Critics Consensus

Sphere features an A-level cast working with B-grade material, with a story seen previously in superior science-fiction films.



Total Count: 51


Audience Score

User Ratings: 58,502
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Movie Info

Dr. Goodman, biochemist Halperin, and astrophysicist Fielding are selected by the government to study a huge spacecraft located on the Pacific ocean floor. Evidence suggest that this craft comes from the future, and inside is a threatening glowing sphere that sends e-mail messages such as,"I will kill you all"


Dustin Hoffman
as Dr. Norman Goodman
Sharon Stone
as Beth Halperin
Samuel L. Jackson
as Harry Adams
Liev Schreiber
as Ted Fielding
Queen Latifah
as Fletcher
Marga Gomez
as Jane Edmunds
Michael Keys Hall
as Government Official
Huey Lewis
as Helicopter Pilot
James Pickens Jr.
as OSSA Instructor
Michael Keyes Hall
as OSSA Official
Ralph Tabakin
as OSSA Official
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Critic Reviews for Sphere

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (6) | Rotten (45)

  • Ultimately, the explanation we've been waiting for turns out to be just that: an explanation.

    Jan 8, 2018 | Full Review…
  • An empty shell.

    Aug 5, 2008

    Todd McCarthy

    Top Critic
  • Three major stars being involved, it all wraps up happily but implausibly.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The ending, though emotionally satisfying, collapses under scrutiny. This lack of payoff is a real flaw in a film pitched to a discriminating sci-fi mentality.

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Given its situational premise -- outer space goes underwater -- Sphere is filled with visual potential, yet Levinson can't tap it. He's just a whole lot more comfortable trying to tame the human software than the technical hardware.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • As the umpteenth entrant in the We-Are-Not-Alone sweepstakes, Sphere feels awfully familiar because it is.

    Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sphere

  • May 14, 2016
    Great cast wasted on a manipulative piece of sci-fi drivel. So many plot holes ... ! So you stay to watch the cast, but eventually hate being jerked around alla time, and the lame-o explanations for it. And the ending? A hot turd in your living room.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 14, 2013
    Well, it would appear that Barry Levinson is finally calling Rain Man back into action, hoping to use his autistic super-brain to uncover the truth about aliens. Wow, I just kind of made this film's premise sound dumber somehow, but don't worry, people, because this film isn't actually about Rain Man, even though plenty of critics would argue that this film, like Raymond Babbitt, is pretty retarded, except without the glimpses of genius. Hey, I think that this film is alright, but it's hard to look at it and not start calling "Jurassic Park" into question, if you weren't already questioning "Jurassic Park" more than Michael Crichton would want you to before seeing this film, that is. Yeah, Michael Crichton would come up with some crazy sci-fi stories, and you would think that the reception on this film, alone, would remind people that the primary force behind the success of "Jurassic Park" was Steven Spielberg. Well, in all fairness, no one saw this film, thus, no warning was pronounced enough to prevent "The 13th Warrior", "Timeline" and 2006's "The Andromeda Strain" after this flop... which followed such other critical flops as "Congo", "Disclosure", "Rising Sun", and "The Carey Treatment". Wow, Crichton just couldn't catch a break, at least outside of "Jurassic Park", and that would be a bigger shame if he really didn't come up with the best stories, as this film will tell you. Don't get me wrong, again, I like this film, but it has problems, and not all of them are the doing of Crichton. Very much a late-'90s type of thriller, this film juggles steady intensity and pretty fluffy lighter areas, and not always as organically as it probably should, watering down effectiveness by jarring from relatively serious moments into very lighter moments with a disconcerting lack of delicacy, but not so severely that the effectiveness of the harder and fluffier moments is as diluted as it is by unevenness alone. No, people, the tonal flaw that really does a number on the final product's compellingness is subtlety issues, both within the fluffier moments that get to be kind of cheesy, and within the more relatively serious moments which would be more striking if their atmosphere wasn't so overblown on the whole, challenging the final product's weight with overambition that is just as questionable as the genericism. On top of being uneven and overblown, the film also suffers from the common late-'90s commercial thriller flaw of being pretty trope-heavy, hitting familiar beat after familiar beat until reaching predictability that film this reliant on mystery cannot afford to have. Granted, some of the most important areas in plotting are hard to completely predict, but the areas that are formulaic are hard to deny and hamstring this potentially potent psychological thriller, and yet, as familiar as this film's characters and story are, I can't help but feel as though more needs to be said, because you're given only so much beyond the bare minimum of background on the driving forces of this thriller. The film doesn't take as much time as it should to flesh out exposition, and that's a serious shame, considering that the final product, at just under 130 minutes, has more than enough time to build developmental weight, whose limiting leaves the film to struggling to run out the clock through excess and repetitious material that further dilutes steam, until you're left with only so many thrills to obscure the fact that this film's story is relatively simple. I'm going to be honest, I don't really see why this film is as harshly criticized as it is, but at the same time, the flaws are near-impossible to miss, and no matter how much this film proved to be reasonably effective to me in certain areas, the uneven, unsubtle, undercooked and dragging telling of a thin story drive the film, not simply short of potential, but into underwhelmingness. Nevertheless, the film is still not as messy as they say, being decidedly sloppier than it probably should be, to be sure, but with enough compensation to be a decent thriller, as well as a decent showcase of decent music. The great Elliot Goldenthal certainly contributes plenty of compositions to this film, but it's kind of hard to notice, as many of Goldenthal's pieces are about as too subtle for their own good as they are too formulaic for their own good, and yet, when Goldenthal pronounces the presence of his tastes, he commands, gracing his musical touches with a tasteful minimalism and light dynamicity that makes the lighter moments rather lively, and the more somberly intense moments, well, about as haunting as they can be without having directorial strength be quite as potent as musical strength. No, as I'll touch more upon later, directorial strengths do a lot to get the film by, but receive plenty of help from Goldenthal's efforts, which aren't too outstanding, but almost stronger than it should be, considering the limited weight of this film. Actually, while Michael Crichton's story concept is kind of thin in certain areas, weight is diluted most by flaws in the execution of Crichton's vision, which, on paper, has more potential than plenty of people give it credit for, carrying a mysterious sci-fi mythology that is pretty intriguing, with subtle layers and depths which are not celebrated as much as they should be, but are still considerable enough in concept to ignite a moderate degree of immediate compellingness. This isn't exactly genius sci-fi, but the film's concept is sharper than its execution, which is still not too shabby, because as messy as Barry Levinson's directorial efforts are in plenty of places, there are highlights in storytelling thoughtfulness which capture the claustrophobic intensity of this film, while livelier areas in storytelling leave entertainment value to stand as the only consistent strength in this somewhat fluffy thriller. The film has, not necessarily strong moments, but reasonably effective areas that I really do wish were more recurring, yet still stand as hard to deny, at least to me, and while that's not enough for the final product to come all that close to its full potential, it keeps engagement value alive and well for the most part, though not consistent. The film may be consistently entertaining to some degree, but the only aspect that is consistently compelling in this film is the acting, which, even then, is too underwritten for the performers to be excellent, but not so underwritten that this talented cast doesn't deliver on both distinguished charisma and colorful chemistry, both of which do a lot in breathing some life into this thriller which goes anchored by its characters. Really, there are strong aspects to this film, it's just that they're not quite as recurring as they should be, considering the quantity and magnitude of the shortcomings, which are ultimately not enough to prevent entertainment value and a reasonable degree of intrigue from keeping the film going as decent, even if they are still enough to hold the final product back as kind of underwhelming. Overall, the film's tone gets to be uneven, as well as rather overblown with moderately cheesy subtlety issues that, alongside formulaic storytelling, undercooked expository depth and a repetitiously overlong runtime, emphasize natural shortcomings enough for the final product to collapse into underwhelmingness, but not so deeply that strong score work, an intriguing story concept, sometimes compelling and consistently lively direction, and charismatic performances aren't enough to carry Barry Levinson's "Sphere" as a heavily flawed, but ultimately adequately engaging and highly entertaining thriller. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 14, 2012
    Reminiscent of several other science fiction thrillers, "Sphere" basically follows the progression of "Event Horizon", except underwater and with far more bizarre deaths. The film is cast perfectly, with Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson showing off their range, but Michael Crichton isn't able to effectively adapt his film and it more or less comes off like a science fiction slasher film.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Apr 26, 2012
    It does a terrible job establishing the 'rules' of the situation everyone is trapped in, so it never really feels like anyone is in actual danger until jellyfish suddenly kill Queen Latifah. On top of the bland script is an equally bland visual environment, it just feels like a missed opportunity on all fronts.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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