Having just watched the three hour long original Solaris (1972), and then watching this comparatively terse ninety minute long remake does make for an interesting comparison. I was deeply thankful that the remake wasn't three hours long though. I felt like this remake said everything the original did in half the time without losing much, if anything at all. Even though both movies hit the same beats, philosophically speaking, there were a few little differences and small twists added to the remake, but nothing too drastic that would have fans of the original cursing, at least I don't think so...
The biggest difference for me was that the original Solaris was a deeply philosophical and scientific movie, it could feel more clinical and scientific, while the remake was more of a psychological and metaphysical movie. Steven Soderbergh gives us far more insight into the relationship between Chris (George Clooney) and Rheya (Natascha McElhone) than we were given in the original Solaris, and it helps us understand Chris' motivations more clearly. The central paradox felt more hefty in the remake because we understand the characters history better, so that the paradox of choosing to kill a simulacrum or a sentient being of some sort knowing that he or she cannot possibly exist, still carries a lot of weight, but more so than it did in the original. The visuals have obviously been updated as well, and they're quite lovely. Solaris looks bedazzling and the production and set design is all there, it's definitely a fine lookin' movie set in space.
The big question mark that we're never really given answers to, once again, is Solaris itself. What is it? What does it want? I was never sure if Solaris had hostile intentions or if it was genuinely trying to communicate with us through our own memories. The original Solaris movie seemed to indicate that it was tormenting us, maybe even inadvertently so, but now I'm not so sure. I think whatever Solaris was, it was benevolent, but we're never really given any definitive answers when it comes to the enigmatic yet beautiful blue and purple planet. The visual style and esoteric nature of Solaris actually reminded me of The Fountain in some ways.
Solaris (2002) also laid on a lot more ambiguity and uncertainty regarding the ending, while I felt like the original Solaris was more definitive with 'what' had happened, but not necessarily 'how' it had happened. It's tough to separate the two of them, I like them equally, but I'd re-visit the remake before I would the original. I think they actually compliment each other nicely, Solaris (1972) explores the philosophical angles, while Solaris (2002) explores the psychological angles, two sides of the same coin. This is one of the few remakes where I don't think deserves all the hate it gets. It's definitely a worthwhile movie.
Written by - The Sentry - 19/06/2015