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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Gravity review: nowhere to go but down (London Film Festival)

Gravity green light George Clooney Sandra Bullock

Stunningly accomplished space survival adventure: heartstopping and heartbreaking; the best film of 2013 so far. Just don’t call it science fiction.
I’m “biast” (pro): the trailers were horrifying and amazing; love Cuarón and Clooney

I’m “biast” (con): have not been the biggest fan of Bullock

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s making me a little bit crazy that people are calling Gravity “science fiction.” It’s not. There’s nothing speculative or fantastical about it. If anything, it’s historical… because, you know, the space shuttles ain’t flying anymore, and are now firmly lodged in the “mothballed technology” category. Not that there isn’t historical science fiction, of course. But Gravity ain’t that, either. The few things that aren’t quite factually accurate here — like how Sandra Bullock wouldn’t actually look so sleek and pretty when she shimmies out of her space suit; she’d be drenched in sweat and still have to get out of the undersuit, complete with its totally unsexy diaper — are nothing more than the usual shorthand we allow movies to indulge in.

Space is a real place. Real humans are living and working — right now, right over your head — in low Earth orbit. (The International Space Station just had its first traffic jam! The Olympic torch is about to have its first spacewalk!) It’s because we’re used to seeing footage of astronauts singing David Bowie songs on the ISS that we know what it looks like to be floating around in zero-gee… and that now not-completely-unfamiliar reality is part of why Gravity is so very different from all the actual science fiction movies we’ve seen before. Why it had to be.

Gravity looks like it was shot in orbit. I mean, really. There’s none of that fakey zero-gee where you can tell that the actors are suspended from wires. It’s all green-screen madness and CGI almost everything… but this is a digital cartoon that may be the most plausible re-creation of a real, heh, space ever. I’ve been thinking for a while now how the day is coming when a narrative movie will be shot in space (some science documentaries have, of course, already included footage from shuttles or the ISS), and this is the sort of movie I guess I was sorta imagining it might be.

This looks utterly real. And it’s a story that could only be told off the planet.

I don’t know how Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) did it. But it starts off jaw-dropping and then just gets more astonishing. The first 15 or 20 minutes of this film is an apparently uncut sequence that introduces us to engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock: The Heat, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and all-around flyboy Matt Kowalski (George Clooney: The Descendants, The Ides of March). She’s a newbie mission specialist trying to install a new camera on the Hubble telescope, which has been connected to shuttle Explorer for the work; she’s attached to the end of the shuttle’s robotic arm. He’s a veteran astronaut testing out a new jetpack, and he’s zooming around like a kid road-testing a sportscar. The (virtual) camera zooms in from afar, the Earth dominating in the black sky, the tiny shuttle lost in the vastness until we get very close… and then we’re kinda like Kowalski, zipping around and taking in the magnificent scene from all possible angles: up close on Stone’s work, which is hitting some frustrating snags, and enjoying the scenery with Kowalski, and listening in on the banter between the shuttle — Kowalski is a nonstop chatterbox wiseass, as only Clooney can pull off — and mission control in Houston. (Nice hat-tip to the only other realistic space movie as yet, Apollo 13, with Ed Harris as the voice of mission control. Again.)

This is indistinguishable from actually being there, including the lack of “up” or “down” to orient yourself and the lack sound in the vacuum of space. Not that it’s totally quiet, not with Kowalski on the radio and, well, like this: When Stone is trying to slot a computer panel into the Hubble, she — and we — hear the creaks and bangs of the telescope’s protests because she’s touching it, and because there’s air in her suit to carry the vibrations to her ears. But when debris from a broken-up satellite elsewhere in orbit rams into the shuttle, sending it spinning uncontrollably in the most horrifying way, we hear nothing. It’s almost more horrifying than it would be with the noise of an explosion, because we see it, and our eyes don’t want to accept that such an unimaginable disaster could happen, and not hearing it makes the terrible confusion even more disorienting.

Oh, and it’s all in the most necessary, most immersive deployment of 3D technology ever.

