasonable thing for an adaptation to do IMO. In Lem's book, the love story is more of a backdrop, and the main theme is indeed the contact (or lack thereof) between humanity and the ocean (Solaris). Lem thought all those anthropomorphic aliens populating Western sci-fi were totally ridiculous -- the actual life forms we may encounter could be so staggeringly different from ourselves communication would prove just about impossible. However, the love story is there and it's a major, major theme (if you think such things didn't interest Lem, you obviously haven't read The Mask). Tarkovsky, who made the original (far, far slower yet superior) Solaris wasn't exaclty faithful to the book either (in fact, Lem reportedly hated his version). I think it's perfectly pointless to simply port the source material to another medium. The best adaptations, much like the best remixes, uncover elements you never knew were there. Take what Kubrick did with Burgess's A Clockwork Orange -- he totally subverted the message of the book, yet did so brilliantly. Why not enjoy both?

      No, Solaris won't be a success. Film nerd won't give it a chance because Clooney's in it, sci-fi nerds will claim it's unferior to Lem's book and most 'normal people' will find it 'too slow' (whatever the fuck that means). This is a shame, because the movie really is pretty good, all things considered. Ah well.
      • Imagine if aliens existing in a state beyond our physical reality actually did make contact by manifesting in the form of a loved one taken from the mental imagery of the human subject.
        And what if the human found the desire to mate with his/her dead or former lover overwhelming and initiated first contact... something the aliens would find as strange to us as we would find them...

        Daddy, how did the war with the Flugibles start?

        Well son, it seems some of our astronauts can't keep it in their spacesuits, and one of them sent in a probe prematurely.
    • attention span (Score:3, Informative)

      by SkulkCU ( 137480 )

      I dont think hollywood audiences have the attention span to see all that Lem encompasses, which might make them think a bit too much, but surely they can stomach a little more than this!

      You're wrong.

      During the screening I went to, dozens of people walked out. More than one person said "That Sucked" right at the end. I didn't hear anyone say anything good about it.

      I thought it was good, but it wasn't nearly as complete as I had hoped (as, I think you're saying).
    • Re:Bad adaptation (Score:3, Informative)

      by Malcontent ( 40834 )
      Not having read the boot it was obvious that the filmmakers failed to capture whatever the movie was about. The script was really lame and the woman who played Clooney's love interest only had one facial expression. She simply could not express any emotion whatsoever. No matter what she was supposed to be feeling she looked like a model posing for the camera with the same vacant look in her eyes.

      Also there was too much reliance on silly cinematography tricks. Too many blurred shots, too many false colorations and filters it goes on and on.

      Clooney also had a hard time trying to carry the movie, his acting wasn't that good but the women will probably enjoy his ass.

      The most ineresting character in the movie was played by jeremy davies. Anytime he was onthe screen it was a movie worth watching.
  • Interesting with all the cool stuff Bond uses, Solaris isn't anywhere to be found.

    Maybe it's McNealy who got humped by, er, jumped over the shark.

    People at least are going to paying to watch Bond []. Meanwhile, all they ever say about Sun is don't look at it. []
  • Slightly Offtopic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ricky M. Waite ( 544756 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:40PM (#4789489) Homepage
    But what is the correct way to pronounce Solaris (as in Sun's OS)? I always said the 'a' like 'hair'...but on the previews for this they said it like 'car.' Just me wondering if I've been pronouncing Solaris wrong all this time. :)
    • It's not that off-topic since I guess the question is valid for the topic of the SF movie as well, since it's the same word. :)

      I'm pronouncing the 'a' in 'solaris' as the 'a' in 'car'. But I guess that's because I'm from Sweden and it's the natural pronouncation over here. I've not heard one person here saying the word otherwise, anyway. ;-)
    • if you want to be really *cool*, pronounce it "sulyaris", with a rolling R, so everone will know that you have seen the tarkovskij version.
    • "Hello, this is Scott McNealy, and I pronounce Solaris 'Solaris.'"
    • but on the previews for this they said it like 'car.'

      The "Forsaken" video game, for PC, N64, and PSX, pronounces heat-seeking missile as "Soh-LAR-is" as in car, like on the TV commercial for the movie.

      I pronounce the Sun operating systems' name as "Sun Oh Ess".

  • Shocking.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MortisUmbra ( 569191 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:40PM (#4789495)
    another review from Micheal thatis not only completely contradictory to the status quo but also completely off-base. I think HE is the one who didn't grasp what was going on there. The movie isn't for everyone, but if you care to be engaged by a movie in several ways (either by passively just following it, or actually trying to figure it out as you go, and see the underlying meanings and goings-on) it's certainly worth the extended 1.5 hour toture you will certainly bear with this horrid piece of trash that oh I guess isn't so bad after all and beats watching Mission to Mars.... Dude, did it suck, and was it not worth the money, or was it ok, and you should go see it? Saying "ooooh it was so boring and I nearly passed out several times, and the plot was pointless and shallow" then going "yeah but its better than most sci-fi films and you should probably maybe not oughta kinda watch it" doesn't exactly give a good reccomendation one way or the other. AHHHHH I'm just pissed tomorrow is Monday.
  • invisible car (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:42PM (#4789499) Journal
    the Bond franchise has definitely jumped the shark (two words: invisible car).

    On the other hand, most of us loved Wonder Woman's invisible plane. This goes to show that, contrarily to the series' directors' ideas, the more Bond becomes a cartoonish super-hero parody of himself, the less we like him.

    We're getting movies made that are pre-edited for tv showings, now. I miss the Bond from the actual stories (remember books?), which at least pretended to have Bond barely scrape through, and which showed far more grey in the world.
    • Re:invisible car (Score:5, Insightful)

      by for(;;); ( 21766 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:54PM (#4790154)
      > the more Bond becomes a cartoonish super-hero
      > parody of himself, the less we like him.

