Being a huge fan of the Stanislaw Lem book and the Andrei Tarkovsky film, I was very anxious to see what the combined efforts of Writer/Director Steven Soderbergh and Producer James Cameron would bring to SOLARIS. The film is decent but unfortunately not as great as I ultimately hoped.
More faithful to the story and themes of Lem’s book, the film is gorgeous to look at and hypnotic at times but I was left a little cold by this treatment of the tragic love story. It’s not that George Clooney’s Kris Kelvin and Natascha McElhone’s Rheya aren’t well realized, it’s that their relationship never quite works for me as it did so well in the Tarkovsky version.
At almost an hour shorter, I felt the story could have shown us some more of their happy moments, so the corrosion of their love later in their relationship would be that much more devastating.
And like Kris and Rheya’s relationship, the movie itself is very cold and impersonal. I don’t mind that it takes it time to unfold (lord knows Tarkovsky’s certainly did), but unlike the original version, these stretched out moments seem tediously long as opposed to just plain measured.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot to like about this version. First off, it’s gorgeous to look at. The production design is quite impressive and the cinematography is striking. Another vast improvement is the realization of the living planet Solaris. As you would expect from anything with James Cameron attached, the visual aspects are going to be incredible and they don’t disappoint.
What stands out the most though is Cliff Martinez’s haunting score. It creates a wonderful sonic tapestry that draws you in and helps maintains the eerie and mesmerizing mood of loss and grief.
Even though the film is not as great as the Tarkovsky version, it is still worth viewing, especially for those who won’t sit through subtitled films. At its core, SOLARIS is a beautiful story, well realized by the filmmakers. Unfortunately, like the "Visitors" on the Solaris station, it is a lesser construct.