"The patient's flatlining!! ...Quick-- get me 10cc's!!"...
No, that's not some of the dialogue from Solaris. It's more like the film's medical diagnosis. Solaris is a film in desperate search of a pulse. George Clooney stars as a psychologist who's sent to investigate some weird causes of death and even weirder forms of life, all of it happening on a space station circling a strange planet. The film is a study of what's real and what isn't, and how we each choose to define our own realities. Sounds deep, doesn't it?
The problem is that Solaris is a victim of its own storyline-- it looks and sounds the way humans are supposed to look and sound, only it comes off as a flat imitation. It's like a big, long philosophy text book with illustrations from Stanley Kubrick's cookbook. Solaris looks good, but it's a slow, ponderous grind through the intellectual muck, with no real character worth caring about.
We know Clooney's character has lost his wife, and, by the trailers, you probably know she appears to come back to life. But the film doesn't share enough to make you give a hoot about either of them. And without that emotional center, Solaris is a walking, talking zombie. It doesn't even work as the ponderous art flic it presumes to be. It's just ponderous.
I'll still give director Stephen Soderbergh credit for tackling such obtuse subject matter against all odds of mass commercial appeal. The complete absence of special effects suggests he was aiming for something profound behind the craftsmanship. However, in the end you kind of wish he'd have at least sprung for an on-set defibrullator so the film would have had a chance to sustain a heartbeat.