I have a sneaking suspicion that Solaris is really a very well disguised part of Apple Computer's most recent advertising campaign. In this movie, we have psychologist George Clooney walking around fairly numb in a grey overcast world, that could easily represent your average Microsoft Windows experience. Why is his life so dreary? It's because his wife is dead, having killed herself, which in itself may not be that unusual an occurrance in the land of PCs.
Like most science fiction stories, Solaris takes us on a journey to a new, magical kind of world, full of wonder and amazement. Clooney is recruited to be shot into space and travel to a research vessel stationed nearby an unexplained phenomena known as "Solaris". The station feels like walking around the inside of an iMac, filled with illuminated white surfaces, and looking out you can see this phenomena, which resembles a swirling fabric of color, a combination of the Mac desktop and those accent colors you can get your iMac in, like Berry and Lime and so on. Altogether, the sheer environment of the station of a much more optimistic one than dreary old Earth.
What has brought Clooney here is the fact that the mission has been troubled. There have been no communications in a very long time, and indications of strange things happening before that. What Clooney finds is that the Solaris phenomenon acts like a giant Ouija board, but instead of communicating with the dead, it creates them full-formed out of your dreams. Obviously, this is not a selling point that Apple is free to advertise directly to customers, but placing the message so cleverly disguised here, people will subconsciously desire their iMac product.
Clooney meets his dead wife in new cosmic flesh. He takes several reactions to this, from horror to intellectual, to pretty much falling in love again. Apparently, owning an iMac is a fairly emotional experience - a traditional way that Apple has used to distance itself from the cold, sterile PC world.
Science Fiction is also sometimes called Speculative Fiction, and that's what the movie is centering on - what if we could be reunited with people who are no longer with us? In this area, the film excels, giving us different looks on what would happen, and leaving the audience a certain amount of room leftover to debate the wherebys and therefores.
On the other hand, it's still called Science Fiction. There's little exploration of scientific ideas, and any understanding of this giant Ouija board in the sky isn't even attempted. Perhaps that's a good thing, because it sounds very hard to do. Again, Apple is telling us something: we don't have to understand how something works inside in order for it to have an impact on us.
Where Apple's advertising campaign really stumbles is in the pacing. People watching this film will get the idea that things take a long time to happen on the iMac. It's slow! If writing a letter on an iMac takes as long as it does for something to actually happen in this film, you might as well write it out longhand. There's a lot of emotional texture in these stretches, but it's too easy to start resenting all that's touchy-feely when you start feeling like nothing gets done.
I'm not too sure about why Apple is giving us all these shots of Clooney's butt and how that's supposed to sell computers. I guess they're going after the female demographic there. Something here harkens back to the time Apple wanted us all to pronounce the acronym SCSI as "sexy".
Director Steven Soderbergh has done a fairly good job with the material, but it's the material that's questionable. Do dead people really sell computers? Will people relate to an emotionally raw science fiction story? That's the real question. Those who are interested will enjoy this one (and their new iMac), but others may want to check up on what's in Sun's latest version of Solaris.
Full profile for Solaris
Offsite info: Internet Movie Database
Review: iMac?? 5/10 mastadonfarm
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