Posts Tagged ‘Viola Davis’

In the symbolism-laden ‘Solaris,’ Steven Soderbergh explores a remote corner of space where the past is strangely present

July 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 22, 2015

Solaris is a work that I’ve engaged repeated over the course of my lifetime. The original book, by the great Polish author Stanislaw Lem, was penned in 1961. I’ve always held it in great regard, although my understanding of it is rather limited.

The premise is simple enough: Something has gone grievously wrong with a scientific expedition to the planet Solaris, an oceanic planet that manifests waves and weather patterns in ways that indicate the presence of some form of intelligence. A psychologist named Kelvin is dispatched to the research station to investigate why its communications have become erratic. While there, he becomes obsessed — some might say haunted — by a figure from his past, much like the surviving station crew members. To say too much more would be to give away part of the story’s mystery and power.

I first read Solaris as a young man, probably while I was in high school (if not even younger). Although I haven’t read it in many years, I remember the book being about the limits of human psychology and scientific inquiry. Lem ultimately positions Kelvin as neither a hero nor an expert — he is simply an average man baffled by, and at the mercy of, an immensely powerful force he can neither comprehend nor combat.

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The boy who would be savior: Meet Ender Wiggin, the tortured young hero of ‘Ender’s Game’

November 7, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 7, 2013

The marvelous science fiction film Ender’s Game is all about confronting the Other — the menace presented to us by external figures and forces. But it is also about its protagonist’s confrontation with the darkness within himself.

The eponymous Ender Wiggin is a prepubescent boy, perhaps 12, who is being groomed to command humanity’s starfleet. Wiggin’s destiny, perhaps, may be to direct Earth forces in their battles against the Formics, buglike aliens who killed millions in an invasion some 40 years prior to his birth.

A brilliant but poorly understood sacrifice by pilot Mazer Rackham is credited with turning back the invading forces. Now the International Fleet has staked its hopes on finding a young man or woman who fits a certain profile — capable of processing vast amounts of information intuitively and instantly, skilled in the arts of war yet not deriving pleasure solely from the act of violence.

Wiggin’s older brother, Peter, was dropped from Fleet’s youth training program years ago for being too aggressive. The family’s middle child, Valentine, was dropped for being too compassionate. As Col. Graff, the head of Battle School, explains to Ender, humanity’s hopes rest upon the youngest Wiggin striking just the right balance between those two extremes.

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