My two favorite examples of Hollywood utterly destroying GREAT foreign films are Vanilla Sky and City of Angels, which were abominations of two of my favorite films - Open Your Eyes and Wings of Desire. If you've seen Tarkovsky's brilliant "Solyaris" this film will seem more like an Americanized tribute than a Hollywoodization of a great piece of Soviet cinema. Some will likely ask why Soderbergh bothered to make this film if he couldn't improve on the original. Personally, I could not care less. This is a great film, and shows that it is possible for Americans to remake classic non-American films sensitively, intelligently and well.
To cut to the chase - if you like sci-fi with a soul,which stretches the boundaries of imagination, explores the uncharted realms of the human condition as much as the unknown realities of the universe, and swims upstream against the currents of ethics, physics, and even metaphysics, you will probably enjoy this moody, slow, multi-leveled and heavily textured film. If you're looking for light entertainment, stay away from this. This is a slow, intense film - dominated by dialog - and there is no action to speak of. Also, you need to let this movie pour into you slowly, so if you're not in the right frame of mind to pay attention and be receptive, you should save it for another occasion.
The cast is exceptionally good. This is unequivocally the best performance I have seen out of George Clooney, but the supporting cast and the female lead all blew me away. Soderbergh does have a talent for making actor's look good, even mediocre actors, but there is nothing mediocre about any of the performances in this film.
Though I recognize his talent, Soderberg's dialogical technique has worn particularly thin with me. The once fresh fast-paced, rapid-fire cuts and close-ups with the low-toned exchange of sentence fragments, and the myriad Soderberg imitators, particularly in television crime drama, have really gotten on my nerves. Solaris, however, is a bit different. There are only a few "Soderbergh moments" in this rich remake of the classic bit of 1970s soviet SciFi "Solyaris". Both films are based on a novella by the brilliant Stanislaw Lem. This film, perhaps even more than Tarkovsky's 1972 edgy, dark, and intense original, will appeal to exactly the sort of movie-goer that Lem's writing appeals to. Neither film captures Lem's quirky sense of humor. I am quite glad that Soderbergh chose to make Solaris with very much the same atmospheric eeriness, plot, and intellectual and emotional depth as the original. It is a tribute to his artistic integrity that he recognizes the brilliance of the original work, and imitates it wherever he can do no better, adding subtle and appropriate nuances and embellishments to make it his own. Some examples are the wonderfully minimalistic soundtrack, and the very Soderbergh symbolic use of lighting and color saturation to shift from the retrospective to the live-action shot. Perhaps the best tribute I can give this film is the fact that I am going to watch the original again in a few days for comparative purposes.
In other words, this isn't going to be for everybody, nor, even, for most. I am hardly surprised by the very low (in my opinion) ratings received by this film here on IMDb. Solaris is a love story, a story of exploring the fringes of sanity, and of questioning the very nature of reality, and much more. Enjoy it!