Volare umm umm ... Solaris ho hum
And Death Shall Have No Dominion.
Well, if you ever wondered what that ominous phrase meant and you thought it meant even when you lose a loved one, they can jump the barrier from death back into your world, and maybe even grab your ass, then Solaris may be the movie for you.
Something very strange is going down on the space station orbiting Solaris and when psychiatrist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) gets a call from his friend to get up there and save the day, it's pretty eerie. Especially the comment that no one can understand what's going on better than George. Later we find out the unhappy back story of our shrink turned hero.
That he is the perfect man for the job in fact, may have something to do with George Clooney's good-looking ass, which seemed to be the lynch pin of the marketing campaign for this movie. Apparently, if you have a good ass, you can unravel the riddles of outer space.
Despite his cute ass (and it's only cuter because it's a vintage over-40-year-old ass -- hurray, a movie with grown-ups having sex -- I didn't know they were allowed to do that! -- I thought sex was something only for 17-year-olds), we realize George is in way deeper than he expected -- hell, he's up to his ass in intergalactic alligators, so to speak.
What he finds on the Solaris space station is a bunch of dead crew members and two very wigged out survivors who are being visited by their dearly departed -- in their own minds -- but have life-like replicas of healthy-looking, but truly dead friends, hanging out with them like annoying party guests you can't make go home. Unnerving to say the least. You could say this movie is about a problem in inner space, not outer space. Our hero, Dr. Kelvin, does his boy scout's best to help save the day. He IS the hero. That's what a hero is supposed to do in a story, right?
He can't figure out why the two remaining crew members are so flipped out until his dead wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone), a true mega-babe, visits him in his silvery mylar space station bed late one night. Our hero semi-freaks but quickly pulls himself together and puts her in a pod and launches her into space. (Peter peter pumpkin eater/ had a wife and couldn't keep her ...) We're glad to see he's got his wits about him.
Just when you thought it was safe, this mega-babe, actually another replica of the dead one and the podded one, is back. And this is where the movie falls apart for me. Replica-babe Numero Uno didn't take him down, but Number Two does. And to lose your hero so early on in a movie really derailed the plot for me. George! George! Pull up your pants. Cover your ass! Get with the program! Maybe they didn't need another hero in Thunderdome, but this movie needs one.
All honest men will swear to you that the hottest babes are those they can't have, so what could be a bigger turn-on than a babe who's really in the "can't have" department -- I mean the departed department.
George: Are we alive or dead?
Wife: We don't have to talk like that anymore.
Talk about flirting ... watch out George, sex with a person who might be dead or alive sounds like very UNSAFE sex. So now his dear departed babe wife, who ends up having been a lot more than a little crazy on Earth and actually committed suicide, drags him though a hellish inner space odyssey, reliving their not-so-happy conjugal life together.
The movie veered off course for me here and made me long for a little extraterrestrial marriage counselling. I prayed Dr. Phil might appear and take George for a short walk on a long silver space ramp and clue him in, "this dead suicidal wife thing, how's it working for you, man?"
Finally, the only person on board who knows her ass from nine dollars, the level-headed African American Doctor Gordon (Viola Davis) who is annoying referred to in the movie as "Gordon" which can get a little confusing when all these male replica deadheads are wandering around the space station, zaps George's "ex" with a zombie zapper and destroys her, thereby saving the day.
But there's the problem. All the women have taken over. What happened to our hero George? You just don't want the hero changing horses or bodies or sexes midstream in any story. The rest of the movie unravels from there, when you can't even tell if George (that is, the REAL George) gets back to Earth and resumes a "normal" life. It
looks as if that's happened, but it's not clear.
That people like Stephen Soderbergh want to make movies about death is reasonable in our time, especially with baby boomers facing their parents' and their own deaths and it is certainly a worthy theme. But it's like handling dynamite -- you better be a trained professional if you're going to mess with such a big subject. Shelacking it with a coating of silver outer space paint, just doesn't do it for me. This movie actually could have been called "Paramus" and taken place on earth or at the mall. Imagine shopping and having your dead wife telling you which store to go into and then she beams up to Macy's men's store even before you arrive. It didn't seem to matter than the movie took place in outer space as it tried to ponder the big questions -- where DO we go when we die, what IS it like, can we still have sex there? And truth be told, Dr. Chris Kelvin, yes, George Cluney, comes off as a bit of an ass, being led around by his dead wife.