There are three kinds of science fiction movies:
1. Smart sci-fi
2. Dumb sci-fi
3. Middling sci-fi that thinks it's a lot smarter than it is.
"Sphere" is in the third category -- a movie that shoots high, but ultimately has the same philosophical message as a "Star Trek" episode. Its slow pace and unlikable characters might have been tolerable if it had a brilliant plot, but instead we get a slew of unanswered questions and massive plot holes -- one of which finishes off the movie.
The US Navy has found a mysterious spacecraft buried under several yards of coral, meaning that it's been there for three hundred years. So based on a half-joking old paper by psychologist Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman), the government assembles a team -- marine biologist Dr. Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone), who is also Goodman's bitter ex-girlfriend; wunderkind mathematician Dr. Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson), and astrophysicist Dr. Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber).
Their mission, should they choose to accept it: make contact with whatever alien life forms are living (or dead) inside the spacecraft. Instead, the team discovers that the ship is actually a US spaceship that accidentally traveled through time. And it's carrying a massive, floating golden sphere.
Then an alien intelligence -- referred to as "Jerry" -- begins to communicate with them through the computer. And as a typhoon on the surface keeps them from leaving the underwater station, the crew is attacked by creatures that could not exist in this world. All their worst fears are coming true.
I have the feeling that "Sphere" wants to be an underwater sibling to "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Solaris," i.e. a slow-moving, intelligent sci-fi movie. But it's also kind of schizophrenic -- it's too frenetic and chaotic to be much like those movies, and at the same time it's too slow and tedious to ever become a convincing sci-fi-disaster-under-the-sea story like "The Abyss."
Yes. Despite all the fires, flooding and attacks by sea creatures, it is pretty tedious. It also has plenty of stupid moments (an astrophysicist is lecturing a MATHEMATICIAN about basic geometric forms?) and gaping plot holes. In fact, the movie ends with the mother of all head-slapping, illogical plot twists.
"Sphere" also has a very noticeable lack of special effects. Yes, the sphere is very pretty. But there's a scene where the underwater station is attacked by a giant squid... and we never see the squid. It never registers as a REAL threat because it has no presence in the movie except as a pixellated computer image. Did they spend all the money on the floaty sphere and the fake sea-snakes?
As for the acting, it's a mixed bag -- especially since the characters' backstories feel thin and underdeveloped. Dustin Hoffman gives the blandest non-performance you will ever see from him, the kind of acting that screams, "I do not want to be here." Stone is actually fairly solid, and Jackson swings randomly between "sinister" and "normal" as the plot demands.
Actually, the only character who really feels like an actual person is Schreiber as a nervous astrophysicist -- he has tics, insecurities, and he feels that he's never going to really make a mark in his field. Honestly, I would have rather had HIM as the lead instead of Hoffman.
"Sphere" aspires to be more than it is -- a decent sci-fi premise dragged down by a pithy moral and a sludgy-slow pace. It's not horrible, but it's badly, badly flawed.
- Actors: Samuel L Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone
- Directors: Barry Levinson
- Language: English
- Subtitles: Old English
- Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: AID
- DVD Release Date: 11 Nov 2015
- Run Time: 134 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- ASIN: B00MRZ2ITC
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
17,367 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #12432 in Movies (Movies & TV)