      Bond's always been a cartoonish self-parody. Sweet lord. Remember You Only Live Twice? Remember when Sean Connery went undercover as a Japanese person, his disguise consisting of a black mop-top wig and blackface? Remember Goldfinger, with "Pussy Galore's Flying Circus", that crack team of implicitely-lesbian ace pilots? Remember The Man With The Golden Gun? "Soon I shall fashion a weapon out of solar power! Mwuuuahaha!" Shit, man -- Moonraker? Octopussy? Live And Let Die?

      I love all these movies. I read most of the James Bond books as a kid, and am pretty sure I've seen all the (old) movies at some point. But don't kid yourself -- the Bond series was always ludicrous. It's a glorious caricature of '60s badassitude.

      Real spies are hunchbacked bureaucrats and dissatisfied knowledge workers. Any other depictions of the Spy's Life should set your bullshit meter to ten.

  • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:44PM (#4789515)
    With apologies to David Spade and his Hollywood Minute bits back in the good old days of SNL:

    "Well, let's see... Doctor arrives at space station orbiting planet. Strange things have happened there. People have died. Doctor finds that his once dead wife is now very much alive on this space station. Where have I heard this before? Ah yes, it was really good the first time I saw it, when it was called Event Horizon"

    • Something tells me thought that there will be less splattered body matter in Solaris, and less people pulling their eyes out of their sockets.
      • Something tells me thought that there will be less splattered body matter in Solaris, and less people pulling their eyes out of their sockets.

        You should have seen the audience in Con Air.
      • > Something tells me thought that there will be less splattered body matter in Solaris, and less people pulling their eyes out of their sockets.

        Clearly Solaris is the loser of those two, then. I mean really, _less_ splattered body matter?! _Less_ people pulling their eyes out of their sockets?! WTF?!


        On a more serious vein (couldn't resist), I know everybody hates Event Horizon, but I rather liked it. I'll say this for it - it has by far the most effective use of sound for a horror movie that I've ever experienced. Great special effects, and more realistic depiction of technology than the vast, _vast_ majority of sci-fi films. The acting was fine, and the idea for the story was interesting. The execution was certainly off, but c'mon, there are FAR worse movies out there, even if you narrow it down to that year, than Event Horizon. Maybe people complain so bitterly about it because they had higher hopes? I dunno, but people saying this is the worst movie they've ever seen makes me wonder if they've seen more than a dozen movies. Gimme a break.

        • You seem to misunderstand the complaint about Event Horizon. It wasn't that it passively failed as a movie. Sure, a million crappy movies passively fail.

          Even Horizon was well executed. It was activelypainful to watch, and offered absolutely nothing to the viewer. Sure, that's right, if for some reason these people choose not to understand what they are seeing, they might be lead to chase phantoms around a boat. I care deeply about movies. I want them to add to *something*. That something can be painful, but if it's just a formula for jerking around the audience, I get offended.

          I don't know if that turned out as a cohesive argument. There is one, I'm sure.
        • OK, I'll forgo modding other comments in this article to reply...

          by far the most effective use of sound for a horror movie that I've ever experienced

          • 2001: the use of silence when the camera is in a vacuum. Genius. No-one has ever done it since (AFAIK), as it's just not clichéd enough. But it's definitely the most effective use of 'sound' I've ever come across.
          • The Shining (sorry, Kubrick again): Bartok's "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste". Way, way better and more frightening than Event Horizon.

          And to stay vaguely on-topic, I can't imagine any film of Solaris getting within the same *universe* as Tarkovsky's original, let alone touching it. Although I do remember despairing when the University sci-fi society showed it, and just fast forwarded through the 'boring bits' of it. Aarrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

    • when it was called Event Horizon

      Geez, I hope it's better. That was the worst movie I've ever personally seen. Only one of 2 movies I almost walked out on.

      In some ways, maybe this isn't a bad thing. I think it was Richard Jenni, commenting on all the remakes of old movies and TV shows:
      "I don't know why they make remakes on all these classic movies. I mean, they're already great. What do you think you can add? Why don't they remake bad movies. Why doesnt' somebody remake, say BioDome, but make it FUNNY."
    • Damn... If it's worse than event horizon I ain't gonna touch it with a 10' pole....
    • Well, I have to agree with the general opinion floating around here that Event Horizon was, IMHO, crap indeed. Although, it does have one very good scene in it. I don't know if anyone here has seen the movie or this part specifically, but it's the scene where the videolog of the Event Horizon is played back and the crew has gone insane, with screaming and yelling and general chaos in the background. Then all of the sudden, the smart captain who can apparently speak fluent latin even when some bozos are trying to rips his eyes out of his sockets in Jupiter orbit. (Yes, that's the aforementioned gory scene) Anyways, the little line of latin he utters with all the carnage around him totally rocked. Complete chaos with one low, moaning voice in it calling out to whoever is out there, saying "Liberate tuteme ex infernus!" (sp?) or "Save yourself from hell" in ye olde common English.

      I am still desperately looking for a recording of that file. Okay, not desperately, I haven't looked at all and I just remembered it because someone mentioned the movie. Regardless, I want to have that audio fragment because it has countless uses as a nice wave file. Once I have the wave, I'll immediatly optimize it (fade in, fade out, etc) and use it as my windows startup sound. MMmmmmm, perfection!

      ... Did I really just rant like an idiot about one line of text in a bad movie? :(

      • Did I really just rant like an idiot about one line of text in a bad movie? :(

        Yes, Seth, you did.

        Event Horison was a fun movie, which tried to touch on the themes Solaris covers; fear, loss, lack of communication, regret, and perception versus reality. The science is hokey but Solaris was no better and Event Horizon moved at a good pace, had plenty of great lines and excellent effects. How could you forget other lines like, "You don't need eyes to see where we are going."? Awsome. To make things really good, it had gotten dark, and the sky was full of heat lightning when we came out. God has the best shows.

        Please do rent Event Horizon and record the lines you like and post them.

        In any case, I expect great things from Sodenberg. His insight is penetrating and he's not afraid to amuse his audience with it.

