STARRING: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone Harry, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber

1998, 132 Minutes, Directed by: Barry Levinson

sphere.jpg (10936 bytes)An unknown object is discovered at the bottom of the ocean where it has been buried for the past 300 years or so.

A special team consisting of scientists is sent to investigate since all indications are that it might be of extraterrestrial origin. The team’s composition is determined by a government policy document written during the Bush (that is, Sr.) administration on how any contact with aliens should be handled.

The author of the document (played by Dustin Hoffman) is on the team as well and later admits that the report is bogus. After all, he needed the money and how does one write a report on a topic like that? So he cribbed some ideas from science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Rod Serling.

This more or less describes the plot behind Sphere (based on the novel by Michael Crichton who also wrote Jurassic Park, its sequel, The Lost World and Congo).

Sphere starts off intriguing though: it turns out that the object lying at the bottom of the ocean is actually an American spaceship from the year 2043. What is it doing there? How did it get there? Unfortunately the answers supplied by Sphere to these questions are mundane if you go to the movies a lot. Hint? Sphere starts off as The Abyss, then turns into Event Horizon and finally turns out to be Forbidden Planet and Solaris . . .

If you haven’t seen any of these movies, then Sphere might offer you something new. But even then the action is slow and the movie talky. It could have done with an adrenaline injection á la The Abyss. Also, the movie’s ending is philosophically bleak when you think about it. It shows Crichton’s low opinion of humanity and, while it might be fashionable nowadays to hold such opinions, it is a rather bleak outlook that doesn’t really bring us anywhere . . .




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