Movie Review Solaris Starring: George

Movie Review


Starring: George Clooney, Natasha McElherone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis and Ulrich Tukur
Directed by: Steven Sodenbergh

“And death shall have no dominion.”–Dylan Thomas, as quoted in Solaris.

Solaris would seem to be an unlikely choice for a big-budget, large studio motion picture. Stanislaw Lem is perhaps one of the best well known NON English speaking SF writers, but, still, not precisely common fodder for movies. Solaris WAS already filmed before, in a 1972 adaptation by the Russian director Tarkovsky. That version, which I have not seen, is four hours long and considered controversial and brilliant. I could see an American version of Solaris, but if you told me a couple of years ago, I would have guessed it more fodder for the independent route, with mid-level actors and actresses like Armin Mueller-Stahl and Ileana Douglas.

What we get, though is George Clooney. This is the third time he has been paired with director Sodenbergh, having worked with him on OUT OF SIGHT, and OCEAN’S ELEVEN. So if any director can make Clooney work as Chris Kelvin, Sodenbergh is the guy. Clooney’s counterpart, Rheya, is played by Natasha McElherone, whom I enjoyed watching in The Truman Show and Ronin. It’s a good combination, a movie couple on screen which works.

The basic plot of the movie is difficult to discern from the commercials and advertisements, which seem to focus so strongly on the love story aspects of the movie that its other aspects are downplayed to the point of obfuscation. The movie opens with watching the life of a man who is clearly in the pain of the loss of his wife. We watch Kelvin go about his role as a psychatrist who seems to need to heal himself, as well as others. Its not immediately obvious that this is the future, the advances in technology are understated. Then, a message from a friend on a spacecraft orbiting a mysterious planet soon propels our protagonist on a 2001-esque sequence that lands him on the Prometheus. It is not a space station, but apparently a spacecraft which is in orbit around a ocean-dominated planet which looks to be crackling with energies of unknown proveance. Once aboard, Kelvin quickly determines that things are wrong…there are bodies of the crew, and blood on the ceiling. The station’s crew, in fact, has been reduced to a seemingly stoned technician and another shut in her room. Both hint at strange doings and are extremely vague about what is going on, only that Kelvin himself will soon learn first-hand.

And first-hand he does. The weary psychologist wakes up to find his dead wife next to him, as confused as he is about the experience. It becomes clear, however, that she is not his wife, but something else, something created by the planet for reasons unknown. She has the memories that Kelvin has of his wife…indeed, she is a composite of what Kelvin remembers of her. But she is something more. The construct may be a recollection of Kelvin’s memories of his wife, but she has ideas, goals and impetus of her own. But why did the planet create her? Is this the second chance that Kelvin has always wished he had? Or is she some sort of siren, indeed are all the eidolon like creatures intent on the destruction of the crew?

Solaris asks a lot of questions and does not hesitate to let the audience argue about them on the way out of the theater rather than answering them all itself. The movie is only 100 minutes long, but its pacing, its cinematography, its unravelling are slow and patient. These are not flaws, atlhough judging from many of the reviews on the internet, you would think that anything which was not hyperkinetic was dull as dishwater. Its not a perfect movie by any means. Clooney does as well as he could, although I can think of other actors which might have been more suited to the role. McElhrone does as well as she can with what she is given, much of the time, she simply has to smile into the camera, her luminous face apparently the rock to which Kelvin is ready to lash himself to once again, and do it right this time.

I admit, though, that this is one of those movies which would play better on a DVD at home than in the theater. It doesn’t need the big screen of a theater in the way, say, 2001 shines. Its amazingly intimate and focused for a wide-scale hollywood release, and I have to give the director and producers extra credit for hewing to this vision as much as they do. In an age where cerebral films are as common as unicorn horns, Solaris may not succeed on all levels, but its aspirations alone rise it above many of the pack.

Rating: Four popcorn kernels out of five.

Did some more changes to

Did some more changes to the template. I’m starting to make it mine.
In other news, I finished Little, Big. I stand by what I said before…I wish I had a skeleton key to the book. I enjoyed it, in the end, and the ending was wistful and bittersweet. Maybe I will re-read the book in 5 or 10 years, and gain perspective by a re-reading of the work…sort of like Silverlock.

