Volume 91, Issue 77
Tuesday, February 17, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
On the Sphere of classic underwater brilliance
"SO DO YOU THINK THAT YURMAN GUY IS TRYING A BIT TOO HARD TO IMPRESS HIS POLITICAL THEORY PROF, OR WHAT?" The cast of Sphere, in theatres now, is seen discussing the merits of the Leviathon and its social ramifications on the 20th century.
By Dan Yurman
When a film is adapted from a novel, the common complaint people have is that the script veers away from the original text, making the story inferior and not at all comparable to the bestseller. Sphere, the new film inspired by the Michael Crichton novel of the same name and directed by screen legend Barry Levinson, has not only stuck to the original text, but is organized like a book. This gives the viewer the best of both worlds the visually spectacular experience of the movies and the nail-biting suspense of a great read.
Sphere stars Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson as three scientists in a group of nine who are sent to the bottom of the ocean to investigate what looks to be an alien spacecraft. During the expedition, however, things go drastically wrong and the crew learns both the true nature of the sunken vessel and themselves.
Not much of this film is worth mentioning. The acting is nothing special, nor is the actual direction, cinematography or sound. However, the few aspects of the film worth recognition are the ones that turn an abomination into a masterpiece.
The special effects are breathtaking. The underwater landscapes and computer-generated sea life are as real as any. The vessels are crafted to perfection, making the entire film seem plausible, rather than just another piece of cheap science fiction.
The organization of the movie is also original. Each section of the film is marked with a name, much like the way chapters are marked in books. It makes the story readily comprehensible and easy to follow all the way through to its conclusion.
Without a doubt, though, the best part about Sphere is the story and more importantly, the impetus behind the story. Crichton has created a modern science fiction narrative which, in many ways, parallels a much earlier and infinitely more influential text Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Throughout the film, references are made to this 17th century work both visually and through dialogue, like giant sea monsters and characters who symbolize the different sorts of human beings Hobbes refers to in his book. However, the references are so subtle it is almost impossible for an audience to make the connection between Sphere and Leviathan until the super conclusion of the film. After it's over and all the pieces of the puzzle are together, it is not hard to see the science fictional and visual representation of Leviathan. Not only is this imaginative, it's ingenious.
Even though none of the traditional cinematic qualities stand out as noteworthy in Sphere, the story most definitely makes up for it and leaves the viewer with a sense of enlightenment and gratification.
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