Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gravity - a review.

I finally saw Gravity - in 3D too - and I was impressed. The movie is set in orbit around the Earth where a group of astronauts are updating the Hubble Telescope. Unfortunately for them, those irresponsible Russians decide to destroy one of their own satellites and its debris cause havoc. From there on we follow the astronauts as they tried to survive.

Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Don’t let Bullock’s presence put you off as she gives one of her more subdued performances. She doesn’t do a Nicole Kidman, who managed to destroyed not one, but two science fiction movies (Invasion and The Stepford Wives).

Gravity is one of the most visually impressive science fiction movies ever made. Probably not since District 9 have I seen such a seamless incorporation of special effects into a movie. In that movie all the aliens looked real, unlike Avatar. In Gravity I never found myself thinking that doesn’t look like space.

Gravity’s writer/director, Alfonso Cuaron, gets it right by having no sound in space. Objects collide and explode silently. This movie is about as far away from Star Wars as Tony Abbott and science are. The only comparable movies that I can think of are 2001 and 2010. So I agree with James Cameron who said Gravity is probably the best space movie ever made. 

To me, the science looked real and the story was very believable. Only a couple of years ago the Chinese used one of their own satellites for missile target practice. Buzz Aldrin said he was "extravagantly impressed by the portrayal of the reality of zero gravity", although he suggested that the film's view of Earth from space was a little too clear. 

Although it is impressive to look at and has a lot of tension, Gravity lacked the vital ingredient of great science fiction films. Apart from answering the question, what if your shuttle was destroyed in space while you were on a spacewalk, Gravity did not explore any themes. I think Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is a better science fiction movie with its exploration of a world where humanity is infertile. And because of its exploration of themes I still rate Oblivion as the best science fiction movie I have seen this year.

If you are into science fiction, you have to go and see Gravity. Enjoy a tense and visually impressive ride, but don’t expect to be challenged by themes and ideas. If you’re a science fiction writer, it might also have you questioning the mechanics of that scene you have just written where your character goes for a spacewalk.  


Dan O. said...

No matter what problems the script may run into, the visuals and overall whole feel of the movie never, ever let you go from its grasp. Nice review Graham.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Good review Graham. Though I think I do have to disagree slightly to a point.

Certainly was a great film, no doubt, with high tension and jaw dropping scenarios - unlike anything done before, as you say, except perhaps 2001. The director has proved he can do tension brilliantly (Children of Men is one of my favourite films of the past ten years).
It is light on story, though, (without wishing to give anything away to readers who haven't seen it), there is some back story regarding Bullock's character that explains her actions, her single mindedness to get to where she was in the space program, and to surpass that in the effort to survive. I don't think you can underestimate that. This is a film about picking yourself up from one of the worst things that can happen to you and find the inner strength to push on. For me, there was a strong drive there that was real. I believed it. There is a powerful, emotional beating heart in this film, that may draw people to it without knowing why.

As for Oblivion, hmmmm, yeah... say no more.

Karen Tyrrell said...

Thanks Graham for your excellent review.
I read your Review with interest, since I watched Gravity only 12 hours ago.
I loved the spectacular "real" space backdrop and "space walk" scenes. Breathtaking.
All the science was so Believable and logical.
I LOVED the personal story and motivation behind Sandra Bullock's character to survive.
The message: We can Achieve anything.

Graham Clements said...

Good point Anthony. Perhaps because I watch and read so much apocalptic fiction I take the drive to survive as given. But, as a result of another comment on facebook, I have been pondering if it was not so much their drive to survive, but their training to survive. If they had not had the training, might they not just have given up? I expect astronauts, like soldiers, to do everything in their training to survive. So perhaps the drive to survive in this movie was not as powerful for me as it might be in a story where the main characters had nil training on how to survive, but survived on pure will power.