    • Lem's story was first, though. Event Horizon, The Sphere, and this movie are only cheap Hollywood imitations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:47PM (#4789530)

    Those of you waiting for the /. review of Solaris need wait no longer; it's here. I can sum it up simply: it sucked. Long-time readers will, no doubt, be hopeful for a well-though-out reasoned criticism of the movie, as it is being poorly received nearly across the boards, and so the question of "why?" is no doubt hanging on the lips of /. readers, perhaps hoping for some insight from a fellow sci-fi fan.

    Unfortunately, your worst fears are realized: the review in question presents a simple viewpoint: "it's slow and boring, the Bond movie sucks too because it has an invisible car in it, and other reviewers also didn't like the film, but they're still a bunch of dummies." With fast-paced critical analysis like that, who needs well-reasoned arguments?

    Clearly, the reviewer had something icky in his coffee this morning, or worse, skipped the coffee altogether. On the whole, the Solaris review is uninformative and grumpy, although it does at least warn the reader away from what is supposedly a pretty awful film.

    No breasts. No real info. Much whining. Joe Bob says, "Ignore it and hope it goes away." One star.

  • Lemme put my Solaris 8 x86 Review up.
  • Die Another Day (Score:2, Interesting)

    by masterkool ( 550633 )
    Just to make some comments on DAD:

    Too many typical Bond puns. I.E. Villian: [holding sword] "I'll get to the point"

    Gadgets you know Bond should allready have. Sure back in the day it was cool to see what new toy Bond was going to get, but we allready have seen it all. There were few suprises in that department.

    The only cool gadget: The Invisible Car. Nice concept, cameras on each side project incoming image on the opposite pannel.

    The Plot: Evil guy makes big gadget to take earth hostage...Bond shoots some guys & has lots of sex...Bond allmost dies...Bond saves world

    Still some sweet explosions/gunfights.

    Bond movies have allways been great, but there's just no more anticipation of whats going to happen or what Bond is going to do. Its just too predictable.

  • Bond, James Bond. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trusty Penfold ( 615679 ) <> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:49PM (#4789543) Journal

    James Bond films don't need reviewing. Everyone knows exactly what they're going to get ... explosions, nasty baddies, Bond being cool, gadgets and girls.

    There is no pretension, unlike other films mentioned here, just good old-fashioned fun.

    It's funny how there are more comments about Bond than Solaris.
    • Re:Bond, James Bond. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Maxime Lefrancois ( 627966 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:15PM (#4789978)
      1. James Bond films don't need reviewing. Everyone knows exactly what they're going to get ... explosions, nasty baddies, Bond being cool, gadgets and girls.
      What you say ?

      40 years of cinematic history down the toilet in favor of bright flashes and loud bangs. Since XXX is a Bond wannabe, that makes Die Another Day a second generation knock-off. What's missing from this movie? Any real sense that we're watching 007 rather than a generic spy in a tuxedo.

      For Die Another Day, some elements of the Bond formula are intact: the cool gadgets (including an invisible car, a glass-shattering ring, and an ice speeder), the attractive women (although, at least in the case of Jinx, she's more of a partner/rival than a mere love interest), the globe-trotting (from North Korea to Hong Kong to Havana to London to Iceland), and the martinis (shaken, not stirred). The villain, Graves, and his henchman, Zao, are unmemorable, and their inevitable comeuppances are hardly the kind of moments to get audiences cheering.

      The opening theme is dreadful. It's a Madonna pop tune, not a Bond song, and its lack of musical consistency strikes a dissonant chord. (And, as "payment" for providing such an awful piece of music, Madonna gets to "act" in a cameo, which, unfortunately, allows her to speak a few lines of dialogue.) David Arnold's score, which makes liberal use of the "James Bond Theme," seems okay, although most of it is drowned out by the explosions.

      Director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, The Edge) may be to blame. Even though this anniversary movie supposedly contains something from each of the previous 19 outings (many of which appear as props in Q's lab), one gets the sense that Tamahori either doesn't understand Bond or has miscalculated the nature of his appeal. It's not enough to throw all of the Bond elements together and hope that they somehow work. A little more precision and craftsmanship are necessary (and a better script wouldn't have hurt things). Let's hope this represents an aberrance, not a trend.

      If there's one thing to recognize, it's that a single bad outing will not succeed where Blofeld and dozens of other maniacs have failed. Whether played by Pierce Brosnan or someone else, James Bond will return. Let's just hope that when he does, he's the 007 we have come to love and admire, not the impostor that inhabits Die Another Day.

      © 2002 James Berardinelli []
    • Re:Bond, James Bond. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cybrpnk2 ( 579066 )
      Hey, I thought Die Another Day was a very respectable addition to the Bond franchise. I enjoyed it and may go see it again. Pierce does a great job as Bond, not as good as Sean The Ultimate, but much better than the rest of the pack of wanna-bes. The plot, the locales, the bad guys, the set pieces, the girls - all great. A little weak on the gizmos, too much reliance on just the invisible car to cover the gizmo angle, but hey, that was cool too. The sword fight and the fight on the jet as it's falling apart were especially good. Maybe I was enjoying the popcorn too much and not thinking it through as the movie unfolded, but I was actually surprised by the resolution of the traitor angle as well as the true ID of the main bad guy, so I gotta say there was a pretty good surprise factor in it for me, too. Nice to see Bond behind the power curve and on his own for a while, too - that was actually the one angle of Bond that Timothy did well in one of his films. They're trying to set Halley up with her own franchise as Jinx and considering how commercial and crass such a thing COULD have been, they did a pretty good job of that too. Overall, I give DAD an 8 out of 10. If ytou haven't seen it, you should.
  • by belloc ( 37430 ) <(belloc) (at) (> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:49PM (#4789550) Homepage

    Sorry, but shouldn't this be Sun [] instead of News []?
    • From a recent rec.humor.funny post:
      George Clooney's new movie is calles Solaris. From which we can deduce that it's expensive, slow moving, has lots of bugs and will only make sense on the fifth sequel.
  • In Short (Score:3, Informative)

    by Adam.Steinbaugh ( 540388 ) <> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:50PM (#4789555) Journal
    Solaris is one of those movies that tries to make a deeper-meaning point, much like American Beauty did.

