Directed by Stephen Soderbergh. Starring George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis.
The Hollywood remake is not necessarily a good or a bad thing, it is more a simple fact of life. For every farcical and inappropriate rehash ('Get Carter'), there is a worthwhile, interesting movie ('Insomnia').
There is no doubting the qualities of 'Solaris'. Steven Soderbergh is a talented director and cinematographer, while Clooney and McElhone turn in respectable performances as a couple reunited after death by an alien lifeform.
The atmosphere of a remote space station invaded by the ghosts of personal pasts is well-evoked, and the supporting actors do their best with paper-thin characterisations. Despite the gentle pace and a reliance on claustrophobia and flashbacks, 'Solaris' is not boring. In fact, it is evocative, memorable, and occasionally powerful. So why is it so unsatisfying?
Solaris's key weakness is the unilluminating treatment of the story's intellectual problems. Are the resurrected loved ones real, false or so close it makes no difference? Is removing them from the station murder, or simply the dispersal of hallucinations? There is little attempt to answer or even tease out these questions. The main debate the characters conduct is a rehash of the "nuke 'em/sell 'em" discussion from 'Aliens'.
'Solaris' also lacks the satiric edge of contemporary science fiction. The scenes on Earth are snapshots of a frankly tedious love affair, which though exquisitely tasteful, have little depth. 'Solaris' is far from farcical, but this purportedly philosophical film fails to ask the most important question of all - "Why bother?"