Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SPHERE movie review


Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote.

Running time: 134 minutes

Year: 1998

Directed By: Barry Levinson

Written By: Stephen Hauser & Paul Attanasio

Sphere is another film adapted from author Michael Crichton. His previous novels that have turned into films are Jurassic Park, Disclosure and The Lost World. Sphere would sit somewhere in the middle of the films in terms of watching a good film. Granted Jurassic Park would be the best, but the other three would be depending on what mood I was in at the time.

Sphere has a decent premise, but also one that we have all seen before. It begins with a psychologist Norman Goodman (Hoffman) being flown out to sea for a so-called airplane crash. However when he gets there he is greeted by military sergeant Barnes (Coyote), who informs him that it isn't an airplane but a spaceship that has been buried in the coral of the sea for three hundred years. Norman has been brought on board after a report he wrote years ago regarding the possibility and what to do upon meeting an alien being. This report was taken seriously and the military are using it as their bible, so they felt it was necessary to bring the people Norman recommended in his report to be part of a first contact team. This team are biochemist Beth Halperin (Stone), mathematician Harry Adams (Jackson) and astrophysicist Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber), all people Norman has known from the past through being patients, students or lovers. Hint Stone was his lover he was not homosexual.

The crew are sent out to the depths of the ocean to investigate this space craft, but it turns out that Norman has no idea what he should be doing as in fact his report was a fake and he simply added the names of people he knew. It was a job he couldn't turn down as it was worth a lot of money. Upon telling a few of the team it becomes aware to him that he will have to wing his way through this expedition and get himself back up to the surface as fast as he can.

The team enter the spaceship and upon exploring they realise that it is an American spaceship and the only conclusion is that it was in space collecting alien artefacts and was sucked into a black hole, propelling them into the past. It is a ship from the future. Also on board is a giant, gold sphere; the artefact that the astronauts' brought back from space. As they begin to investigate the sphere they realise that it has a strange effect on them all and their worst fears begin to come to life. To make matters worse a storm has begun on the surface and it is unsafe for them to resurface so they are stuck, a thousand feet below the sea facing an alien sphere that can manifest their greatest fears.

The film probably sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. I was quite interested in it and the first half of the film really had me hooked and I was intrigued into what was going on. Unfortunately though the film suddenly descended into predictability and stupidity. The entire script wasn't great but the second half was as if someone new entirely had written it. I was suddenly frustrated at it as we had repetitive lines between the leads as they accused the others of going in the sphere. It was overlong and should have been nipped in the bud a lot earlier. Also the ending is such a copout it is frustrating. I was expecting a nice twist ending to wrap up the poor second half but it never happened, and what we got was a cheesy, poor CGI mess. After a strong start the film really did nose dive.

The acting is erratic. I can't really decide if it was good or not. At some points I thought yes and at others I was completely negative. Stone doesn't have the most interesting character or performance, considering she has an interesting back story that never really gets explored. Jackson starts poor, gets better, than has three, maybe four changes of character and then returns to poor and Hoffman seemed to want to do more but couldn't. All I could see was his character from Rain Man and I was surprised when he spoke normally. The acting front seemed very lethargic and it was as if they were trying to make sense of the plot in the second half as much as we were.

I did enjoy the first half of the film, but it completely lost me in the second half and I'm a little disappointed at the end product. By all accounts Hoffman himself believed that the film wasn't delivered at its full potential when it was released and criticised it for this. Dustin, I can see where you are coming from. It was an alright film that plummeted quickly, but if it had kept up with the suspense from the first half it could have been an even better watch. Oh and don't worry I was also frustrated by the chapter headings that came up every now and again. Something that was very unneeded.  

2.5 / 5


Next film to review: 300

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