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Sphere is a 1998 psychological science fiction thriller film, starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson. Sphere was based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and The Lost World. The film was released in the United Statesmarker on February 13, 1998.


In the middle of the southern Pacific Oceanmarker, a thousand feet below the surface, what is believed to be an alien spacecraft is discovered after a ship laying transoceanic cable has its cable cut and the United States Navy investigates the cause. The thickness of coral growth on the spaceship suggests that it has been there for almost 300 years. A team made up of marine biologist Dr. Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone), mathematician Dr. Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson), astrophysicist Dr. Ted Fielding (Liev Schreiber), psychologist Dr. Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman), and a member of the U.S. Navy (Barnes) is tasked with investigating the spaceship. The team (along with two navy technicians) are housed in a state-of-the-art underwater living environment called the Habitat during their stay on the ocean floor.

Upon entering the spaceship, the team makes two discoveries. The first is that the ship is from the future, specifically America. The last date in the ship's log, 06/21/43, does not indicate the specific century. The last entry in the log details an "Unknown (Entry) Event", which depicts the ship apparently falling into a black hole, resulting in its trip through time. The ship's mission involved gathering objects from around the galaxy to bring back to Earth. An item of particular interest is a large, perfect sphere in the cargo hold. It hovers a few feet above the ground and has an impenetrable fluid surface which reflects its surroundings but not people.

Harry concludes from the classification of the event which sent the ship back that the Habitat crew is fated to die: it would not be an "unknown event" if they live to report about it, he reasons. Harry soon sneaks back to the spaceship, and finds a way to enter the sphere. Soon after, a series of binary-encrypted messages begin to show up on the habitat's computer screens, and Harry and Ted are able to decipher the messages and converse with what appears to be an alien (which calls itself "Jerry"), which has been trapped in the sphere. They soon discover that "Jerry" can hear everything they are saying aboard the Habitat.

Harry's entry into the sphere prevents the team from evacuating before the arrival of a powerful typhoon on the surface, forcing them to stay below for almost a week. A series of tragedies then befalls the crew: Fletcher, the navy technician, is killed by aggressive jellyfish; a giant squid attacks and damages the station, killing Edmunds by completely destroying her body, Ted by blasting him with a large fire blast, and Barnes by slicing him in half with a computer-operated door in the ensuing chaos; and sea snakes attack Norman. Jerry is the cause of these incidents.

Eventually, only Harry, Norman, and Beth remain. At this point, they realize that they have all entered the sphere, which has given them the power to manifest their thoughts into reality. As such, all of the disasters that had been plaguing them are the result of manifestations of the worst parts of their own minds. The name "Jerry" turns out to have been erroneously decrypted and is actually spelled "Harry"; it is Harry's subconscious communicating with them through their computer system whenever he is asleep.

At that point, Beth's suicidal thoughts manifest themselves as triggering a countdown to trigger the explosives that were brought along to clear away the coral. They abandon the Habitat for the mini-sub, but their fears manifest an illusion of the spacecraft around them. Norman finally sees through the illusion, and punches the mini-sub's emergency surfacing button. The explosives destroy the habitat and the spaceship, but (unknown to them) the sphere itself remains undamaged. As the explosives detonate and create a huge blast wave below it, the mini-sub rises to the surface, to be quickly retrieved by the returning surface ships, permitting the survivors to begin safe decompression once on board a navy ship.

The film ends with the three deciding to use their powers to erase their own memories before being debriefed, in order to prevent the knowledge about the sphere from falling into the wrong hands. Thus, Harry's paradox, in which they are alive yet no one has learned about the "unknown event," is resolved. As they erase their own memories of the "unknown event," the sphere is seen emerging from the ocean and flying off into space.



The film was considered a disappointment to many fans of Michael Crichton's novel. The film drifts away from the book in several places. In an interview, Dustin Hoffman stated that they were not ready to release the film and that there was so much more that they wanted to do with it, but simply had no ability to do so due to a time constraint.

Frederic Brussat stated Sphere was "a sci-fi thriller that presents a riveting and rounded anatomy of fear." However, other reviewers were less complimentary; David Steritt claimed Sphere amounted to little more than "a run-of-the-mill fantasy, competently produced but disappointingly familiar," while Chris Grunden stated, "This journey is a road to nowhere."

Sphere currently holds a 13% fresh rating at rottentomatoes, with an average score of 4.1/10 and it currently holds the worst reviewed rating of Dustin Hoffman's movies.

Comparison between the film and novel

  • Norman Johnson is called Norman Goodman in the movie.

  • In the novel, Harry had a terrible headache after entering the sphere. He didn't even remember what happened inside and advised that everyone in the habitat should return to the surface immediately, claiming it was not safe in there anymore. While in the movie, Harry was seen as enthusiastic and not having the terrible headache at all.