And then Gravity goes beyond merely looking real, and starts to feel real. The satellite debris breaks the arm from the shuttle, sending Stone spinning off, and Cuarón’s impossible camera isn’t just with Stone but suddenly inside her helmet, giving us her personal experience of the horror, Earth rocketing past her view over and over again, the heads-up display on her visor warning her of low oxygen. Kowalski is still out there somewhere — he survived the collision and has his jetpack and is talking to her over the radio, so he can come at get her. But then what? The shuttle is toast (and the rest of the crew is dead). They have a few options: the ISS and the Chinese station, Tiangong 1 (also real; also not science fiction), if they can get to them. If they haven’t been devastated by the cascading debris field, which is destroying everything in its path, which just creates more orbiting debris…

There’s so much that’s marvelous in Gravity that I’m still unpacking it, even after two viewings. But here’s one thing that astonished me: I figured I would not find myself, on that second viewing, unconsciously holding my breath again. But I did. Even when I knew what was going to happen. The suspense should have been busted for me, but it wasn’t. Never mind that Stone can glance over her shoulder and see the whole world off to one side, this is an intimate film; we are with Stone, and she is alone, for much of the movie. Alone in the most dangerous place humans can be at this point in history. Alone in the most remote place a person can be. (Bullock is fantastic; this is by far her best performance ever, and now it makes me angry that she hasn’t had more opportunities to show us what she is capable of.) Her fight for survival is heartstopping and exhausting, for us as well as for her; the film zips through its 90-minute runtime, and takes place almost in real time, and yet it also, weirdly, feels like it goes on forever, in a good way. It’s a completely captivating experience — you are captured, and cannot get away — that your whole world narrows down to. And it’s also a heartbreaking experience — oh, dear, the wracking sobs that I had to suppress during both viewings, lest I become an annoyance to other filmgoers — because of course things do not go smoothly for Stone, and at one point she must make the conscious decision that she actually does want to survive and doesn’t want to give up.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Gravity — and this is a concept that science fiction first gave to us — is the sense of the Earth below Stone and Kowalksi as not a collection of different, discrete places but as one place. As Home. The escape in Gravity is not from orbit to Houston or Lake Zurich, Illinois (Stone tells Kowalski that’s where she lives), or any particular place at all — just Down. Anywhere. Even in the vistas of the planet, Cuarón doesn’t give us any instantly recognizable places: there’s no boot of Italy or Great Lakes for us to fixate on. There’s just green and blue and clouds. It’s all home. It’s a concept that we all need to be thinking about more, because many of our seemingly intractable problems at the moment — like climate change — would be a whole lot less intractable if we were looking at the planet as one unified place instead of a divided one.

The technical accomplishments of Gravity alone would make it the film of the year. But its unique tapestry of human adventure and emotion in a scenario that reminds us on a biological, physical level what it really means to be human — that is, a creature of this one planet and nowhere else — makes it unmissable. All those people who see only one or two movies a year on a big screen? Gravity needs to be one of them.

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival

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Gravity (2013)
US/Can release: Oct 04 2013
UK/Ire release: Nov 07 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated NSF: not science fiction
MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains sustained moderate threat, disturbing images and strong language)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    One could, I think, reasonably argue that it is now a science fictional concept to imagine that Americans might be able to get human beings into orbit, just as in 1995 it was a science fictional concept to imagine that Americans might be able to get human beings to the moon.

    If you know anything about orbital mechanics at all, or even how inertia works, you will have to forget it before watching this film. It’s very clear that drama took precedence over anything approximating realism, and if I were the scientific advisor to this film I’d be leaving it off my CV. I’m sure the spectacle is great, but I will have to turn off my brain to enjoy it, and that’s a shame.

  • Jesse

    I’m a satellite engineer with a background in aerospace, and I can tell you that everyone in the *real* space community LOVES Gravity. It treats space and the hazards humans face up there with the appropriate gravitas (no pun intended) and shows that simple survival stories can be absolutely thrilling; you don’t need to introduce aliens or futuristic technology to have action, conflict and a good plot.

    However, from our perspective, Gravity IS science fiction. They get so many things absolutely right in the movie that they must have had an orbital dynamicist on their consulting staff. But then, inexplicably, they go and get so many things absolutely wrong…For instance: the Hubble, the ISS and the Chinese space station appear to be floating along side each other and a single jet back or a Soyuz deceleration rocket is sufficient to get from one to another. This is absolutely not the case: they’re all in very different orbits and it requires MASSIVE amounts of propellant to change orbits–but this can be forgiven for the sake of the narrative. Others, like (SPOILER ALERT!) Kowalski floating out of Ryan’s grip are inexcusable: she had stopped him; there was no other force pulling him inexorably away from her. This is just lazy storytelling and the same dramatic tension could have been achieved more realistically (i.e. he’s slowly floating away just out of reach and Ryan wants to let go of the ISS to grab him, but in doing so she herself won’t be able to make it back to the ISS, etc.). Other issues are more minor: her hair doesn’t float, her tears do (in reality, surface tension would keep them plastered to her eye)…but these, too can be forgiven.

