Solaris (2002) starring George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis directed by Steven Soderbergh Movie Review

Solaris (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

George Clooney in Solaris (2002)

A New Wife Form

Something strange has happened aboard a commercial space station and psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is requested by the company to go despite being unable to give him much information on what happened. When he gets there Kelvin sees blood splattered everywhere before meeting its two remaining residents Snow (Jeremy Davies) and Viola (Viola Davis) who seem cagey over what is going on. But things get very strange when he drops off to sleep and he has an incredibly vivid dream about his late wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone), how they met, their intimate moments and much more. But that is not the strangest thing as when he wakes up Rheya is next to him having been formed out of his dreams.

Back in 2002 a previous girlfriend of mine was massively in to George Clooney, I wasn't, so when "Solaris" came out she went to watch it with some girl friends whilst I went to the bar. Amusingly my ex and her friends all left early moaning about how boring "Solaris" was, how pedestrian it was and how artsy it was in places. Anyway I didn't bother with "Solaris" for a long time after that and when I finally bothered to watch it I can see what my ex was on about.

Natascha McElhone in Solaris (2002)

Now I haven't watched either the 1968 or 1972 movies which are based on Stanislaw Lem's novel so I have no idea how Steven Soderbergh's version compares but I do know that for me the pacing is too ponderous. It is a shame because the concept is good where we have this space station where it seems people can return from the dead, it immediately makes you wonder what is going on whilst alerting you to the far reaching possibilities of how the story might play out. Unfortunately in my head the way I wanted it to play out was a bit more exciting and a lot quicker but then Soderbergh has tried to focus on the psychological aspects, the repercussions of the situation and the complexity of human emotion when presented with a loved once who died.

The thing is that because "Solaris" is slow and ponderous it means we have a different sort of performance from its star George Clooney. In various flashback scenes of Kelvin and Rheya dating we have the typical charmer but then in the scenes on the space station it is a much more pensive characterisation and one which doesn't grab you like you expect. Unfortunately none of the characters manage to grab you which makes "Solaris" a bit of a chore.

What this all boils down to is that "Solaris" as a movie has a great idea, a really interesting concept which handled right could make for a truly exhilarating but also thought provoking movie. Unfortunately this movie is not exhilarating and its slow pacing and ponderous scenes frequently makes it hard work.