Dull, lifeless and disengaging, Solaris is a misfire from director Steven Soderbergh and star George Clooney. A promising premise that could create serious moral conflict over love and morality is squandered as lifeless acting and detached directing, despite its short run time I felt that this film would never end. The main story takes place on a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, an unknown anomaly is occurring aboard. George Clooney plays a clinical psychologist who is asked to board the station to treat the astronauts aboard. It is then revealed that the anomaly are that the astronauts gain manifestations of loved ones from the planet when Clooney finds himself with his dead wife on the station.
While the Solaris storyline goes on, flashbacks take place giving back story to Clooney and his wife’s relationship. How they fell in love and how the relationship soured between them and eventually ended in tragedy. Clooney and Natascha McElhone who plays the wife don’t convey a believable relationship, they convincingly portray the bitterness but I never got invested in their affection for each other and didn’t believe it. Clooney is a fine actor but his struggle with having this manifestation now exist on the space station isn’t compelling at all. The other two actors on board are Viola Davis and Jeremy Davis, again two fine actors but they don’t add any gravitas to the proceedings. Both of them are there to provide exposition for the “science” of whats happening or to pose obstacle to Clooney. There are attempts to try to make all these characters interesting at points but it is a lost endeavor because of the lifelessness of the film.
Soderbergh is clearly trying to emulate cerebral science fiction with this film and fails, the psychological elements and existential questions it asks don’t create any debate for the audience. You can see elements of science fiction borrowed from filmmakers Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott but Solaris doesn’t add anything memorable to the genre and is soon forgotten after viewing. It wants to tell a story of a man wanting a second chance but the film has no rhythm to it, every scene is almost comatose even the ones that are supposed to be exciting. Soderbergh might be trying to give a sense to the loneliness that space brings to astronauts, the isolation and fear that comes with the unexplained powers of Solaris but it doesn’t work.
Would I recommend Solaris? No. There is far better science fiction that deals with this type of material that is more worth your time. You’ll be bored and wanting it to end as soon as it begins because at no point does the film make serious attempts to engage its audience in its story.