Sphere Review

by p-m agapow (agapow AT latcs1 DOT cs DOT latrobe DOT edu DOT au)
May 9th, 1998

# [film] "Sphere"
A Postview, copyright p-m agapow 1998

A mysterious big alien thingie is found at the bottom of the ocean. The inevitable team of experts are taken down to it, left alone and get on each others nerves before dying one by one.

"Sphere" may not be the worst Michael Crichton novel ever written, but then I haven't read "Binary" or "Rising Sun". They'd have to try hard to beat the monosyllabic, shaggy-dog story-telling of "Sphere" the novel. So, while a film of "Sphere" shouldn't be good, it can't be worse than its source.

But it is, yessiree. Unfortunately, it's not bad enough to be an enjoyable Bad Movie, just bad enough to be tedious.

The setup is this: a mile-long (aerodynamically streamlined!) starship is found on the ocean floor with a large golden disco-ball within. Obviously this is a case for an elite alien contact team. Alas, they have to make do with one headed by the narcolepsy inducing Dustin Hoffman. Inevitably, a storm traps them in their seafloor base for the (also inevitable) monster attack.

That setup is hardly promising, but things get worse. A military sidekick to the team (Queen Latifah) gets smothered by a large swarm of jellyfish. As Sharon Stone (wittilly cast against type as a genius marine biologist / medico / biochemist / drug-addict) extracts tendrils from the dead Latifah's nostrils, Hoffman honks insincerely: "It must have been terrible. I can't imagine the pain." Even more ludicrously, we are asked to believe that the prelapsarian Hoffman and wonderbuff Stone were lovers. (Stone's faux-dyke cropped hair and bulging eyes makes her looks positively hydrocephalic.) Samuel L Jackson pops up as a brilliant mathematician with attitude who gets knocked out before he can do his badass shtick. Later, the whiny astrophysicist (who is not a big-name actor) gets capped because he is not a big-name actor, and his colleagues activate the station defence system which starts electrical fires every time it is used. Stone decides that the best way to get everyone's attention is to plant explosives everywhere. Slap in the fact they never explain what the sphere actually is or what it's doing on board the starship, the lazy performances, ho-hum direction, plot inanities ...

There is one good moment, where a plausible explanation for assembling such a disparate team is revealed. But this is one dull ember in a black hole of a movie. Barry Levison has done much better than this. [*/misfire] and extracting wisdom teeth on the Sid and Nancy scale.

Released 1998.
Directed by Barry Levinson.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber, Queen Latifah.

paul-michael agapow ([email protected]), La Trobe Uni, Infocalypse "There is no adventure, there is no romance, there is only trouble and desire."

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