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 jellyfish. 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…

“Sphere” was a Box office bomb in 1998 when it came out, it grossed only $37 million at the North American box office, far below its $80 million production budget. And the critical consensus was that “Sphere features an A-level cast working with B-grade material, with a story seen previously in superior science-fiction films.” In one way that criticism really hits the nail on the head, but at the same time we get this pseudo-philosophical extra terrestrial story that still asks questions that lingers in limbo and stays there after the movie is over. Is it confusing? Is it intriguing? Can our fears become real via our thoughts? Yes, yes and who knows. Dustin Hoffman didn´t feel the movie was ready to be released when it was. There were many more issues that needed to be addressed but they didn’t have the time to cover them all. They had to deliver what they had for the release date, which he felt was an incomplete film. This is something I can agree with, pieces just seem to be missing and Levinson doesn´t tie it together. All involved (Stone, Hoffman, Schreiber, Jackson and Coyote) does their best to keep up the tension, but they need a material that works full on as well. That is not the case here. In the end we know less than we did in the beginning so it seems, not that everything needs to be explained, but this is just to lose in the plot. And in terms of environment and main story, we had already seen some similar movies like “The Abyss” (1989), “Leviathan” (1989) and “DeepStar Six” (1989) with various result. “Sphere” ends up in the middle somewhere. However, I do need to mention how extremely attractive Sharon Stone is in this one. She looks absolutely stunning in her short hair. What a beaut she is. (3 out of 5)

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