Solaris (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steven Soderbergh|
|Produced by||James Cameron
|Screenplay by||Steven Soderbergh|
by Stanisław Lem
|Music by||Cliff Martinez|
|Editing by||Mary Ann Bernard|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||99 minutes|
Solaris is a 2002 science fiction-psychological drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. It is based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Polish writer Stanisław Lem. Reflecting on Andrei Tarkovsky's critically acclaimed 1972 film of the same name (which was itself preceded by a 1968 Soviet TV film), Soderbergh promised to be closer in spirit to Lem's novel.
Soderbergh's version is a meditative psychodrama set almost entirely on a space station orbiting Solaris, adding flashbacks to the previous experiences of its main characters on Earth. Chris struggles with the questions of Solaris' motivation, his beliefs and memories, and reconciling what was lost with an opportunity for a second chance.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Chris Kelvin is approached by emissaries for DBA, a corporation operating a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, who relay a message sent from his scientist friend Dr. Gibarian. Gibarian requests Chris come to the station to help understand an unusual phenomenon, but is unwilling to explain more. DBA is unsure how to proceed, as the mission to study Solaris has been sidetracked and none of the astronauts want to return home. In addition, DBA has lost contact with the security patrol recently dispatched to the station. Chris agrees to a solo mission to go to Solaris as a last attempt to bring the crew home safely.
Upon arriving at the space station, Chris learns that Gibarian has committed suicide and most of the crew have either died or disappeared under bizarre circumstances. Both surviving crew members, Snow and Dr. Gordon, are reluctant to explain the situation at hand. Once alone in his quarters, Chris dreams about his dead wife Rheya — reliving when they first met and some of their most romantic and intimate moments. He awakens shocked and terrified to encounter Rheya, apparently alive again beside him in bed, and he leads her into an escape pod and jettisons it into space. Chris confides his actions to Snow and comes to understand that replicas of the crew's loved ones have been mysteriously appearing. When Rheya manifests a second time Chris lets her stay, but she admits she doesn't feel human; her memories feel artificial, in that she lacks the emotional attachment that comes with actually having lived them.
Chris, Rheya, Snow and Gordon meet to discuss the situation and Gordon informs Rheya what Chris did to her previous replica. Rheya leaves the meeting horrified and Chris confronts Gordon, who in turn chastises him for getting emotionally involved with something that isn't real and may pose a threat to human beings. Later, during a dream, Chris questions a replica of Gibarian as to what Solaris' motives are for providing the manifestations, but is told "there are no answers, only choices." Chris wakes to find Rheya dead, having committed suicide by drinking liquid oxygen and, in front of Gordon and Snow, Chris wills her back to a restored state. Gordon reveals that she has an apparatus which can permanently destroy a replica but Chris objects to using it on Rheya. He begins ingesting a chemical stimulant to stay awake in order to monitor Rheya. Chris eventually falls asleep and Rheya approaches Gordon who destroys her with the apparatus as she has done for all replicas who have requested her to do so. Chris confronts Gordon who maintains she merely facilitated in assisted suicide and in her xenophobia she only wants the preservation of the humans.
Chris and Gordon then discover the body of Snow stashed away in a ceiling vent and realize that the Snow they have been interacting with is a replica. Snow admits to being a replica and explains that upon being dreamed into existence, he was attacked by his creator and thus killed the 'original Snow' in self-defense. The Snow replica tells them that repeat usage of the apparatus has drained the ship's fuel cell reactor, making a return trip to Earth impossible. Furthermore, Solaris has reacted to the behavior of the humans by increasing its mass, thereby gravitationally pulling the space station toward the planet. Gordon and Chris begin prepping a smaller space vehicle called Athena to escape.
Chris is shown pondering his experiences from the space station back on Earth, discontentedly concluding that the reason Rheya's replica wanted to die was because he "remembered her wrong"—as suicidal. One day he cuts his finger while chopping vegetables in his kitchen, but the wound immediately heals, just as Rheya's replica once did. Then Rheya appears, declaring that they transcend life and death and that all they've done to each other is forgiven. This suggests that Chris isn't really on Earth, or that what's on Earth isn't really Chris. Chris never actually leaves the space station with Gordon: he sends her off alone and stays behind to plummet into Solaris.
