Solaris (2002) – Steven Soderbergh


My journey with the very enjoyable, and informative, Sci-Fi Chronicles book continue with this tale of exploration into the soul, heart and depth of emotions…

George Clooney heads into deep space under the guidance of director by Steven Soderbergh and producer James Cameron as they take on Stanislaw Lem’s classic science fiction novel that was previously made into an epic and amazing rumination on loss and emotion by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972.

Running a full hour shorter than the original Russian version, the film follows psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) as he arrives on an isolated research station orbiting a strange, and possibly empathetic, world. He’s been summoned there because it’s believed he is the best hope to resolve and understand what is happening there, as the crew may have gone insane.

It seems the planet they are orbiting, Solaris, influences their minds, and recreates those they’ve lost, studying them as they study it. Upon his arrival, it’s not long before Kelvin begins seeing Rheya (Natasha McElhone), someone he loved, and lost.

Within these science fiction trappings, the film explores love, loss, memory, and humanity.

Gorgeously and realistically designed, and filled with an interesting score by Cliff Martinez, this isn’t space opera, this is small human drama set against the frontier of space, as we see a reflection of ourselves cast up by the planet, and how our perceptions, relationships, physical, emotional and spiritual, and the losses and influences of them affect us.


Chris tries to distance himself from the events and influences of what is going on so that he can understand it, but the almost overpowering need to be reunited and connected with a lost one keeps the crew on edge, and has pushed a few of them to both murder and suicide.

Jeremy Davies and Viola Davis co-star as members of the crew, with Davies turning in a manic and almost unnerving performance as he and the others are pushed to emotional precipices by their Visitors.

A sad, quiet, thoughtful film, filled with understated performances, especially Clooney, that resonated with me. I will openly admit, it won’t appeal to everyone, and also makes me think about tracking down the original book, as neither movie, as good as both of them are, remain completely true to the source material.

There’s a lot going on in this one, and like all good science fiction, it uses the backdrop of space, and a lot of the usual tropes, to hold a reflection of ourselves up for examination.

It’s a somber, smart film that should bring up lots of discussion with those who view it, hate it or not, as themes and ideas are discussed.

Science fiction isn’t always about space battles and evil villains, as fun as those films are, sometimes they can be more as well.



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