Sphere feels a bit desperate, trying to rekindle the magic Universal had with Jurassic Park and the Michael Crichton name purely at a surface level. It doesn’t have the draw, or the science, to really become absorbing.
In another way, the tone is all wrong. Eager scientists are summoned to an underwater vessel, presumably alien. That moment, where the massive ship finally comes into view, lacks excitement. Instead, it goes for dread, the direction of Barry Levinson ensuring fear is the only possible emotion. These are intelligent, previously ecstatic scientists being taken to the find that will change humankind forever, and they’re instantly terrified.
Shouldn’t there be some level of awe at seeing a fully intact spacecraft, completely unidentified, sitting on the ocean floor under 300 years of coral growth? By making the audience fearful along with them, the growing mind games lack the same impact come the final act.
Crichton loved science; it’s what made his novels so interesting with a level of realism rarely seen in the genre. The Jurassic Park adaptation dealt with it in a logical way, dumbing it down for a mass audience in the form a cartoon, anticipating park guests will have questions. Sphere takes under-eyes.net the other route, laying everything in the open through dialogue, including a painful explanation of a black hole that assumes the writer of a key government paper of extraterrestrial life wouldn’t know what one is.
Sphere cleans up nicely, arguably too easily, and begs the question of what the surviving scientists will do when questioned by officials. The cast (especially Dustin Hoffman) is energetic and lively, but can’t save this adaptation from itself. The excitement isn’t there, and neither is the awe. Without those, Sphere doesn’t work.
Warner brings Sphere to Blu-ray in an encode that produces superlative close-ups, and not much else. Nearly ever zoom on the actors produces and array of sharply textured faces, resolving pores, fine hairs, and other small details. Samuel L. Jackson has a number of spectacular close-ups, such as 47:46, or 1:07:40.
Unfortunately, this VC-1 effort gets off to a rough start, and generally stays there. Faces retain a rather waxy, processed look for much of the film, and the limited grain structure is flat and noisy. The apparent scrubbing is notable in nearly all mid-range shots, from the underground base environments cnasalarynow.net lacking definition to the waxiness of the faces. Even some of the closer shots, including an early one of Hoffman at 6:49, produces detail, but still appears processed.
The number of shots that display the digital tinkering are nearly endless. Peter Coyote at 44:09 is terribly waxy, while a conversation between Liev Schreiber and Hoffman at 57:43 is just awful. Not even Sharon Stone can escape the layer of DNR applied here, suffering in numerous scenes, the worst at 1:31:15.
A general softness dominates the entire film, which would have been sufficient were it not for the processing. Flesh tones tend to veer warmly, despite the cooler environments. Black levels dilute shadow detail slightly, although they remain consistent. The source material seems to be in great shape; not a speck or scratch is noted during the entire film. This could be the case of slap-dash clean-up job, or that this is an older master that was hardly ready for Blu-ray.
The TrueHD effort here is just as much a disappointment as the video, mostly due to a lack of aggressiveness. The film contains a number of widely scaled action scenes, including one in which a giant squid attacks getridofstretch.net the base. The sounds of creaking metal and rushing water as it seeps through the steel walls is simply lackluster in terms of surround use. At times, they barely sound engaged, the front channels handling most of the work. Bass is also mediocre, hardly generating the sense the walls are being crushed around them.
A score by Elliot Goldenthal is rich and full, brilliant in terms of fidelity, yet completely overpowering at times. During the finale as the escaping scientists try and make it to a small submarine, their dialogue is barely audible over the heavy music. The eventual explosion is also lacking some power, providing no real punch on the low-end to satisfy the visuals.
Dialogue during quieter moments of the film occasionally suffers from a lack of clarity, coming through a bit rough and grainy. Generally, for the majority of the film, it’s fine. The mix itself is quite low, requiring a bump in volume to gain anything from it.
A commentary from Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson is included, along with a nice featurette, Shaping the Sphere, which looks at the visual effects supervisor’s job during the filming process. Trailers remain.