Sphere (1998)

(On TV, May 2001) I hated Michael Crichton’s novel Sphere so much that I threw my copy against the wall after finishing it. Unfortunately, my television is too expensive to repeat the experience after seeing the adaptation. Not only does this mess of a film repeat the worst features of the novel, but it adds several brand-new terrible things that will grate on your nerves as the film evolves. Granted, the setup is intriguing; an underwater relic is discovered, which proves to be an American space ship from the future. Ooh, aah. A terrific cast of characters is assembled, here played by actors who should have read the script before they signed on. Then the trouble begins; they find sort of an alien which might or might not try to kill them all (but you know it’ll do just that) Then the script moves in Star Trek: The Motion Picture territory, with amazing leaps of logic that not only come from nowhere, but also make no sense at all in retrospect. Samuel L. Jackson’s “explanation” on how they’ll all die is a perfect example of this, made even worse by an utter lack of self-doubt. In Michael Crichton’s universe, gifted people just get it right the first time around, with no critical auto-examination. The film gets worse and worse after that, once the true plot dynamics get going. As with anything involving omnipotence and dream logic, the plot starts to unravel rapidly, eventually devolving in an ending that essentially means “it was all a dream”. Oy. The only worthwhile thing here is Dustin Hoffman, oddly solid all throughout despite some seriously brain-damaged lines. Avoid, people, avoid.

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