Making the Grades
A mysterious space ship has been found on the ocean floor and a team of experts are assembled. Led by Norman Hoffman (Dustin Hoffman) along with biochemist Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone) and mathematician Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson), the team will dive in a sub to a specially designed habitat on the ocean floor where they can live while studying the strange ship.
This movie begins with great promise as tension builds between cast members anticipating the discovery of an alien life form. But it doesn't take long before we see leaks forming in the framework and are flooded with a script full of overdone movie moments.
For instance, you know Hoffman, Stone, and Jackson are going to see the end credits roll, but those other guys aren't going to make it past the first bucket of popcorn. It's the first rule of adventure movies -- start with a big cast so the writer can build suspense when each one is sacrificed to the Plot god. At one point they are disappearing so rapidly, even our main characters question what happened to them. When the cast can be reduced no further, it's time for step two: Have a key member do something really stupid -- like taking a swim 1000 feet underwater in a t-shirt.
The violence in Sphere is not usually person-to-person and the deaths are not visually explicit, but there are startling moments that may keep pre-teens awake at night. Some of the more grisly shots include a crew member that has been chewed by a giant sea creature, and another who meets their doom as the prey of jellyfish, or the one that is cut in half with an automatic door. Language is limited to mild profanity but includes terms of Deity.
For parents and older teens, Sphere provides an interesting initial premise, but two hours later I grew tired of watching confused cast members only to be rewarded with a cheap, easy-out ending. I recommend diving for another title at the rental shop.