    American Beauty made profound statements during its 122 minutes, whereas Solaris could have had a similar impact if it were 4 minutes long.
  • by Rura Penthe ( 154319 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:51PM (#4789562)
    God I'm sick of that phrase. I want to beat anyone who says it to death with a blunt instrument.

    Anyway I disagree about the Bond film. I suppose michael loved World is Not Enough and Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist though. (Which one was really more believable?) I thought that despite how over the top it went Bond was overall a very entertaining action film. It was pure Bond and that's all I ask. Of course, I did have some grievances with the instances of slow motion, but I can't have everything I guess. :)
  • invisible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by daaku ( 199603 )
    as a matter of fact, the invisible car is not *too* far fetched... IIRC, there was a recent article that talked about using the same technique as the movie talks about in real life... cameras on all sides, and glass LCD's on all sidess...
    • by Trusty Penfold ( 615679 ) <> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:03PM (#4789628) Journal
      Here is a picture [] of it.
    • as a matter of fact, the invisible car is not *too* far fetched... IIRC, there was a recent article that talked about using the same technique as the movie talks about in real life... cameras on all sides, and glass LCD's on all sides
      I can see how an invisible object could be achieve through active eye tracking and superposition of the background field of view but it is not possible to create this illusion for more than one viewer. Each person that views the object would have a different view from the other and therefore the screens would have to show multiple views at the same time. Also, the software would have to filter out all the lighting deformations (shadows, etc) caused by the object. It may be possible through some sort of prismatic device but I highly doubt it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Perhaps you forgot about the giant space laser designed, built, and put into orbit by North Korea? I had more of a problem with that than the car.
  • Solaris... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:53PM (#4789572)
    In Solaris, Kelvin's days are spent in a futile effort to understand a planet with strange characteristics and irrational features that combine logic and chaos into an alien mixture that defies human understanding.

    I have largely the same feelings whenever I port software to a Sun system.
  • by eMartin ( 210973 )
    Somehow, after reading this "review" here, I still have no idea what Solaris is about. From the theater poster, I can gather that there's a love story, and now I know it's at least somewhat "sci-fi" (the title seems to suggest that, but who knows), but beyond that, I'm clueless.
    • RTFB (Score:5, Informative)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @09:35PM (#4790306) Homepage Journal
      - short answer answer.

      Long answer - Kelvin is sent to a station (not a space station, but rather a station that float above the planet named Solaris by using antigravity... Now, he enters the station where there supposed to be 3 people. Finds one of them who talks all crazy and tells Kelvin to wait a little to understand what is going on. Apparently one of the 3 people is dead (suicide). Kelvin waits, reads notes etc. goes to sleep, wakes up and sees his long dead wife (10 years ago commited suicide because of Kelvin leaving her...) He is scared, tries to escape her, she goes through a steel plate not to be left behind, and, oh, btw., her wounds heal very quickly. He jettisons her into an orbit in a small rocket (which she almost dismantles before it leaves the station.) Now, he thinks he's crazy and with some complicated scientific calculations proves to himself that he is not. It is all about Solaris - a planet covered with some bio-mass ocean that can be anything and is very powerfull (for example it stabilizes its own planet's orbit in a binary star system.) The ocean apparently is studying people or maybe just toing with them, in any case we do not know what it is doing, if it means to do it or if it just happens to do it without even realizing anything.
      Kelvin's dead wife comes back the next morning (binary star system btw.) So he tries to approach this logically but remembers his love to her and doesn't know what to think to do whatever. Another scientist on the station finds out how to destabilize the field that holds neutrinoes that the clones are made of, and by doing so how to destroy the clones. Anyway, at the end ..... but wait, I am not going to tell you. Read the book.
  • by tylernt ( 581794 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @06:55PM (#4789582)

    We have the technology today! Flexible LCDs are a reality []. The tech used in the movie is entirely reasonable and practical: cameras shoot a picture from one side of the car and project the image on the other side.

    When Q (Cleese) walked around it on that first shot, you saw his legs get huge and flash by as he walked in front of one of the cameras. That was the touch that made it beleivable.

    You'd be better off making fun of some of the other stupid things in the movie, such as the entire driving-around-in-the-melting-ice-palace sequence.

    • I didn't see the movie, so I can't entirley refute the concept, but it leaves me wondering: what if you're not looking at the car from the exact same angle as one of the finite number of cameras and LCDs? It's a very valid concept if you're looking either exactly at the front/rear/side of the car, but if you look at it from an angle, you'll see the cameras and the rest of the car.
      • Two concepts that are important for this technology:

        • Use of prisms over the LCDs, so at a particular angle you'll see one of perhaps ten or twenty different images which coresponds to the angle you are viewing the image at
        • Camouflage is a technique of disguising an object such that in certian surroundings it is difficult to identify and/or locate.

        Bond's car, like many of his toys, is clearly over the top (ie, the above ideas are obviously refined), but is still within the realm of possibility, though it is improbable. With bond's films you don't have to suspend belief very much at all. Besides, they camouflage the use of improbable technology with explosions and girls, and hey, it obviously works.

  • Saw it, liked it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hackwrench ( 573697 )
    but it's all about what existance is, and some people say it's weirder than 'The Sixth Sense' and is kind of like 'Vanilla Sky' (which I haven't seen.
  • the Bond franchise has definitely jumped the shark (two words: invisible car).

    Right. Because the James Bond movies and his stunts have always been believable and possible. How could they go and screw it up ?? BASTARDS !!
  • by zephc ( 225327 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:12PM (#4789665)
    He's been a robot.
    He's been a carrot.
    And on November 27th,
    Rob Schneider is: George Clooney

    Watch him try to stay sane as a killer space station tries to ruin his chances of getting the girl of his dreams.

    Staring the voice of Oscar-winner Dame Judy Dench as the space station.

