Sphere Reviewby Nick Amado (namado AT concentric DOT net)
February 20th, 1998
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schrieber, Petere Coyote Approx Running Time: 135 min.
Based on the novel by Michael Chricton
Sphere, "Busy" Barry Levinson's latest project, dances between so many
genre's it's hard to keep up. But in the end, it is only the cast that
makes this a watchable, occasionally interesting film.
Hoffman, Stone, Jackson and Schreiber play a group of scientists, and professionals who are chosen to explore an undersea, unexplained extra-terrestrial phenomenon. An other-worldly ship apparently lodged
itself at the bottom of the Pacific ocean nearly three hundred years
ago.The group soon discovers that they aren't the first people to
explore the it, and they begin to wonder if it may be a man made
vessel. We are a bit curious too, as a matter of fact, but that
curiosity goes away when other things cloud the picture and lead us to
other unexplained events.
Though some of the screenwriting (by current Oscar nominee Paul
Attanasio) is witty and amusing (and some hackneyed and clichèd),
Sphere can't help but drown itself (you should excuse the pun) in psychological, flat thrills. None of the bizzare events that unfold
are logical, and they don't have the punch of those you might find in
an episode of the Twilight Zone. Sadly, Sphere misses with it's
This film could have been saved with a satisfying finale, but alas, it
will end up in the "Bad Ending Hall of Shame". Chrichton seemed unable
to find a suitable ending, so he came up with this one on a really bad
What's surprising about Sphere is that it was directed by the
marvelous Barry Levinson, who brought us Good Morning Vietnam, Wag the
Dog, Sleepers and Rain Man. Here, he is totally out of his
element. The fact that he is trapped under water in a strange ship
really confines him -- he is a director who needs physical space to
explore. With Sphere, he is resigned to deal with special effects and
good actors to keep it afloat. (I'm sorry, I can't help it.)
Sphere is enjoyable in a few respects. Jackson is not in top form, but
Hoffman and Stone are. There are some amusing scenes, and nothing is
funnier than a group of talented actors in a small room, high on
helium. It's main fault, though, lies in its ill-conceived story and never-explained developments.I couldn't help but ask, "but why....?"
Two out of Four stars
Copyright (C) 1998 Nick Amado
Questions, comments? More water jokes? Email me at [email protected]
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