Wired News calls Solaris the early 1970s movie recently remade and starring George Clooney "an obscure but treasured Russian film".

Some on-line sci-fi science fiction fans are optimistic about the new version (directed by Hollywood flavour of the month Steven Soderbergh) that will be released in the States on 27 November. (Read the whole article here.) 

I am unfortunately not one of them. 

Remaking Solaris is something akin to heresy. Director Steven Soderbergh who has done the new version have made some audience pleasers that also got unprecedented critical acclaim such as Erin Brokovich and Ocean's 11. But he is simply no Andrei Tarkovsky (the Russian director of the original and movies such as The Sacrifice). It is a bit like comparing a truly great composer like Beethoven to a writer of popular waltzes like Johann Strauss. Or Andy Warhol to a true great such as Van Gogh. And so forth.

Soderbergh is mediocre at best and his movies have gotten the critical acclaim they got not because he is so good, but because the others are so bad. Tarkovsky could be counted with the greats of cinema such as Bergman, Kurosawa, Welles, and so forth.

Basically it would be the difference between highbrow and middlebrow (if we were lucky). This isn't the first time that a great European will have been made into a bad Hollywood one (Wings of Desire into City of Angels anyone?) and it won't be the last.

Let's be honest: science fiction as genre has undergone an incredible dumbing down since Star Wars. The Golden Era of Sci-Fi wasn't the 1950s, but the 1970s, an era in which actual issues ranging from overpopulation (Soylent Green), environmental degradation (Silent Running) to the influence of multinationals (Rollerball) and even speculation about man's free will (A Clockwork Orange).

Some of the above movies may not have been the greatest movies ever made, but at least they were about something. In hindsight it would seem that these movies even seem more relevant to our own era than the ones made today! Looking back at the past decade or so one can count as best a handful of movies that could be classified as true science fiction: Gattaca, The Truman Show, Dark City and perhaps Contact. That is not to say that other "science fiction" movies made in this time have not been enjoyable, of course they have been (some of them, at least). But at best the rest are visceral action movies bereft of any real ideas.

Star Wars made more money from marketing tie-in's than it did through actual ticket sales. This pointed depressingly to the future in which movies were more intent on selling toys than making a movie. Something like A Clockwork Orange would never been made today because they wouldn't be able to market an Alex the Droog (being a young man whose interests include "Beethoven, rape and ultraviolence") action figure . . .



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