    Rated R for partial rabbit nudity and poop jokes.
  • [] has this to say about Solaris (scroll down a bit):
    Crashing into seventh place was the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh collaboration Solaris which picked up an estimated $6.8M this weekend for a poor per screen average of $2,818. Critics reviews were mixed with most saying Clooney's performance was the highlight of the film, but moviegoers universally panned the film as reports that viewers across the board gave the movie an F. Apparently film fans were hoping for something different than what the mega-star and Oscar winning director had to offer.
    Bad reviews plus bored viewers plus empty seats equals a movie that won't be in theaters long, so if you're interested in checking Solaris out, you'd better go soon.

    Addmittedly, I haven't seen the film yet, but it looks suspiciously like another Soderbergh-Clooney "wouldn't-it-be-cool-to-remake" vanity project like Ocean's Eleven. Soderbergh's been coasting on the goodwill from Erin Brokovich and Traffic long enough. Unless he wants to turn into Brian DePalma, he'd better start cranking out hits again, IMHO.

    • Hrmm....these viewers that were bored and panned it....would they by any chance be the same viewers that absolutely loved "Dude, Where's My Car?" and gave that movie enough business for them to do a sequel (aptly called "Seriously, Dude, Where's My Car?")?

      It's incredible to me how obsessed people are with stating that the movie must be bad because the average filmgoer doesn't get it or is bored by it. Have these people seen what passes for a "hit" movie these days?


    • Jesus! If Clooney's performance was the highlight of the film, I'd better stay the fuck away from THAT thing! :)

      Okay, seriously, Clooney _can_ act - if he's got a fantastic director. Soderbergh _definitely_ qualifies. Anyone doubting this should go see 'Out of Sight' (watch great performances by Clooney and, get this, Jennifer Lopez! Amazing.), or 'Traffic'. Everybody makes a bomb now and then. His percentage of hits to misses is still much better than most directors.
  • B+ Film (Score:3, Interesting)

    by victorchall ( 169769 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:27PM (#4789744)
    I agree the love story was distracting, but the movie was still good. I have no idea how the reviewer thought there were such long quiet pauses when 2001 had at least four times more lack of sound. I've seen both movies (and even 2010) within the past 3 days. Hey, HBO free preview weekend.

    Even with the distracting love story, the end really resolves well and doesn't play too hard on the leads' relationship. I guess it should have been used more as a device.

    Overall, it was a good "theme" movie (as opposed to 99.5% of movies, which fall into the "plot/action" category) along the lines of Magnolia or American Beauty. I walked away with a few interesting questions and mixed feelings.
  • Die Another Day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Screaming Lunatic ( 526975 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:31PM (#4789768) Homepage
    I'm not gonna discuss plot too much...well since it's a Bond movie and doesn't have too much of a plot. I also don't want to spoil too much.

    Bond movies are known for their fancy opening scenes. I wasn't particularly impressed with this opening scene. It wasn't awful. But it wasn't memorable either.

    At the start of the movie, Bond is detained in a camp in North Korea. Since he is detained for a while, he looks skanky. WTF!!! Bond is not supposed to look skanky, Bond is supposed to be slutty.

    Speaking of slutty, Bond is not slutty enough in this movie. He only sleeps with two women in the whole movie. That is well below standard. I could even pull that off.

    The "invisible" Aston Martin was definitly a cool special effect. The entire theatre "wowed" in unison when it made it's first appearance. The Ford Thunderbird was pretty kick ass too.

    In general, Die Another Day was a decent Bond movie, but not one of the best. And Pierce Brosnan is definitely getting too old to be Bond.

  • by ilyag ( 572316 )
    What is the point of a new Solaris movie? You wouldn't want to make one if you didn't think you can improve on the old movie. Sadly, I don't see anything worth improving in the 1972 Solaris movie... You can't even improve on the graphics - where would you inserd any computer animation?
  • I saw the Tarkovsky film a few years ago, I'm afraid to see the remake because I don't want to obliterate my feelings about this great film with an overblown James ("Terminator" "Titanic") Cameron production. And Solaris is one of my favorite Lem novels, I even used to run a BBS with the name Solaris, long before Sun or anyone else latched on to that name.
    I'll never forget going to see Solaris. I took my girlfriend and I had previously lectured her that this was a really long film, and that was part of the "Aesthetics of Boredom" that was part of both the book and the movie. So we went to the movie, and I'll never forget what happened. In the row in front of me, at about the 1 hour point, some guy started hassling his friends that the film was boring. Well of COURSE it was boring, they were just getting that established as a plot element. He griped and griped and then he finally got up and left. What a relief. We watched the whole film in peace, and my girlfriend and I went to a nearby diner to grab a bite to eat. And who the hell should sit down at the table next to us, that damn whiny guy and his friends. I got to hear him gripe about how boring the film was for ANOTHER half hour. My girlfriend and I cracked up with laughter.
  • by thopo ( 315128 )
    I'm wondering did they cut out the first 30 very slow paced minutes from the original Solyaris. I'd especially like to know if the car ride from Solyaris where you see a car driving through tunnels for 10 minutes without anything happening.

    But knowing the attention span of the regular hollywood movie viewer it was probably cut to 10 seconds.

    After Vanilla Sky, The Ring (and surely many more i've forgotten) yet another hollywood remake. They surely run out of ideas don't they?
    • by 21mhz ( 443080 )
      I'd especially like to know if the car ride from Solyaris where you see a car driving through tunnels for 10 minutes without anything happening.