    So, ultimately, a phenomenal movie and great entertainment–but by bending the laws of physics and changing what’s actually up there to suit their story, that makes it science fiction.

  • I really enjoyed this movie, but not as much as a lot of other people. apparently.

    It was stunning in regards to camera work, effects, sound design, etc. I almost found myself getting dizzy during some of the sequences,especially the fist person moments.

    Sandra was fantastic here, but I didn’t much like Clooney. He’s just too…Clooney-like. I think it would have worked better with a lesser know actor, or at least someone without an ingrained persona like he has.

    There was a certain scene that I felt didn’t fit the movie, or the character, and was there simply to appeal to mass audiences.

    *spoiler alert*
    The scene where Ryan sees the “ghost” of Kowalski, then acts all religious, even though she says she’s not in an earlier scene. Gives fuel to the “No atheist in foxholes/on their death beds” BS.
    *spoiler done*

    I’m also not a huge fan of all the closeups on the actors faces. I never like that. It pulls me out of the movie, and reminds me I’m looking at an actor.
    This was still a great movie despite my problems with it. I wouldn’t call it the best of the year, though. Maybe in the top 10.

  • Bluejay

    Wow. I need to see this again.

    I really enjoyed Gravity and I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said; it’s amazingly shot and acted, and Sandra Bullock is incredible. But I saw it after having seen Europa Report, and I find it interesting that the lower-budget movie is the one that has the bigger vision. Gravity is about bare survival, the sheer will to live, the resiliency of One Individual, the determination to Go Home. Europa Report is about exploration, the resiliency of The Team, the absolute importance of finding out What’s Out There, no matter the cost. Gravity shows us how dangerous space is. Europa Report shows us why it’s worth braving those dangers. In Gravity, as you wrote in your other post, Bullock’s character has “nothing to live for… except herself.” In Europa Report, [SPOILER] the characters have a cause bigger than themselves worth living for… and giving up their lives for.

    I suppose it’s unfair to compare two movies telling different stories for different purposes, but it’s just interesting to see the differences between them. It’s probably necessary to see both films for a fuller appreciation of space exploration — both the dangers of going Up There and the reasons why we have to go.

    many of our seemingly intractable problems at the moment … would be a whole lot less intractable if we were looking at the planet as one unified place instead of a divided one.



  • Anthony

    The part about ISS, Hubble, and Tiangong being in the “same” orbit is simply dramatic necessity. Realistically, Stone and Kowalski would’ve been stranded without hope for salvation as soon as the shuttle was hit, and we would’ve gotten 90 minutes of two astronauts slowly dying. I’m not sure what kind of philosophy or message one could get from such a movie –there HAVE been surprisingly uplifting stories about accepting one’s mortality– but then the setting and filmmaking that went into it would’ve been wasted.
    As for the scene at the ISS, I’ve seen a multitude of arguments in favor and against the realism of what was happening, explaining how physics could or could not have allowed it. Me, I believe the arguments in favor of it, but chalk up the confusion to Cuaron’s cinematography “skipping” or implying the physics in favor of focusing on the characters.

  • RogerBW

    If you can only tell your story by insulting the intelligence of the audience, maybe you should have written a better story.
    Or not pretended it was set in the real world.

  • Anthony

    Appealing to one’s suspension of disbelief != insulting anyone’s intelligence.

  • MisterAntrobus

    . . . the only other realistic space movie as yet, Apollo 13 . . .

    I feel obliged to mention The Right Stuff, which is excellent and is finally getting a Blu-ray release this week – and which also features Ed Harris! He’s three for three. :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    To me the issue is that Cuaron wanted the film to be ultra-realistic… but only up to a point. And what’s more, the point at which realism is abandoned appears to often to serve not drama, but melodrama.

    The other problem I have with this movie – to the point where I’ve been avoiding it – is that this kind of “survival” movie only works in the way that the disaster” genre ever works: the audience kinda has to get off on watching people die.

  • Jon Schwark

    You touched on this a little bit indirectly but for me, but as a video editor, the truly amazing thing is how experimental this movie is purely on a structural level. The entire timeframe of the action is maybe 3 and a half hours and they show it to us in 2 hours. During that 2 hours we never cut away from the main character’s location. In the sense that a scene is a section of a film representing continuous time in the same place, the entire movie is basically a single scene. Yes we change place, but only to follow Ryan. That and the fact that we only see 2 people’s faces. The 3D is great and being set in space is cool, but the formal aspects are equally unique and in their own way support the story. If we had even once cut away to a room in Houston to see 20 people in a room with worried faces staring at monitors, no matter how well they had shot the scene, it would have detracted from the movie. The discipline needed to keep that formal purity really makes this film special.