- George Clooney as Chris Kelvin
- Natascha McElhone as Rheya
- Viola Davis as Gordon
- Jeremy Davies as Snow
- Ulrich Tukur as Gibarian
- John Cho as DBA Emissary #1
For a while, James Cameron was looking to remake Solaris. His production company Lightstorm Entertainment spent close to five years securing the rights with both author Stanisław Lem and the Russian film studio Mosfilm, which owns the 1972 Russian film by Andrei Tarkovsky based on the novel. However, because of his many commitments in the 90s, Cameron was unable to take on directing duties.
In 2000, around the time Steven Soderbergh was working on Traffic, he pitched his ideas of a Solaris film adaptation to Cameron and Lightstorm producers Rae Sanchini and Jon Landau. Cameron was thrilled with what he heard and development began on the project. As Traffic was wrapping up, Soderbergh began drafting a script. Using both the 1972 film and the book as reference, the script allowed him to dig into various themes and subject he wasn't able to come to terms with in his earlier films. Soon after, Soderbergh and Lightstorm took the story to 20th Century Fox.
Soderbergh originally intended Daniel Day-Lewis to play the role of Chris Kelvin, but Day-Lewis was busy with Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York at the time. Since George Clooney was Soderbergh's producing partner, having formed Section Eight Productions together in 2000, Soderbergh was obligated to send Clooney a copy of the Solaris script. A month later, during the editing of Ocean’s Eleven, Soderbergh received a letter from Clooney stating that he was ready to step into the role.
Because both Soderbergh and Clooney had prior commitments at the time, the film did not enter production until close to mid-2002. Principal photography began May 5, 2002 in downtown Los Angeles. Following a week of filming exteriors, the crew moved to the Warner Bros. lot where it shot on stages 19 and 20 for the remainder of production. These were the same stages that held the sets for Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven.
A few weeks prior to the film's release, in early November 2002, the Motion Picture Association of America assigned the film with an R-rating primarily due to two scenes that depicted Clooney's naked backside. Creating further outburst among filmmakers against the MPAA and Directors Guild of America, Soderbergh vowed to have the film's rating appealed. 12 days prior to the film's release, an appeals board overturned the R-rating for a PG-13 rating.
Box office 
Released on November 29, 2002, the film grossed $14,973,382 at the North American box office and $15,029,376 in other territories, against an estimated $47 million budget. Because of the film's poor box office gross, blame was placed on the film's marketing that was a challenge from the beginning as Soderbergh expressed on the film's commentary track. Clooney stated that the film's "trailers and commercials [had] nothing to do with the film," depicting more of a science fiction love story (or thriller).
Critical reception 
The film has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. The Time Out Film Guide describes the film as superior to the Tarkovsky version. The film was a New York Times Critics' Pick, with Stephen Holden saying "the movie aspires to fuse the mystical intellectual gamesmanship of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the love-beyond-the-grave romantic schmaltz of Titanic, without losing its cool...a tricky balancing act that doesn't quite come off." As Holden notes, "Solaris is a science-fiction film lacking action-adventure sequences. The absence of boyish friskiness, kineticism and pyrotechnics makes it a film that offers no vicarious physical release. Its insistence on remaining cerebral and somber to the end may be a sign of integrity, but it should cost it dearly at the box office."
Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ (out of four) stars and called it "the kind of smart film that has people arguing about it on their way out of the theater"; while it "needs science fiction to supply the planet and the space station, which furnish the premise and concentrate the action,... it is essentially a psychological drama." Ebert concludes "When I saw Tarkovsky's original film, I felt absorbed in it, as if it were a sponge. It was slow, mysterious, confusing, and I have never forgotten it. Soderbergh's version is more clean and spare, more easily readable, but it pays full attention to the ideas and doesn't compromise. Tarkovsky was a genius, but one who demanded great patience from his audience as he ponderously marched toward his goals. The Soderbergh version is like the same story freed from the weight of Tarkovsky's solemnity. And it evokes one of the rarest of movie emotions, ironic regret."