      I'm afraid, timing standards of an average sci-fi flick don't apply to Tarkovsky.
      Then, in 1972 (especially for a Russian viewer), this probably could express dehumanization and solitude of the technological world. It's kind of ironic that seeing a car driving through an endless urbanistic maze makes an average modern viewer think "hey, nothing worth mentioning is going there".
  • Taking a chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Petronius ( 515525 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:40PM (#4789811)
    I must have been the only person in the audience that liked the movie, and so what? I think this movie is one of the the greatest. It is slow on purpose: it wants to make you think about what is happening on the screen: A man has lost his wife and after being sent to space, thinks she is being returned to him in the form of a real person, not just in dreams. He is forced to choose between parting ways *again* with his wife or staying in space on the ship but possibly going mad as the situation is not as simple as it may seem: this 'new' creature might have really been sent out there to destroy him. It's a movie about death, identity, guilt, longing for a lost one. I think it's quite remarkable and I'm glad Steven Soderberg & James Cameron had the courage to take a chance by making a movie that goes so much against the usual Hollywood mold.
    So what it's slow? The cinematography combined with the music create truly eerie moments. It is nice to be able this kind of stuff at the Cineplex and not just at the small art theater once in a while!
    So there it is folks: if you like Blade Runner, Gattaca, music like Brian Eno's or simply want to take a chance, go see this movie! I think you'll like it.
    • I'll second this appraisal. I watched Solaris and watched several people walk out. I stayed because I was enjoying the story and the exploration of age-old themes (the same ones in every single book, tv show, movie, etc. I've ever experienced) in a compelling way, set in a future that managed to suspend by disbelief by being somewhat 'ordinary' and 'mundane', performed by actors who knew their place as the pawns of a wonderful director reenacting a sci-fi classic.

  • by twistedcubic ( 577194 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @07:43PM (#4789824)
    When there is background music, it lacks the classical majesty of 2001 and is actually a bit annoying.

    Classical majesty? Wow, we think differently. Because of this movie, 2001, I can't stand to listen to that Blue Danube waltz anymore. Playing the same thing, over and over again, and then playing a different section of the same piece, over and over again. I felt like I couldn't breath when watching it.

    Anyway, Solaris was a bad movie. The story was really, really, cool, but the movie was not good. Not at all. The sequences where we stared at Natasha McElhone were too long and too frequent-- it seemed they were more space fillers (in a short movie?) than an attempt at displaying George Clooney's memories of her. The guy playing the spaced-out California surfer dude was funny, but that was the high point of the movie for me. I haven't read the book, but I KNOW it gives a really interesting story that the movie Solaris doesn't know how to explain. You can say the movie was good if you're afraid that some "intellectual" can better explain its virtues, but the truth is, it sucked. Don't be afraid to say it. It sucked.
  • That review sucked. (Score:2, Informative)

    by freq ( 15128 )

    A more enlightening review can be found here [].

    The filthy critic hasn't let me down yet... see review for DAD []

  • I had not heard "Die Another Day" called DAD before. I was confused at first.

    Round these parts we have a wacky furniture store [] with entertainment gimmicks, such as the Motion Odyssey Movie (MOM) [] and an IMAX theater [].

    So potentially you could see DAD on MOM.
  • This review won't change Sci-Fi fans minds, most of us will see anything sci-fi related (unless it starts rap stars or dicaprio).

    Just look at us, we watched Star Trek Voyager for years even though it was terrible.
  • Nuts! It was a great movie!

    There was a lot in the book that couldn't be put into the movie without making it rival LOTR in length. So they decided to focus in on just one aspect of it: Rhea. So what? Try to imagine every theme, idea and philosophical rumination of the book translated into cinema. It would have been horribly dense, dry and exhausting, rivaling all three parts of LOTR in length. But by focusing in on just one part, and a major part at that, they managed to create a workable film. I wished they would have removed the back story, but overall it was a great film.

    And at least they put some pacing (and an ending) in it. The book had a beginning then an extended discussion on philosophy punctuated only by changes in the topics being discussed. Reading Solaris is almost like reading a graduate dissertation on the themes of Solaris...
  • by CleverNickName ( 129189 ) <wil AT wilwheaton DOT net> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:06PM (#4789941) Homepage Journal
    I must respectfully disagree with Michael on this one.

    James Bond films have always reflected the times in which they were made, for better (1960's) or worse (1970s-80s).

    Right now, an invisible car is just what you'd expect from a Bond picture, IMHO.

    If we needed a reason to dislike DAD, look no further than the TERRIBLE visual effects.
  • My review (short) (Score:5, Informative)

    by whizzmo ( 239423 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:18PM (#4789995)
    Good things:
    • Nice CGI for the "planet" Solaris (was it a star?).
    • Decent attempt at a '2001'-style space station.
    • One or two good plot twists (no spoilers here)
    • No unbearable 10 minute sections of people giving head to their mics. (2001, anyone?)
    • Decent symbolism [] (WARNING: SPOILERS!)
    • Too many 2001 references to count.

    Bad Things:
    • Nudity=George Clooney's butt?? Natascha McElhone would have been a *much* better choice, IMHO, but I'm XY, so... :)
    • Cerebral movie with only 1 or 2 good 'thoughts'.
    • Too many 2001 references to count.

    Overall: 5/10 Watch it when you are in the mood for a SLOW thinker flick.
  • Really simple: my opinion is always the exact opposite of theirs. Once again my point is proven.
  • What? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 )
    A couple of the reviews I read didn't quite grasp what was going on, especially the end. I found it quite clear and straightforward: the movie gives you plenty of clues so there shouldn't be any doubt left in your mind when the credits roll. Admittedly I approached the film with substantial knowledge about the book, but... it should have been clear to anyone.

    Are you calling those revewers idiots, or what? Obviously they wern't able to tell what what was going on. Unless they were robots, it couldn't possibly 'be clear to anyone'. Moron.
  • by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:36PM (#4790090) Journal
    I liked it a lot. I think it's totally worth watching, for fans of complex movies from all genres. It has a number of shortcomings, and you might not decide that it's a great movie, but it's worth seeing just to watch where they fail.

    There are a number of aspects that are absolutely fantastic. The exposition is very very well done. Stanislaw Lem fans, Soderberg fans, and hell, even Clooney fans will be happy with the exposition, even though it's the slowest part of the movie. That's my biggest confusion w/ this review - the slow parts were the best parts of the movie. I almost wished they just skipped the plot. Clooney 'n' the scientists' acting were so excellent that I wish they just played with character all movie long.

    The whole movie deviates from the novel in big ways. In the beginning, Lem fans will accept those changes, because they were good decisions. The end, unfortunately, is full of bad decisions.

