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:: Sunday, December 29, 2002 ::


Over the holiday, I went to see the big-budget sci-fi epic of the weekend. I'd heard this film was in the news, but thankfully the edit I watched left the controversy behind.

Spoiler alert: as always, I spoil everything. On with the review of Solaris:

Kris Kelvin is a commie-psychologist working for the Solaristics project. Solaristics has a space station orbiting a planet inhabited by an intelligent ocean. For years, the scientists have been trying to investigate and communicate with the planet-brain, to no avail.

A few years ago, funny things began to occur on the space station. A few scientists went down to the surface of the ocean-planet and died. When Astro-pilot Burton tried to save the scientists, the ocean swallowed up his helicopter and showed him pictures of sixteen-foot babies (off-screen). Burton managed to escape, but couldn't save the scientists. At his court-martial, Burton produced his helicopter's flight-data recorder, but it didn't corroborate his story. Burton had to resign in disgrace, and Solaristics had to cut back its research on the planet-brain.

In the present day, Burton pays Kris a visit at his dacha on Earth. Solaristics wants Kris to visit the space station and find out what's up with the station's skeleton crew (three, down from eighty-five). When Kris agrees, Burton drives off into the sunset. [Note: it's a LONG drive: a full five minutes of traffic with no dialog. The sun really does set. It would appear that Burton's taxi driver takes him all the way to Tokyo (where the film was shot).]

Kris rockets off to the station, to find it deserted and dirty. The place hasn't seen a mop in years, and the corridors are lined with junk. The skeleton crew of Dr. Sartorius, Dr. Snaut and Dr. Gibarian is down to two. Kris' friend Dr. Gibarian ate a bullet, but not before leaving Kris a suicide note.

Here's the deal: while the scientists have been trying to communicate with the ocean, the ocean has been trying to communicate with the Solaris station. Naturally, both sides have trouble understanding each other. The scientists only speak radiation, while the planet-brain only speaks doppelganger. When Kris falls asleep on his spacebed, the planet-brain reads his mind and conjures up his dead wife Hari.

Dumbfounded by the apparition of his ex, Kris does what any divorcee would do: he shoves her into an escape pod and blasts her into space. Unfortunately for him, the planet-brain summons up another Hari -- and she will bust through doors to be at his side and nag him.

As a recent bachelor, Kris is at his wit's end. What to do, what to do? Dr. Snaut suggests Kris just live with it, while Dr. Sartorius cracks wise at the expense of bunnies.

Anyway, it's Dr. Snaut's birthday, and the four principle characters gather in the rec room. Dr. Sartorius accuses Kris of getting lovesick, while Dr. Snaut just wants to get drunk. I've been to parties like this, and they always end badly. In this case, Hari decides to off herself with a mug of liquid oxygen.

Because Hari is a figment of the planet-brain's imagination, she is indestructible. She recovers from the LOX, but not before giving Kris the flu. Stricken, he passes out. When he awakes, Dr. Snaut informs him that Dr. Sartorius used the station's radiation-annihilator-beam to sanitize the planet. With the planet-brain dead, Kris might as well return to Earth.

Kris shoves off for home and returns to Earth. Everything seems the same, except now it's raining inside his Dacha. Planet-brains are always getting little details like that wrong. It would appear that Kris isn't on Earth, but instead is trapped on an island on the surface of Solaris.

Will Kris ever get off the surface of Solaris? Will he survive the onslaught of subsequent iterations of his ex-wife Hari?

This film screams sequel.

Two ears up

Note: this film has been called The Soviet 2001. For the sake of truth-in-film-making, I'd have called it: Attack of the Ex-Wives. This isn't sci-fi, it's


:: Anna 8:06 PM [+] ::

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