Top critical review
One person found this helpful
on 22 April 2017
This movie was made in 1998, and is about humanity discovering a space ship half-buried in the Pacific ocean floor for 300 years. They proceed to build an underwater base of operations near it, and hire a team consisting of a mathematician, an astro-physicist, a molecular biologist, a marine commander and our protagonist, a psychiatrist. Said team uses a submarine to reach the underwater base, and then proceeds to visit the spacecraft over the next few days. A typhoon brews, the surface fleet retreats, and our heroes are left to their own devices for a few days. That's when things start to go horribly, horribly wrong.
There is a movie similar in settling called "Leviathan" and it was made nine years earlier, in 1989. That one, in my opinion, is better than this because there the horror is real while here it's more a mind messing than dealing with actual antagonists. This film tries to one-up Leviathan by being cleverer in its story and meaning, but this twist ends up taking away from the actual palpable fear. Therefore I would recommend Leviathan over Sphere and also because Sphere shoots itself in the foot with its many, many red herrings and wasted opportunities.
Consider this: They create an actual huge space ship in Sphere only to have this location be almost useless for the movie, because most of the movie takes place in the underwater base. Next we have a huge plot reveal as to the origin of the space ship, but again, this is no longer relevant for the rest of the movie. There's an entire plot element involving exploration of this ship, sifting through its logs and finding out more about the ship's crew that is completely, utterly LEFT OUT by the film. Another concept the movie suggests is time travel, but again, our protagonists dedicate zero time to find out more about this.
And then you have the fact that the film is segmented into chapters, each starting with a black screen and the chapter title, e.g. "The Surface", "The Station", "Further Analysis" and so on. Nice way to rip everyone out of immersion...
I also didn't realize until later how thoroughly Jewish the film really is: director Barry Levinson, actors Dustin Hoffmann and Liev Schreiber, composer Elliott Goldenthal, and cinematographer Adam Greenberg all share a Jewish ancestry. Perhaps this is the reason why some of the dialogue and exposition in the film is the way it is: a kind of comedic undertone in an otherwise serious environment that I believe is a distinct Jewish style of chuzpah or humor, but didn't work so well on me. I feel that the film could have done with more seriousness, especially in the initial 10 minutes or so.
All in all, it's worth watching, but not really worth keeping. Rent it, and buy Leviathan instead for that unforgettable deep sea science horror. But I want to conclude the review on a positive note, and therefore consider this: Sphere is a better underwater sci-fi movie than Deep Star Six. But if you just can't get enough of the genre, then the latter is also worth watching, just to round off that "I've seen em all" experience.