Soderbergh "said that he didn't intend Solaris to be a remake of Tarkovsky's film but rather a new version of Stanislaw Lem's novel". While admitting that he had not seen the film, Lem referred to Soderbergh's adaptation as a "remake of the Tarkovsky movie" and criticized what he had heard as departing far from his original intentions by focusing almost exclusively on the psychological relationship between the two main characters, while reducing the vast and alien ocean to a mere "mirror" of humanity:
|“||As Solaris' author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images. This is why the book was entitled Solaris and not Love in Outer Space.||”|
In 2010, Solaris made Time magazine's "Top 10 Hollywood Remakes" list, saying it was "expertly and exquisitely executed" and "manages to extract that all too rare achievement from a sci-fi film: emotion.
Home media 
Solaris was released on VHS and DVD on July 29, 2003. As of 2012, these have been the only home video releases of the film. There are currently no plans on releasing the film in the Blu-ray format, though the film can be found on demand and in the iTunes Store.
- "Solaris (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
- "Rather than tamper with director Andrei Tarkovsky's acclaimed 1972 adaptation of Solaris, Soderbergh promised his version would be closer in spirit to the source material." http://www.allmovie.com/artist/steven-soderbergh-p112040 "Soderbergh said that he didn't intend Solaris to be a remake of Tarkovsky's film but rather a new version of Stanislaw Lem's novel." Levy, Glen (October 1, 2010). "Solaris (2002) / Solyaris (1972)". Top 10 Hollywood Remakes. Time. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Solaris: Sci-fi with a Soderbergh Difference". Urban Cinefile. February 27, 2003. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Berge Garabedian (aka JoBlo) (November 25, 2002). "Interview: J. Cameron". JoBlo.com. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Chris Gore (November 20, 2001). "Steven Soderbergh Unleashed: Part 2". Film Threat. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Chris Gore (November 20, 2001). "Steven Soderbergh Unleashed: Part 3". Film Threat. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Barry Koltnow (December 1, 2002). "Solaris is about more than just George Clooney's naked butt". The Orange County Register. The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Marcus Errico (November 20, 2001). "Thrice Is Nice for Clooney, Soderbergh". E!. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- "Solaris: Production Notes". Contact Music. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Gabriel Snyder (January 2, 2007). "What's in a Name? Why filmmakers use pseudonyms.". Slate (magazine). Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Robert W. Welkos (November 5, 2002). "Solaris gets R rating; appeal vowed". Times Staff Writer. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Robert W. Welkos (November 15, 2002). "Soderbergh's Solaris gets PG-13 rating". Times Staff Writer. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Steven Soderbergh (director) and James Cameron (producer) (2003). Solaris (DVD (audio commentary track)). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc.
- "Solaris (2002)". Time Out Film Guide. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
- Holden, Stephen (November 27, 2002). "Their Love Will Go On In Outer Space". NYT Critics' Pick. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Ebert, Roger (November 22, 2002). "Solaris". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Solaris (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
- "Solaris (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Levy, Glen (October 1, 2010). "Solaris (2002) / Solyaris (1972)". Top 10 Hollywood Remakes. Time. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Lem, Stanisław (December 8, 2002). "The Solaris Station". Stanisław Lem's official website.
- Ivana Redwine. "Solaris (2002) DVD Review". About.com. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- "Solaris (2002) VHS". Tower Video. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- Solaris at the Internet Movie Database
- Solaris at AllRovi
- Solaris at Box Office Mojo
- Solaris at Rotten Tomatoes
- Solaris at Metacritic
- Comment on Soderbergh's version from Stanisław Lem's official website
- Graphic design for Solaris from graphic artist Rick Sternbach's website