Some Observations of 1998’s ‘Sphere’


When Sphere was released in 1998, I was one of many who was ecstatic to see it. Sure, I was only 10. Did I know who Michael Crichton was? Nope. Did I care? Not really. What drew me to this film was the fact that it took place at the bottom of the ocean. There’s something about the bottomless deep that calls out to every horror fan. This was no different, and admittedly, 10-year-old me wore the VHS of this movie out.

17 years later, my opinions have sufficiently changed.

Sure, this movie does have a lot of enjoyable suspense. There’s the part of the film where they’re in a hurry only for Samuel L. Jackson to go missing and end up inside the titular sphere for a period of time. There’s the initial contact with the sentient force inside of the sphere, and that was eerie. What was perhaps one of the scariest parts of the film was the encounter with the impossibly huge squid that laid siege to their habitat. Viewers never actually saw the creature; a rendering on their radar could only give a brief idea to the dimensions of the creature.

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Other than that, there are some things that need addressing.

  • For one, what was Dustin Hoffman doing in a sci-fi horror film? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Hoffman, and being a 90s’ kid I’ll always remember him as Captain Hook in Hook. He’s a Hollywood legend, but it doesn’t stand to reason to have him as a horror movie leading man. He’s too affable, too kindly…too damn soft, to be a horror leading man.
  • The ending was underwhelming especially after what else the movie offered by way of suspense. I get that the movie tried to stay true to Crichton’s book, but it’s just not as scary to see that after all the monsters, carnage, and death in the film, that Jackson, Hoffman, and Sharon Stone were the culprits all along. The fact that they manifested all that terror was hard to swallow. I would’ve taken anything but that.
  • Harold Barnes (Peter Coyote) and Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber) were easily some of the better characters in the film and I hate that they met their ends so soon in the movie.
  • Stone’s character, Beth Halperin, wasn’t convincing as a crazy person (source: I work in a mental hospital). Truthfully, she came across as a needy pain with a chip on her shoulder and too much baggage. The audience was left with too little regarding her history with Hoffman’s character.
  • It made me happy to see Huey Lewis in a cameo role.

I’m not entirely sour about this film, though. Honestly, I see this film as a significant movie in my childhood, and there’s that level of nostalgia that this work holds. I still watch the film occasionally, most recently during a Netflix movie night with Mrs. Shelton. But looking at a film with fresh eyes can really put it in a new perspective. In this case, Sphere isn’t the movie I once thought it was, even if it was such an awesome movie almost 20 years ago.

A remake would be nice, Hollywood. Hint hint.