Sphere (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barry Levinson
Produced by Barry Levinson
Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer (adaptation)
Stephen Hauser
Paul Attanasio
Based on Sphere by Michael Crichton
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Sharon Stone
Samuel L. Jackson
Liev Schreiber
Peter Coyote
Queen Latifah
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Stu Linder
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates February 13, 1998
Running time 129 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million
Box office $37,020,277[1]

Sphere is a 1998 science fiction psychological thriller film, directed and produced by Barry Levinson and starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson. Sphere was based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and The Lost World. The film was released in the United States on February 13, 1998.


In the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean, a thousand feet below the surface, what is believed to be an alien spacecraft is discovered after a ship laying transoceanic cable has its cable cut and the United States Navy investigates the cause. The thickness of coral growth on the spaceship suggests that it has been there for almost 300 years. A team made up of marine biologist Dr. Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone), mathematician Dr. Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson), astrophysicist Dr. Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber), psychologist Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman), and U.S. Navy Capt. Harold Barnes (Peter Coyote) are tasked with investigating the spaceship. The team (along with two navy technicians, Fletcher and Edmunds) are housed in a state-of-the-art underwater living environment called the Habitat during their stay on the ocean floor. Upon entering the spaceship, the team makes several discoveries. The first is that the ship is not alien, and that it is in fact an American spaceship. They assume, due to the years of coral growth and advanced technology, that the craft is from the future. The last date in the ship's log, 06/21/43, does not indicate the specific century. The last entry in the log details an "Unknown (Entry) Event", which depicts the ship apparently falling into a black hole, resulting in its trip through time. The ship's mission apparently involved gathering objects from around the galaxy to bring back to Earth. An item of particular interest is a large, perfect sphere in the cargo hold. It is suspended a few feet above the ground and has an impenetrable fluid surface which reflects its surroundings but not, for some undetermined reason, people.

Harry concludes from the classification of the event which sent the ship back that the Habitat crew is fated to die: it would not have been an "unknown event" if they had lived to report about it, he reasons. Harry soon sneaks back to the spaceship, and finds a way to enter the Sphere. Soon after, a series of numeric-encoded messages begins to show up on the habitat's computer screens, and Harry and Ted are able to decipher the messages and converse with what appears to be an alien (which calls itself "Jerry"), which has been trapped in the Sphere. They soon discover that "Jerry" can hear everything they are saying aboard the Habitat. Harry's entry into the Sphere prevents the team from evacuating before the arrival of a powerful typhoon on the surface, forcing them to stay below for almost a week. A series of tragedies then befalls the crew: Fletcher is killed by aggressive sea nettles. Later, Edmunds' corpse is found drifting near the station, her body completely pulverized by what turns out to be a giant squid, which returns to attack the station. In the chaos that ensues, Barnes is cut in half by a computer-operated door, and Ted is burned to death. Sea snakes attack Norman, though he is not injured. Jerry is suspected to be the cause of these incidents.

Eventually, only Harry, Norman, and Beth remain. At this point, they realize that they have all entered the world of the perfect Sphere. The Sphere has given them the power to manifest their thoughts into reality. As such, all of the disasters that had been plaguing them are the result of manifestations of the worst parts of their own minds. The name "Jerry" turns out to have been erroneously decoded and is actually "Harry"; it is Harry's subconscious communicating with them through their computer system whenever he is asleep. At that point, Beth's suicidal thoughts trigger a countdown to detonate the explosives that were brought along to clear away the coral. They abandon the Habitat for the mini-sub, but their fears manifest an illusion of the spacecraft around them. Norman finally sees through the illusion, and punches the mini-sub's emergency surfacing button. The explosives destroy the habitat and the spaceship, but (unknown to them) the Sphere itself remains undamaged. As the explosives detonate and create a huge blast wave below it, the mini-sub rises to the surface, to be quickly retrieved by the returning surface ships, permitting the survivors to begin safe decompression once on board a navy ship.

The film ends with the three deciding to use the power to remove it from themselves as well as erasing their memories before being debriefed, in order to prevent the knowledge about the Sphere from falling into the wrong hands. Therefore, Harry's paradox, in which they are alive yet no one has learned about the "unknown event", is resolved. As they erase their memories, the Sphere emerges from the ocean and flies off into space.



Prior to production beginning, Warner cut the budget of the film by $20 million requiring a production delay as the film was rewritten by Kurt Wimmer (the original screenplay was written by Stephen Hauser and Paul Attanasio)to accommodate the reduced scope of the film. The delay in shooting meant that the role of Harry had to be recast after Andre Braugher became unavailable. During the downtime, director Barry Levinson shot the film "Wag The Dog". Location shooting included shooting at Mare Island in Vallejo, California a closed Naval Shipyard. These scenes included some of the underwater sequences which were shot in the empty warehouses at Mare Island in tanks constructed for the shoot. [2]


Sphere received mostly negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 12% based on 50 reviews, with the critical consensus that "Sphere features an A-level cast working with B-grade material, with a story seen previously in superior science-fiction films."[3]

The film was a Box office bomb, that it grossed only $37 million at the North American box office, far below its $80 million production budget.[citation needed]


Soundtrack album by Elliot Goldenthal
Released February 25, 1998
Genre Classical, avant-garde, modernist
Length 35:36
Label Varèse Sarabande,
Cat. VSD-5913
Producer Elliot Goldenthal
Elliot Goldenthal chronology
The Butcher Boy
In Dreams
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
Filmtracks 2/5 stars link

The score for Sphere was composed by Elliot Goldenthal.

Track listing
  1. "Pandora's Fanfare" – 1:17
  2. "Main Titles" – 2:49
  3. "Event Entry 6-21-43" – 0:53
  4. "The Gift" – 1:42
  5. "Sphere Discovery" – 2:08
  6. "Visit to a Wreckage" – 1:58
  7. "Water Snake" – 2:36
  8. "Terror Adagio" – 3:24
  9. "Wave" – 3:18
  10. "Fear Retrieval" – 3:48
  11. "Andante" – 2:20
  12. "Manifest Fire" – 3:48
  13. "Manifest3" – 3:47
  14. "Their Beast Within" – 1:44[4]
Crew credits
  • Music composed and produced by Elliot Goldenthal
  • Orchestrated by Robert Elhai and Elliot Goldenthal
  • Conducted by Stephen Mercurio and Jonathan Sheffer
  • Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki
  • Electronic music produced by Richard Martinez
  • Film music editor: Curtis Roush
  • Additional orchestrations by Deniz Hughes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sphere (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120184/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2
  3. ^ "Sphere (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  4. ^ Track listing for the film soundtrack

External links[edit]