Sphere Review

by Walter Frith (wfrith AT netinc DOT ca)
February 17th, 1998


A movie review by Walter Frith


It looks more and more like Hollywood is running out of ideas. Remember a little space horror film entitled 'Event Horizon' from 1997? 'Sphere' has almost the exact same plot and manifestation of visual output except that 'Event Horizon' is a lot scarier and I actually recommended that one for the kind of film that it was because it was the first film in a long time that made me jump in my seat at the movies as it was genuinely scary with religiously sublime overtones. I can't recommend 'Sphere'.

I get so angry at Hollywood marketing through coming attractions on posters, trailers, newspaper, t.v. and radio ads when they say 'Sphere' is from "Michael Crichton, the author of 'Jurassic Park' and 'The Lost World'" and immediately people begin saying, "Wow, if it's from that guy, it must be great". To no one's surprise, in many cases advertising is an insult to the intelligence and we've all fallen for it at one time or another.

'Sphere' is from director Barry (in most cases--'yawn') Levinson who has concocted a flat and lifeless motion picture disguised as science fiction but looking more like a low budget episode of any paranormal television series with a cast of actors far beyond the realm of this mess.

Dustin Hoffman (a psychologist), Sharon Stone (a biologist) and Samuel L. Jackson (a mathematician) along with two others are sent on a mission to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to investigate an alleged alien spacecraft that landed more than 300 years ago. As they investigate further, there is a strange transmission coming from somewhere on the ship that allows the crew to communicate with an unseen force and later they discover a gigantic golden sphere which reflects everything in the room except the people looking at it. Members of the team get drawn into it and they later draw conclusions that it has the power to inhibit mind control at will and visually enhance a person's sub-conscious thoughts. At one point Jackson is reading the book '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' and says to Hoffman that he can never get past page 87 because it's "too scary". Later, Hoffman finds the cupboards of the ship filled with multiple copies of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' all with blank pages after page 87.
The film is just downright boring and never gets off the ground with any substance or point of interest worthy of a plot twist and the film feels like a nightmare you have trouble describing to people the next morning because it was so weird, people look at you funny. There's also no reason for it to be well over two hours with a running time of 132 minutes. I looked at my watch about every fifteen minutes after the first half hour and I was drawn into a tedious and restless odyssey of blandness.

There isn't much more to write because there isn't that much more to say about a film that looks so similar in many of its scenes. The only thing memorable about 'Sphere' is telling people that for quite a while, Dustin Hoffman appeared in a movie about every five years and now that he's been in three in the last 6 months ('Mad City', 'Wag the Dog', 'Sphere') perhaps it was a good idea for him to remain absent until a good project came along, one that he could really believe in. There certainly isn't a good film contained in this block of celluloid.

OUT OF 5 > *

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