Well, as you can see,

Well, as you can see, I did radically change the template for BJS…and it seems to have worked. I don’t get that error anymore, and the archives are working again. I realize that there might be old posts which are not going to degrade well to the new template, if this becomes a problem, do let me know.
And I do intend to tweak this new skeleton until it becomes my own.

In addition to the problem

In addition to the problem of template saving, Blogger is NOT archiving my posts. I think its two heads of the same hydra of a problem. It might be Blogger…or it might be my template. The best way to test it would be to change templates completely…I’ll want to save this one at home before contemplating it.

Arref gives his own view

Arref gives his own view of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As I suspected, I think my feelings about the movie are going to be in a somewhat minority opinion. I guess I really do nickel and dime things to death. After all, I was somewhat deflated by Spiderman, which “only” managed to gross the highest amount ever in a weekend for a movie.

Game Wish Well, thanks to

Game Wish

Well, thanks to Arref, my idea for a Game Wish got picked up by Ginger. It’s not precisely the point I made about Pets, its sufficiently broadened so that I should and will give a response.

What have pets and companions belonging to PCs and NPCs in campaigns you’ve GMed or played in added? What have their bad points been? How do they compare to sentient magic items in terms of their effect on play (good or bad)?

I talked about pets and companions already, so now I’ll talk about sentient magic items. Perhaps the classic sentient companion that one encounters in Amber is the bugbear of danger sense items. Nothing can kill the suspense of a tense encounter than having to constantly take a danger sense item into account. Often a GM, at least speaking from personal experience, will have to think in advance of how danger sense items will handle a particular encounter.

On the other hand, to play Devil’s Advocate, I as the GM am willing to use sentient magic items for my own purposes, for plotlines. For example, Larissa in Strange Bedfellows has a sword named Nightthread which she is not quite sure of, and I have intimated that there is more to her mysterious weapon than meets the eye. Priya’s magic item, Ykanga, has proven in the PCs short span thus far in the game to be interesting and I got ideas on how to handle it from the weird A.A, Attanasio “Irth” novels. One can’t and shouldn’t change what is already known and set (by points and otherwise) by the player, but if a character is going to invest, say 10 points in a sentient artifact, it should be a source of personal storylines.

As for myself, I generally don’t go for sentience in my own magic items. I’ve leaned more toward companions to fill that role. On the other hand, in a case of the GM playing with my own character’s history and item, Marcus, in his incarnation in Rob’s Shadow War, found himself at one point inside the Jewel of Judgement. (Looong story). Basically, though, while inside the Jewel, Myriad, his hitherto quiet multi-formed weapon, began showing signs of intelligence and communication. I think Rob stole the idea from Frakir and Merlin in Undershadow, but it was well done, and Marcus was rather surprised, to say the least!

The Seventh Seal No,

The Seventh Seal

No, not the movie. My friend Felicia Olson told me that she picked up a new RPG of the same name. From what it looks to me, it looks like
it is a human-oriented apocalyptic version of In Nomine with maybe some Hunter (which I have not seen) thrown in. As she told me about it, I
looked online, and found a review of it on rpg.netand also the website of the company.

I’m at a stage where I need a new RPG book to digest and enjoy. It’s a craving not quite as intense as my unquenchable one for books, but my craving for RPG books exists all the same. The last one I bought (Exalted) was back in May, which very nearly may be a record for me. Lots and lots of choices, too, that might get my gaming dollar from GURPS Mars to Space 1889 (back in print!) to even the new WOD line, Demon. Although I did like Exalted enough to consider getting another of that line, like Dragon-Blooded, or the Lunars Book. Other possible choices even include exotica like the Dying Earth RPG and Sorcerer.

Why not Nobilis, you might ask, since I’ve talked about it and practically drooled over the concept? Well, a birdie told me that a friend of mine has decided to be overly generous and send me a copy. Unfortunately, amazon is not being very cooperative or quick with the shipping. It was intended as a birthday present…that I might not get until Christmas at this rate!

Giant Hyenas versus stone-age

Giant Hyenas versus stone-age Man

Okay, so its science day. But this was too good not to share, too. The story suggests that the domestication of dogs was a key to Man being able to colonize the northeast of Asia, and subsequently, the Americas. I always thought the Cenozoic was under-appreciated compared to the Mesozoic (Age of the Dinosaurs). I like the Hall of Extinct Mammals in the AMNH as much as the Dinosaur Halls.