    The end of the movie was very disappointing for me. I'm not the kind of person that feels a movie needs some Usual Suspects style reversal in order to be interesting or witty. If it's well orchestrated, and the movie is lightweight in the first place, then it can be nice. Here, it felt cheap. I wanted a hard answer. They didn't deliver. Still, scenes like Clooney sitting in the library leaving a message to coordinate a meeting... that made it all worth while.
  • It's a dupe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sri Lumpa ( 147664 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:41PM (#4790108) Homepage
    I can understand to have a duplicate here and there, or to have a story posted a few days after it was first posted, nobody is perfect, but posting a dupe with only two stories in between the original [] and the dupe, what are the editors thinking???

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @08:54PM (#4790157) Homepage Journal
    I watched this movie, I read the book a few times, I saw the Russian version a couple of times as well. My sig. says it all.

    I think this movie was misrepresented by the ads, it was presented as a space science fiction thriller. Sci-fi fans expected to see another Star Wars or another Alien movie, the women were bought off by G.C.'s naked rear-end. I was there hoping to see a different point of view that should have been different in a Hollywood way, in a way that commercializes any idea and delivers it for the masses to consume in large volumes, however I was surprised how poorly they did what they were supposed to do - make this movie into something that would awaken interest of the above mentioned consumers. They took a mindless road of rephrasing what the Russian movie has delivered. This was not the road this Hollywood movie should have taken. The Russian movie was doomed to success, this new movie is simply doomed. The new movie took a simple approach - they adopted the Russian movie (not the book, now I know that for sure) and took out all the parts that actually had to do with science at all.

    There was no good explanation on nature of Solaris, there was no attempt on the part of the crew to try and communicate with the ocean by sending Kelvin's encephalograms to it through X-Rays. The movie could have been better if only it had at least some of that. At least Kelvin should have taken his wife's blood and compared it to his own blood under an electronic microscope to see that her blood cells did not consist of atoms. In the new movie Kelvin's wife did not even attempt to brake the door when Kelvin left, she did not rock the rocket before she was launched into the orbit, and Kelvin's face was not burned by the launching rocket.

    Oh, sure, there were some Hollywood tricks of the trade in place - like poor attempts to confuse the viewers who were trying to understand who is a clone and who is real, but it did not help much. Snaut (in the book he was an old man with gray hair who killed his clone) was too obvious and looked ridiculous in his attempts to misrepresent reality of the situation (watch the movie, I am not going to spoil it for you.)]

    The Russian movie ended with some closure, this new adoptation ended with a usual Hollywood trick that did not help making this movie any more attractive to the general public. It is true, many of the people in the theater left before the end of the movie and most of the rest were confused and left out of the plot, many of them did not understand what was going on! That is not the way to treat a great book like Solaris! I am not saying that the producer should have gone completely by the book but this is Hollywood, and he should have made it more watchable to the lowest common denominator, the people who do not have patience and lack imagination (thank you Hollywood and the Fox channel) to complete the untold story.

    Now I hope that there will be another release of Solaris by Wachowski brothers, that should show a different point of view :)

    I still say - go and watch it, but also read the book and watch the original. If nothing else, this should give you a perspective on different approaches and styles that exist, maybe you can come up with your own representation of the story, test your own imagination.
  • The Sequel (Score:3, Funny)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday December 01, 2002 @09:06PM (#4790200) Homepage Journal
    The next movie in SOLARIS sequel will be: CmdrTaco installing Sun Solaris to run /.
    The first 2 hours of the movie we'll see Rob looking at the installation progress bar and second 2 hours we'll experience the thrill of the configuration manager.
    • The plot will thicken by the end of the movie when the OS will gain consciousness and will refuse to run /. forums basing its decision by unwillingness to support the propagation of goatsex propaganda and Beowulf cluster domination
  • by Edward W. ( 219230 ) on Monday December 02, 2002 @12:05AM (#4790866)
    To call Solaris disappointing would be an understatement. The truth is, the movie is awful. Lem's novel had a science fiction emphasis that revolved around a living "sentient ocean" on the planet Solaris. The focus was on how man would react to a nonanthropomorphic being whose nature and behavior man was unable to comprehend. A romantic (slightly) subplot served the main plot by illustrating a facet of the ocean's behavior-the planet's own reaction to humans that it, in turn, was unable to comprehend.

    Tarkovsky's 1972 film version of Solaris downplayed (but kept) the science fiction, put more emphasis on the love story, and created a second subplot involving estrangement of the hero (Kris Kelvin) from his father. The new subplot required a prologue (considerable material not in the novel) that was the foundation for a plot twist at the end. Lem was appalled by the liberties Tarkovsky had taken with the novel. Lem said Tarkovsky "didn't make Solaris at all, he made Crime and Punishment." The crime is Kelvin's failure to recognize and thwart his wife's suicidal impulses; the punishment is agonizing pangs of conscience. Lem was also turned off by the film's visually clever but substantively corrupt ending, which he called "just totally awful." This ending, besides reintroducing Kelvin's father, transforms an uncomprehending ocean into one that is comprehending, sympathetic, and supposedly helpful.

    Soderberg's 2001 film virtually eliminates the science fiction, keeping only the sci-fi setting. What we get is a dreary, dialogue-laden love story with a silly, sappy ending. In effect if not literally, this ending transforms Solaris into a metaphorical ghost story, complete with a metaphorical heaven.

    A more detailed comparison of Lem's novel, Tarkovsky's 1972 film, and Soderberg's 2002 remake will make my points clearer. Spoiler's follow, so if you haven't seen the films you might want to cut out now.


    The centerpiece of Lem's novel is the planet's living, sentient ocean. This ocean not only has (a) sensory powers, it has (b) an incredibly high level of mathematical intelligence (it can control its own orbit within a binary star system that should create orbital instability, and it can perform the calculations necessary for this control), (c) the power to manipulate matter into physical forms, (d) the power to read (but not truly comprehend) human minds, (d) the aforementioned the power to alter its orbit in ways that defy natural gravitational and centrifugal forces (a power analogous to mobility), and (e) apparently consciousness.