  • the audience kinda has to get off on watching people die.

    Whoa. Really?

    How about getting off on hoping someone will survive? Or learning how to cope with one’s own mortality via a fiction?

    Sure, *some* disaster stories are death porn. This one definitely is not.

  • Realistic yes, not so much with the in-space stuff. I mean, there’s not that much of it, that I can recall, at least.

  • Agree completely. Except the film is only 91 minutes long. :->

  • It’s probably necessary to see both films for a fuller appreciation of space exploration


  • they’re all in very different orbits

    But isn’t putting them in the same orbit more like having a character turn a corner at Grand Central Station and end up in Central Park? I mean, neither is accurate, but doesn’t putting them in the same orbit eliminate the physics/fuel problem? Or am I misunderstanding?

    she had stopped him

    Had she? Or had she merely slowed him down?

    I’m not nitpicking your criticisms, just trying to get a better hold on the physics.

  • I’m not sure what kind of philosophy or message one could get from such a movie

    Have you seen *Open Water*? It’s *very* good.

  • RogerBW

    The orbital change here is like a character taking a short walk from Grand Central Station and ending up in the Serengeti. It breaks credibility.

  • Matt Clayton

    I thought Steven Price’s score did a great job of doing two things: accentuating the emotions and serving as the ‘sound’ when things go wrong.

    And Bullock’s performance was great. The emotion is pure and unaffected… and she deserves an Oscar nomination at least. The cinematography and CGI work are almost certainly shoo-ins for winning their technical categories.

  • It is highly realistic *in the moment*, with liberties taken as far as the big picture is concerned. Like a large majority of even the finest films.

  • Michael Brown

    A bunch of my buddies from the White Sands and Los Alamos are absolutely “over the moon” (no pun intended) about this. Several of us had seen “Hubble 3D” which was IMAX and talked about the Hubble missions & repairs. And this was like two weeks before seeing “Gravity.” The next buzz is: they want to get in a bunch and go see it again; they’ve all seen it more than once. I’m invited and I can hardly wait.

  • Stopped/slowed down? Neither – it wasn’t a linear motion. They were floating away and when her foot caught the parachute it pulled them slightly to the side, and they started swinging at the end of the parachute rope. It was a long and slow swing but the centrifugal force was pulling Kowalski out of Stone’s grasp, and Stone away from the ropes.

  • Jon Schwark

    You totally nailed the 2 things that stood out to me as well. That Kowalski floating out of Ryans grip thing really bothered me, because it seems like it would have been easy to correct and not change the story. It was the typical hollywood “cliffhanger” where gravity would pull you down, but oops, there should be no down. That was actually the one moment where I really stepped back and thought, oh, this isn’t as real as they are claiming”. I can see how that moment was important for the plot, they just needed to write something a little differently and it could have worked. All the things being in orbit in the same neighborhood bothered me too, but that is really typical of the kind of shortcut films take, so I just excused it. There was no easy way to correct it and still keep the same plot, and having a look at all those environments was worth a little fudging IMO. I’m just a simple video editor/motion graphic designer who loves hard sci-fi, but I wonder what you all thought about the effects of vacuum on the human body? I always assumed it would be more explosive, but maybe they played it down so as not to veer into too much gore.

  • Jon Schwark

    roger that :)

  • Overflight

    What really got me was not so much the fact that everything was inexplicably in the same orbit but rather at how whenever the plot needed to change venues, the movie’s Space physics suddenly turn into underwater physics: just point the jet in a straight line the opposite way you want to go and you’re done. If you did that in real space, you’d end up missing the target for hundreds of kilometers. These sorts of maneuvers require substantial calculation (to Cuarón’s credit, apparently he did have something more realistic in mind but switched it to this because he didn’t want to have a 20 minute orbital mechanics lecture in the middle of the movie).

  • Overflight

    I really enjoyed this film. Definitely one of the best experiences I had in a theater in years. Granted, my aerospace background does make me raise an eyebrow at the inaccuracies regarding orbital mechanics, but I was able to look past that. This is cinematic immersion at its finest. A movie that truly transports you to Another Place. Great performances, stellar effects, it’s got it all. This is what movies Should Be.

