A group of scientists are trapped on an underwater rig by bad weather. On the sea bed, they’re sent to investigate nearby wreckage, and possible alien life. Yeah, it’s basically The Abyss. But with a sphere.
I could list everything this film has in common with The Abyss but it would take too long, from the typing communication scenes, the possible madness of crew members, the being trapped by a storm and the deterioration of the rig. No points for originality here. Like that film it also has no idea how to end.
Where it improves upon The Abyss is in its running time – The Abyss is too long – with a much more steady pace, and it’s not as overly sentimental, that film’s other major pitfall, but make no mistake, this is a worse film. For starters they say the word “sphere” far too many times. Just call it a ball or something. “Have you been in the sphere?” “What’s the sphere?” “Sphere!” Considering what a stupid word it is, this gets very tiresome.
My favourite scene was a swarm of jellyfish attacking a woman. You heard me. And yes, it is as funny as it sounds. I guess they didn’t go for a scarier animal because they didn’t want to look like they were turning into a cheap horror movie like Jaws 2 or Piranha, but seeing someone overwhelmed by jellyfish is just funny. There are no two ways about it.
None of the characters are particularly likeable, but it almost doesn’t matter. Sphere is an atmospheric film, with lots of creepy moments, and the slightly prickly characters add to this. Where it falls down is through descending into silliness more often than it needs to and proving unsatisfactory in the explanatory department. One scene involves breaking a mathematical code to communicate with the alien intelligence but feels particularly implausible, and rushed through in the hope the audience won’t notice how stupid it is.
The all star cast are good, particularly Samuel L Jackson, who makes a big contribution to the general watchability of this film as the cool, wisecracking…mathematician? That’s a new one. And for the record, it’s much better than other Jackson underwater outing Deep Blue Sea.
Altogether this is an acceptable sci fi flick even if it won’t please everyone. There are clearly some good ideas here, executed nicely for a well paced, well acted and suspenseful ride, even if the leaps of implausibility and weak explanations mean it’s not exactly intellectually fulfilling.
Sphere isn’t a balls up, but it’s also not as well rounded as it could be.