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First of all, the atmosphere is intoxicating. The sets are realistic, cramped and futuristic, accompanied by Elliot Goldenthall's often slow moving, brassy score. I love his music.
The cast all do a brilliant job of creating actual "characters" by improvising some lines. I have heard the critisism that there is too much talking in this film. TOO MANY CONVERSATIONS. It's opinions like these that make filmmakers produce such masterpeices as Alien Vs. Predator and Resident Evil. Let's have all expository dialogue and no actual pondering or drama - the audiences will love that!
This film rips off pretty much every SF cliche. Everything from Alien to Contact and back again is pilfered from, and some moments are a little hard to believe, the motivations of characters unclear. But you need to think to enjoy the film, and it does need you to use your imagination.
I didn't care that the giant squid is never shown (unlike it is in the book where it has a full-on battle with a crewmember), and I don't care that there aren't any little green men in it. I love the performances (especially when they start to distrust one another) and the atmosphere and every time I see it I see something new.