Movie made: 2002 | Set in: late 21st century?
|Regular interstellar travel||very low||beyond 2100|
|Alien contact||very low||at any time|
Philosophical scenario exploration
Solaris is an usually thoughtful depiction of aliens. Other aspects of the future are not addressed. Space travel implies a distant future, but the glimpses we see of daily life—and someone’s use of the word “Internet”—suggest a near-term future.
The movie is unexpectedly similar to the 1972 Russian version, which was very Russian in pace and tone. It is ultimately all emotional and philosophical pondering; Dostoyevsky in space, as it were, a brave stance for a mainstream American movie.
“I could tell you what’s happening,” a character says, “But I don’t know if that would really tell you what’s happening.”
The personnel of the space station above the planet Solaris are receiving “visitors,” as they call them, people who cannot be there. One man sees his son; Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) sees someone from his past.
They do not know how, or why. The planet itself seemed to know that it is being observed, a scientist notes, and they speculate that the planet is sending the visitors. What does it want, someone asks. “Why do you think it has to want something?” his colleague replies.
It is that befuddlement which makes Solaris an unusually good depiction of aliens. Real aliens are likely to be surpassingly strange (see A Note on Aliens).
Extracting and understanding memories may be all but impossible, and an alien life form would find it particularly difficult. But the intelligent ocean of Solaris offers an explanation. With a planet-sized sensing instrument and an ocean’s worth of energy and biocomputing power, it might be capable of near-total examination of the structure of its human subjects’ brains. After sufficient study, it might well be capable of reconstructing memories, and manifesting them as it saw fit.