    Earth sends scientists to Solaris to study the planet; they live in a space station that orbits the planet. While they sleep the ocean reads their minds, or at least the dark areas thereof. From what it finds (apparently without comprehending), the ocean creates for each scientist a "visitor" - a living replica of a person from the scientist's past who is a source of shame or sorrow. In Kelvin's case, the visitor is his dead wife, whose suicide was facilitated by Kelvin's behavior. In the case of Gibarian case (a second scientist whose visitor drove him to suicide), the visitor is an obese, bare-breasted Negress who lies with his frozen corpse and seems to imply a sexual fetish, hence a source of profound embarrassment. The idea behind these visitors probably comes from the 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, which featured "monsters from the id."

    The surviving scientists eventually find a way to get rid of the visitors. (The scientists build a "neutrino disruptor" that destabilizes the material structure of the visitors.) But by then the visitors have served their two purposes - illustrating the nature and power of the ocean and giving the plot what little life it has. The scientists then decide to return to earth. But Kelvin takes a "flitter" craft on a last-minute exploratory flight over the planet. What he finds changes his mind about leaving: he decides to stay despite the absence of any real hope of ever comprehending the ocean.

    Lem's novel has a lot in common with Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. Both novels are long on description of scientific finds and short on plot. In Clarke's novel, the long descriptive passages deal technology, the technology behind a coasting space ship that enters the solar system and loops around the sun before restarting its engines and heading back to where it came from. In Lem's novel the descriptive passages deal with Solaris' ocean and with theories of what that ocean is. The ocean is the analog of the spaceship Rama's technology. After a while, the descriptive passages in both novels become boring. Both need more plot.


    Tarkovsky obviously recognized the plot limitations of Lem's novel and set out to spice things up a bit. He did this by shoving the science fiction into the background and focusing on the relationship (described partly in flashbacks) between Kelvin and his dead but reconstituted wife. In doing so, Tarkovsky introduces a whole lot more pathos than you find in the novel. In Lem's words, "what we get in the film is only how this abominable Kelvin has driven poor Harey [his wife] to suicide and then he has pangs of conscience which are amplified by her appearance."

    These pangs of conscience are not at all entertaining, and neither are they science fiction. They are simply an abortive (in my case, at least) attempt to play on our heartstrings with a lot of emotional drivel. Tarkovsky probably realized that he could get only so far plotwise with the husband-and-wife subplot, so he created that second subplot.

    The new subplot begins in the prologue, back on earth. Kris has a falling out with his elderly father. The conflict so poorly handled by Tarkovsky that I didn't realize anything serious had occurred until I read in a review that Kris and his father had become estranged. All we see in the prologue is that Kris is skeptical about a certain detail of an account by Berton, an astronaut, of Berton's experiences on Solaris. Berton is an old friend of Kris's father, so when Berton is offended the father is also offended. But this conflict didn't strike me as anything more than a run-of-the-mill disagreement. The prologue also hints that the father is terminally ill. The father says to Kelvin, "Are you jealous that he [Berton], not you, will bury me?"

    Skip to the ending: SPOILER COMING UP. We see Kris preparing to leave Solaris and return to earth with the other two surviving scientists. Then we see Kris, apparently back on earth, outside his father's rural cottage. It is raining. Kris looks in through the window and sees water from a leaky roof - a roof that was not leaky during rain in the prologue - dripping into the room. (What sort of symbolism is this? Is the cottage weeping?) The father comes out. Kris falls on his knees and grasps his father. He has been given the chance to make amends with his father, a chance that he was denied with his wife. The camera then pulls slowly away from the scene, climbing higher and higher into the sky. And at last we see that the cabin, the farm, and the father are on an island on Solaris. They are creations of the sentient ocean.

    Any sentimental satisfaction or esthetic appreciation evoked by this final scene disappears when you reflect on it. The father is no more real than Kris's reconstituted wife was. Kris is a prisoner, incarcerated on an island. He will be devoid of human contact, apart from contact with his artificial father, for the rest of his life. No travel, no trips to town, no friends, no entertainment, no books, no scientific work. Tarkovsky may think this ending is uplifting, but I found it depressing. And still a poor substitute for genuine plot.


    Like Tarkovsky, Soderberg seems to have recognized that turning Lem's novel into a film would require more plot than Lem provided. And he wants to be original. Well, not really original, but different from Tarkovsky. MORE SPOILERS COMING UP. So Soderberg almost totally abandons the science fiction and turns the story into a three-way cross between a soap opera, a Hollywood tear-jerker, and a ghost story embellished with an analogical heaven.

    The ending again finds Kris remaining on Solaris. But this isn't the real Kris. We never learn what happened to the real Kris. What we do learn is that this Kris is another of the ocean's replicants, a visitor with nobody to visit. Soderberg prepares us for this revelation by introducing a second plot twist. Just before the end we learn that Snow, one of the other two living scientists on the space station, is really a replicant. He killed the real Snow before Kris arrived. We thus know that the ocean creates replicants not only of shame-inducing persons from the scientists' pasts (those monsters from the id) but replicants of the scientists themselves.

    We next see Kris with his wife. The two replicants are going to live happily ever after on Solaris in a physical replica of their apartment back on earth. Kris and his wife, as mere simulacrums, are the equivalent of ghosts. The star-crossed lovers are being given a second chance - as ghosts. They have been reunited in a metaphorical heaven. They will enjoy a happily-ever-after life beyond the grave.

    I'm sorry, Mr. Soderberg, but ghost stories and images of heaven are no substitute for science fiction. A romantic subplot is not objectionable. What is unreasonable is the attempt to palm off as science fiction an idiotic love story that is totally out of touch with Lem's novel. And beyond this fault is the gaping hole in the plot: what became of the real Kris? If he went back to earth and is still alive, then that second chance is an illusion. The real Kris is not experiencing it. Indeed, the real Kris is not experiencing the second chance no matter what became of him. And if the real Kris was murdered by the murderous replicant of Snow, that's even less of a happy ending. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Soderberg; you have to think things through.

You will lose an important tape file.