“Gravity”: A Short Movie Review

The movie Gravity has been widely reviewed at other venues, so I will try and mention a few “new” angles.  First, the screen action seems preposterous and unrealistic, but the visuals are stunning and very realistic.  Second, the two actors–Sandra Bullock and George Clooney–do a good job.  Clooney’s flippant cowboy style works.  Third, the weightlessness scenes (pretty much the whole movie) seem very realistic.  And I understand that they were very difficult to film.  Fourth, I would give Gravity only a mediocre recommendation.  Modern movies don’t seem to come up with plots to match the stunning visuals.  This was certainly the case with Avatar, and for me, it is also the case with Gravity.  And fifth, the movie director–Alfonso Cuaron–should be given credit for not making an overly long film.  Too many movies these days drag on and on.

Jerry Earl Johnston, reviewer for the Deseret News, feels that “Gravity is a celestial allegory.”

In the movie, I saw a full grab bag of symbols and metaphors.

There’s a baptism by water and a baptism by fire, for instance.

There’s a rebirth.  (For Darwinians, the same scene could be an image of the first creature climbing from the sea.)

I think Johnston is trying too hard to find a spiritual message (intended or unintended).  But if the movie works for some as allegory, that’s fine.  The film can also be viewed as a cosmic journey of personal discovery for the main character (played by Sandra Bullock).  But for me, Gravity works best as an action thriller, without all the killing, but with plenty of suspense.

A friend who works for NASA–Scott Howe–thought the movie was “fantastic:”

There were a few minor errors that I’m sure they did to preserve the story (for example, getting from Hubble Telescope to International Space Station in just a backpack, etc.), but they didn’t detract at all.

I’m hoping new generations of sci-fi movies try to live up to the realism in “Gravity,” particularly in addressing zero-gravity.

Clooney and Bullock Floating in Space

Clooney and Bullock Floating in Space

Jessica Winter, in an article in Time magazine (14 Oct 2013) commented on some of the technical ingenuity of the weightlessness scenes:

For the most part in “Gravity,” if you are seeing flesh, it’s real; everything else is computer generated.  The big breakthrough–or in Cuaron’s words, the “big, big, big, big breakthrough”–was Emmanuel Lubeski (cinematographer) and Tim Webber’s (visual-effects supervisor) design of the “light box,” where Bullock spent the bulk of her time.  “If Sandra was supposed to be floating and turning 360 degrees in space, we knew she would have to be as still as possible, and what had to move around was the set and the lighting and the camera,” Lubeski says.  The light box was a cube whose interior walls were made up of panels fitted with millions of LEDs.  “They’re creating projections of what the character would be seeing, but the projections are also lighting her,”  Cauron says.  Robot-controlled cameras and rigs sped up, slowed down and rotated in a computer-controlled choreography that created the illusion of movement.

If you plan to see this movie, see it in IMAX and 3-D, and don’t wait for the video.  The lack of a credible plot doesn’t detract too much from the stunning visuals.  A good motion picture:  yes.  A masterpiece:  no.

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2 Responses to “Gravity”: A Short Movie Review

  1. Susan says:

    I was apprehensive about seeing this movie, because I thought, “what can Clooney/Bullock say to each other to carry a script for 2 hours”? My apprehensions held true. Although I agree with you, Roger, in that the weightlessness and other special effects were intriguing, the movie bordered on being a bit “corny”. Maybe I just don’t get sci-fi? Give me a good chick flick/love story any old day, lol. And Sandra Bullock carrying on a conversation with herself for a good chunk of the movie? Please. I did enjoy the length of the movie, however. Nice to see a movie less than 2 hours long!

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    Another comment from NASA scientist Scott Howe:

    From my perspective, a lot of SF nowadays jumps far into a distant, usually dark future. As a result, young folks these days are confused about what is possible and what is not.

    I look at SF as an inspiration. To me, Gravity shows how all the environmental issues and constraints I’m dealing with today can be an exciting backdrop — the goal being to encourage young people to want to live and work in space, thus more support for space research and technology development.

    Gravity shows some scary possibilities that are realistic, but that realism will hopefully awaken a challenge to face real problems, rather than bury oneself in an unrealistic fiction.

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