Sphere (12)

Directed by Barry Levinson
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L Jackson

Disappointing sci-fi tale from the novel by Michael Crichton about the discovery of a strange ship on the ocean floor that may be an alien craft. A team of scientists go to check it out and strange things start to happen.
The big problem with this film is that it is extremely similar to the superior Event Horizon, released last year. That film concentrated on shocks and horror, this one goes for science and mystical mumbo jumbo. Another similarity to Event Horizon is that while both start promisingly, they ended with more of a whimper than a bang. Sphere wimps out very rapidly!
The scientists go to one of the few wildernesses left on earth- so far down below the sea that they are in effect isolated. The strange craft they encounter and explore IS intriguing, but once they discover where and when it came from, the film begins its sink to the depths too. Inside the craft is a huge golden sphere, that has strange powers to make thoughts reality, and odd incidents and nasty deaths follow. Communications are established with it, but these do not bring much joy. Soon the scientists realize they must try and escape as reality and fantasys created by their imaginations become blurred.
This all sounds like a bad episode of Star Trek, and indeed it is. The plot is the biggest weakness. Too many things happen and the events become confused. The initial idea of the space ship being an Earth ship that travelled back in time is an intriguing one, but then we are onto the sphere and thought created wierd things. After a while you just lose track. I must confess that it didn't help my understanding that I fell asleep in the middle, but to be honest I was already bored. The stars merelt distracted. Hoffman, Stone and Jackson could have been anyone for the charisma they show, although admittedly thier roles were not very well developed. The ending was REALLY dumb by the way. A flabby and dreary film that didn't grip me and failed to create much tension or excitement. Good ideas, poorly developed. Rent Event Horizon from the video shop instead. 4/10

April 1998

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