Saturday, February 18, 2017

Michael Crichton Week: Sphere

So we have Day 4 of Michael Crichton Week as we move into a sci-fi psychological thriller directed and produced by Barry Levinson (Diner, Young Sherlock Holmes, Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Avalon, Bugsy, Toys, Jimmy Hollywood and Disclosure) and you would think a story of a 300 year old spacecraft found in the great depths of the ocean would be a kick ass sci-fi story. But lengthy shots of water, a Samuel Jackson turning pages and Academy Award winner composure Elliot Goldenthal (Pet Sematary, Grand Isle, Alien 3, Demolition Man, Interview with the Vampire, Cobb and Heat) bringing the tone buUuuUuUut...yea not gonna lie, this one hurt a bit. This is Sphere.

I farted. I'm owning up.  Sorry about that.

With a team of experts in their field, the crew of the Habitat (self contained underwater observation and living conditional bio-sphere) consisting of mathematician Dr. Harry Adams (Samuel L Jackson of Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, XXX, The Incredibles, Snakes on a Plane, Iron Man 2, The Avengers and The Boondocks), Marine biologist Dr. Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone of Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, Action Jackson, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, The Specialist, The Quick and the Dead, Casino, Cold Creek Manor and Catwoman), astrophysicist Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber of Scream 2, Jakob the Liar, The Hurricane, Hamlet, Scream 3, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Salt and Spotlight), psychologist Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman of The Graduate, Kramer vs Kramer, All the President's Men, Toostie, Rain Man, Sleepers, Mad City, Wag the Dog and The Cobbler) under the watchful eye of U.S. Navy Captain Barnes (Peter Coyote of Bitter Moon, Unforgettable, Top of the World, Seeds of Doubt, Patch Adams, Erin Brockovich, Femme Fatale and Purpose) as this contained unit is mere yards from the spacecraft.


Closer examination points out this ship is in fact not alien but American based technology. With further probing and diagnosis, the crew find the ship's logs showing the ship undertook an unknown event similar to or perhaps actually travelling through a black hole sending the space vessel into the corridors of time and space. (*cue Dr. Who theme circa 1986!) After making it back to the Habitat, the crew notice a large perfectly spherical ball of fluid hovering about the cargo bay. No way to scrutinize or canvass its abilities, the one thing that does stand out is all objects seem to cast a reflection but no human faces or forms do in it.

Dr. Adams is convinced that mathematically they are all fated to die and the logs will prove this because of this non-eventual ship in an eventual horizon has come to be and wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Adams goes over to the sphere and into the spacecraft then back to the Habitat with a mere whim it almost feels. He and Goodman are trying to interface with the logs when it is discovered that a series of encoded messages appear over all the computer screens causing a bit of panic in the crew as the desperately attempt to decipher them.

Time travel?  Next you be talkin' about Asgardian and gamma monsters.

A large typhoon over the surface of water forces the crew to stay longer than predicted, with equipment failures, and aggressive lifeforms in the water attacking the crew. Beth, Norman and Harry believe an A.I.on the spacecraft is responsible. They have been naming it Jerry and demand to know what is going on. As they calculate and postulate, they realize that every death or haphazard scenario is something the crew was afraid of.

Are these manifestations even real? Have the crew been about to tap into power allowing them to create matter from nothing? Does this sound like a Neil Degrasse Tyson drunken rambling??

Now I have a few complaints about the film itself. One, you really start to feel the two and half hours drag and your own conclusions to the film hit you pretty early. It almost feels like you are waiting for the actors to play catch up. Two, the conclusions made by the cast kind of feels like they are grasping at straws to the level that impossible was made possible by them sitting around and debating. 

Dustin Hoffman felt the issues of this movie were never properly addressed and the movie is incomplete at best. I have to agree. These are complex mathematical concepts and to just run into them so quickly felt to confined a result. We are dealing with five dimensional math and theoretical physics that are never addressed well enough for an outcome to be believable enough for a proper ending. With a budget of $80 million in 1997, they managed to only clear $81 worldwide and was considered a flop greater than Waterworld.

C'mon contract, gimme a loophole to get out of this flick.