    That said, there is something about the ending that I have to discuss:


    I’m sorry, but I can’t see this as uplifting. So she survived even though by her own admission she has nothing to live for, great. But think of what just happened: pretty much all of humanity’s presence in space was completely destroyed via Kessler Syndrome (look it up). Meaning space will be completely inaccessible for several generations. And if what happened in the real world is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if humanity NEVER returns to space, what with political apathy, resource depletion and climate change. Essentially this movie marks the beginning of humanity’s fall and expects us to not care :in that sense it reminds me of the infamous ending of The Day The Earth Stood Still remake (all electronic devices on Earth have stopped working but who cares? Jaden Smith called his stepmother “Mom”!) I know it’s not the point of the movie but it was all that was on my mind at that moment.

  • Karl Morton IV

    I thought she had snagged her foot in the parachute lines, but not been stopped cold by them – didn’t we see the tangle of lines she was caught in still unravelling because she was still moving away from the mess, being pulled by Kowalski’s mass and continuing momentum in the opposite direction? I read it that Kowalski pulling as well as her own mass was what made unhooking him necessary – so him being released made her spring back toward the station. Or is that not how it works at all? (I’ve never been up there.)

  • Karl Morton IV

    I know what Dr. Rocketscience means, but I thought “Gravity” was a far cry from “Towering Inferno”. Not nearly enough characters in “Gravity” to lay odds on who was gonna buy the farm next, for one thing. :)

  • Karl Morton IV

    Yeah, RogerBW better stay at home if he’s the sort who will stand up in the middle of the cinema calling out in a loud voice, “I call BULLSHIT on your orbital mechanics, Alfonso Cuaron! Again, sir, I call BULLSHIT!!” People like that, as whistleblowery as they obviously think they appear, are never appreciated by other moviegoers. ;)

  • Kenny

    Kessler syndrome, upon which the horrific disaster which befalls the crew of the shuttle is based, is a scientific hypothesis.
    We don’t know for a fact that Kessler syndrome is possible. Therefore It goes in the same category as space elevators, terraforming, and wormholes.
    The movie is realistic in almost every way apart from the fact that takes this science fiction concept and shows you how it might devastate the world as we know it, and force anyone caught in its path to fight for their lives.
    Gravity is a wonderful, powerful, movie movie. It is the film of the year and all the other accolades heaped upon it.
    It IS science fiction.
    I am a scifi writer, and I am intensely happy whenever really great science fiction comes along… please don’t rob the genre of one of its best examples…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeah, kinda really.

    I’ve been thinking about this a couple of days, deciding if I want to walk it back, but I’ve decided, no. The “survival” genre, with films like Gravity, 127 Hours, Buried, and Open Water, are an evolution of the Irwin Allen era disaster movies. These films have paired down all the flimsy “story” elements of Allen’s films, but the basic outline is the same: a series of everything goes wrong for one or two characters (rather than Allen’s casts of stars), and we wait to see who dies and who lives. And that’s all that happens. In the end, it hardly matters if the characters actually live or die. The point of the films is the tension of watching them as they are, effectively, dying. They’re ultimate fate is merely the release of the tension. How much you enjoy that film depends greatly on how you feel about that tension/release process. You have to enjoy it, to get off on it, or the experience is excruciating, at best.

    Now, I appreciate that the four films I listed are all critically acclaimed. And I do adhere to the philosophy that what makes a great film isn’t what it’s about, but how it is about it. But what it’s about still counts for something, right?

    Incidentally, “disaster porn”, to me, as a separate evolution of the Allen films. There are movies like Volcano and 2012 and the last half hour of Man of Steel (the reason I really liked, but didn’t love, that film). These are movies that focus on the spectacle of destruction, while eliding or ignoring the obvious death toll.

  • Radek Piskorski

    That’s not what it means to be human. Other creatures are “of this planet” as well. That’s the problem of trying to get to the truth of humanity by universalisms — you include everything.

  • Jesse

    Good point: as soon as Kowalski opened up the Soyuz hatch with virtually no ill effects on Ryan (besides the sound suddenly disappearing) I was ready to throw in the towel on my suspension of disbelief. The fact that it turned out to be a dream/hallucination due to her oxygen deprivation was a bit of a relief. In reality, vacuum doesn’t actually cause the human body to explode and she wouldn’t die instantly, but capillaries would burst giving her bloodshot eyes and bruising, severe swelling of the body, etc. But she could probably have survived it.

  • Jesse

    Good points. To give you a terrestrial analogy of the different orbits, it’s like a character climbing into a row boat–with an outboard motor–in New York harbour and in the next scene they’re motoring up the Thames. It just not possible on a single tank of gas.