  • In the novel, Beth is described as "a serious weight-lifter and runner; the veins and muscles bulged at her neck" who has a distrust for men because of her perceived mistreatment by men both personally and professionally, with her history with Norman being only a minor aspect of the tension. In the film, the tension created by Beth and Norman's prior relationship is emphasized.

  • The exact position Barnes holds with the government is never explained in the film (he is called 'captain', but does not wear a Navy or NOAA uniform). In the novel, Beth discovers (and relates to Norman) that Barnes works at the Pentagonmarker in weapons acquisition.

  • In the film, the team does not realize the true nature of the ship until they are already inside, and Ted discovers a receptacle marked Trash - Basura. In the novel, before the team even goes over to the ship, a robotic probe at the door of the spaceship discovers a control panel marked with the words Emergency Ready, Emergency Lock, and Emergency Open.

  • While Harry does mention that he had been scared as a boy by the squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and that he has an apprehension about eating squid, there is no scene in the novel where Harry nearly chokes when he is surprised to learn he is actually eating squid, and there is no scene where Norman has a sudden revelation about Harry's power when he discovers multiple copies of the book suddenly appearing.

  • In the novel, the sphere is burnished silver, "like an oversized ball bearing", decorated with "a series of deep, convoluted grooves, cut in an intricate pattern," on one side. The grooves "conceal a small break in the surface of the sphere," which forms a doorway. In the movie, the sphere appears to be made of actively rippling gold, and there is no functional door (entrance is attained through some kind of teleportation). However, in both the book and the movie, the sphere is about thirty feet in diameter.

  • The giant squid was seen visually in the novel. While in the movie, the only way the characters knew a giant squid was approaching was because of its image on the fast SONAR imager. In the novel, one of the squid's appearances is while Norman is going over to the other habitat to reset the automatic return timer on the minisub. Norman is forced to hide in the other habitat. The squid is able to peer through a porthole while using its tentacles to search for Norman in the habitat. He escapes after finding spearguns tipped with explosives. This scene is replaced in the film with Norman's suit malfunction and the sea snake encounter.

  • In the novel, there was another member of the team, a marine biologist named Arthur Levine, who did not descend when he became claustrophobic in the minisub. Additionally, there were two more members of the navy crew in the habitat: Rose Levy and Tina Chan..

  • The film never hints at what is in the sphere. The novel only describes an image of moving lights ("like fireflies"). When Norman enters the sphere, he talks with an unknown entity, which generally responds to Norman's questions in riddles. At the end of the conversation, the "voice" finishes with part of a speech which Norman will deliver at a conference, implying that the "voice" that Norman hears is his own consciousness.

  • In the film, Norman tells Harry that he had written the bogus ULF report for the "Bush" administration. In the novel, the report was written for the "Carter" administration.

  • In the novel, there are times when Harry and Beth manifest people instead of animals. This is not shown in the film.

  • At the end of the film, Harry, Beth, and Norman decide to use their power to force themselves to forget about the sphere, which, when they do, causes the sphere to lift off the ocean floor and fly off into space. In the novel, the three make the same agreement, there is no scene of the sphere flying off, but there is a subtle implication that Beth did not follow through, and has secretly retained the power.

  • The deaths of certain characters (Barnes, Fletcher, Edmunds, and Ted Fielding) are also different between the two versions.


The score for Sphere was composed by Elliot Goldenthal.

Track listing

  1. Pandora's Fanfare (1:17)
  2. Main Titles (2:49)
  3. Event Entry 6-21-43 (0:53)
  4. The Gift (1:42)
  5. Sphere Discovery (2:08)
  6. Visit to a Wreckage (1:58)
  7. Water Snake (2:36)
  8. Terror Adagio (3:24)
  9. Wave (3:18)
  10. Fear Retrieval (3:48)
  11. Andante (2:20)
  12. Manifest Fire (3:48)
  13. Manifest3 (3:47)
  14. Their Beast Within (1:44)

Crew credits

  • Music composed and produced by Elliot Goldenthal
  • Orchestrated by Robert Elhai and Elliot Goldenthal
  • Conducted by Stephen Mercurio and Jonathan Sheffer
  • Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki
  • Electronic music produced by Richard Martinez
  • Film Music Editor: Curtis Roush
  • Additional orchestrations by Deniz Hughes


  1. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 3
  2. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 134
  3. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 22
  4. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 250-252
  5. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 321-322
  6. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 24
  7. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 65
  8. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 145
  9. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 159-161
  10. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 104-107
  11. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 241
  12. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 60
  13. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 154
  14. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 331-336
  15. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 13
  16. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 219
  17. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 286
  18. Sphere, Michael Crichton, Ballantine Books, June 1997, p. 364-371
  19. Track listing for the film soundtrack

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