Gravity

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Gravity
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Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller
Warner Bros.
October 4th, 2013
Release length: 1:31:00
Website
One of the biggest films to drop in 2013 was the cosmic survival piece Gravity. It was written Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Jonas Cuaron, who also collaborated with George Clooney (From Dusk Till Dawn, Oceans Eleven) on the script. Alfonso also took over directorial duties for this endeavour. Gravity went on to win one hundred and four awards (according to IMDB.com) and seven more at the 2013 Oscars including Best Picture. But what makes this movie such a success, or is it really a sleeper in disguise?

Everyone who has seen an advertisement for this movie, or heard people talk about it will pretty much know the general idea of the story. A crew is doing repairs on a shuttle when they are hit with debris and become separated and isolated in deep space. For the most part, this is true. Gravity begins with medical engineer Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) who is on his final mission before retiring commence some routine repairs on a space walk before being pelted by speeding debris from an old Soviet Russia satellite the Russians destroyed with a missile. Of course NASA advises there’s no immediate threat, but they end up being wrong. The wreckage destroys the ship, leaving only those two alive.

Most of the action actually hits really early. You are teased with that sense of isolation shortly after the debris hits, but Matt and Ryan eventually meet back up and work together to try to reach an old Russian Space Station that was also hit by the debris. This eats up a good chunk of the film, and while it makes sense as a ploy to calm and distract the new-to-space Dr. Stone and keep her from using what little oxygen she has left, it just gets unrealistic after a while. The only real point it serves as far as character development goes is to reveal the doctor’s history and what happened to her daughter.

Gravity

It’s after the two are separated again upon reaching the Russian Space Station that Gravity starts to get entertaining story-wise. With all communication to Houston severed and being cut off from Matt, reality slowly starts weighing in on Dr. Stone, competing against a couple conveniently timed obstacles such as the sudden fire alarm and reoccurring debris attacks. Next to the opening constant spinning camera shots, this also leads to some of the most obvious over-the-top camera work, and even fan service of Sandra Bullock in a tank top and underwear curled up floating around in zero gravity for quite a while, all leading to a conclusion that suddenly cuts out and makes you feel there’s more to this story that we didn’t get, and probably another movie all together that would be far better than this one.

As mentioned, one of the biggest issues here is the camera work. Visually, Gravity is just an orgasm for your eyes, especially on Blu-Ray. This film looks fantastic, but at the same time what is added through green screen effects and the immense amount of computer graphics makes reality and digital enhancements stand out horribly to the point where taking the sensation of being adrift alone in space seriously is nearly impossible. While gorgeous, almost all of it just looks fake. It also would have been nice to have a little time inside the shuttle to grow the characters, maybe ten, fifteen minutes in a manner similar to some of the dialogue found early on in Alien before heading out so you can begin to remotely care about the other victims of the shuttle, even the third member on the space walk straight out of Harvard who basically dies, becomes a recurring element for the first third of the film, but has no back-story whatsoever, and you’re supposed to care about him being dead and having his corpse brought home.

Gravity

And then there’s the issue of sound. While most of the time the film sticks to the typical law of no sound in space, there are times you can’t help but wonder why there is. You can argue some areas are just the microphone the astronauts picking up random noises through the suits, which is a huge irritation whenever outside moving around as it picks up on every little scrape, bump and grab possible, sometimes drowning the dialogue out. But then you get scenes like Dr. Stone losing her cool inside something with the camera zooming out from the outside. You shouldn’t hear her at all, but yet you are able to slightly. Then again, maybe my understanding of absolutely no sound in space and how that works is flawed despite the opening on-screen text drivin that point home for anyone who doesn’t get where some of the explosions and crashes on screen have no effects tied to them.

Gravity

Gravity is one of those films that was better as a concept then when it all came together. Thankfully this was a strict ninety-one minutes including credits and not forced into an over two-hour long “experience” like some of the recent blockbusters feel inclined to be. It could have easily even been a good eighty minutes, or had some of the background for the two main characters of the film handled differently. With effects that make the separation between reality and computers painfully clear, the overused spinning camera angles that sometimes didn’t need to exist, predictable dangers, and lack of isolation thanks to George Clooney being George Clooney toned down to the point of dead panned, this film wasn’t all it could have been, and even ends on the start of what would be a far more engaging isolation film, if not a suiting follow-up. Gravity takes a good thirty, thirty-five minutes before you could even start to say it’s a “good” film, and even then the story just doesn’t grip you the way it would if Dr. Stone were the only survivor period. Instead it seems this movie just pushes itself on you as being the visual mash-up of Avatar and 2001: A Space Odyssey. While it’s still worth watching, it’s definitely pointless if you don’t see it in a high definition format.

Overall Score: 5.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.