    With regards to Kowalski slipping out of Ryan’s grip, I’ll need to re-watch this, but I thought it was clear she had grabbed his hand solidly and they were moving at the same initial velocity. But then Kowalski continued to move when Ryan stopped, beyond what you would expect from his own momentum…Yup, a re-watch is definitely necessary!

  • Jesse

    This is very true. To speed up in orbit, you actually thrust in the direction you’re moving. This drops you into a lower–and faster–orbit, allowing you to play catch up with an object ahead of you.

    The other issue was her use of the fire extinguisher as a thruster: unless the nozzle was aligned exactly with her center of mass, she would have immediately gone into a high rate spin. Ah well, still loved the movie, though :-)

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    The deliberate sacrifice by Kowalski is absolutely necessary to the films’ development of Ryan’s own spiritual journey. She has to learn to let go…and she has to recognize that someone else thinks she is worthy of be saved, even at the expense of his own life. Yeah yeah…I know that the moment he stopped, he would have rebounded right back to her and not had some mysterious “something” keep pulling him away like you see (and it did drive me nuts…more so then the orbital mechanic issues between the ISS and the Hubble)…but I recognized that it actually DID have to happen that way. Kowalski can still return as a ghost or guardian angel (I think you can make a better case for the angel here, given the overt spiritual nature of this film) and he still has a couple of lessons to teach before he lets her go for good. Unabashed sentimentalist that I am, I admit to weeping opening (if quietly) for the last 15 minutes of the film, and her re-entry scene goes down as one of the most beautiful and terrifying things I have ever witnessed on film. Now if only we could get a good movie in my field of geology…

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    I am sticking with the “guardian angel” theory on this one…since she had scarcely been oxygen deprived long enough for hypoxia hallucinations…but the scene was certainly meant for individual interpretation.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    I have heard it would be possible to use the fire extinguisher as she did…but devilishly tricky for the reason you point out.

  • AnneMarie Dickey

    Wow. Not the case here at all. This movie is an affirmation of life and it explores the resilience of the human soul in adversity (and much of that adversity has nothing to do with space)

  • I liked Europa Report too, and while I see Bluejay’s point, I still found Gravity a more compelling theatrical experience.

  • Bluejay

    Oh, I agree that Gravity is the more compelling theatrical experience. I just wish it had an audacious vision to match its audacious storytelling.

    As a species we are only beginning to explore the frontier of space, and already we’re embracing stories (granted, very well-told stories) about how it’s a victory just to come back home. I find that a little sad.

    I also agree with the end of Overflight’s comment (spoilers): “Essentially the movie marks the beginning of humanity’s fall and expects us not to care.” The film celebrates one individual’s self-discovery and survival, while glossing over the destruction of humanity’s access to space for generations. In a way, it’s a film that gives up on the future. Of course there’s room for stories with that perspective, but it just seems like a particularly sad thing for a film about space to do.

    Again, to be clear, I think Gravity is a great movie experience. Hopefully, someday, someone will make an inspiring Gravity-caliber film about a scrappy team of astronauts who defy all the terrifying dangers of space and successfully establish the first colony on Mars.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Neither of these movies have anything to do with space, space travel, or space exploration. They use these things as framing devices to tell boilerplate disaster stories. They’re inconsistent with how we actually experience death and survival in the space age. We’ve never had a group of astronauts die, one by one, in dramatic fashion. We’ve never seen a mission fail, one aspect after another, at dramatically appropriate intervals. In real space mission failures, everything goes wrong, and everyone dies, all at once. The closest thing to the disaster movie scenarios that’s ever happened was the Apollo 13 mission. But in that case, one major element failed (and one semi-major problem cropped up later), but everything else went right. The crew, both in the spacecraft and on the ground, improvised a successful space mission. Because they were just that good.

    Gravity and Europa Report are telling something more like Age of Exploration stories in a space age setting. (Which is why, yes, Gravity is definately science fiction.) They may be well made – I still can’t muster any desire to see Gravity, and while I did watch Europa Report, to be honest, I skipped through about 1/4 to 1/3 of it, trying to avoid the melodrama – but that doesn’t change their essential nature or genre.

  • teddy crescendo

    This was just another ludicrously over-blown excuse to show Sandra Bullock in her underwear, even at 48 the bird is still pretty tasty.

  • I’m holding back from deleting this comment, but only just.

    If you care to explain why you think the film is “ludicrously over-blown,” I won’t delete it.

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