Movie Day: Gravity

By | October 12, 2013

My life is such that my wife and I are able to go see movies during the day. I count this as a blessing; a nice perk of being completely in charge of my own schedule. So, we often go to see them during the day when crowds are smaller, parking is easier, and prices are lower. The only drawback is that often the popcorn is left over from the evening before, so it isn’t as fresh as one would like.

But I digress…

Gravity_PosterYesterday we went and saw a much-hyped film called Gravity. (And, yes, there will probably be spoilers in my comments. So if you plan on seeing the movie, don’t say I didn’t warn you.) It stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as astronaut Matt Kowalski. (I probably misspelled the character’s last name.) They are part of a five-person team on a space-shuttle mission. The “outsider” on the team is Dr. Stone, who is along to do some testing on a prototype for some technological doo-dad being connected to the Hubble Space Telescope.

While they are doing their mundane space walking to accomplish their mission, a series of events leads to the onslaught of space debris traveling through their area at 22,000 miles per hour. It makes mincemeat of the Hubble and the space shuttle, killing everyone except Stone and Kowalski. Stone becomes untethered and starts drifting off into space, soon out of radio contact with Kowalski. But Kowalski, a seasoned astronaut, uses the self-contained jet-pack he is wearing to rescue Stone.

Stone and Kowalski then make their way toward the International Space Station and arrive at the bludgeoned remains of to ISS just as his jet-pack poops out and her oxygen is depleted. He sacrifices himself to the void of space to save her, and the rest of the movie details her efforts to first die and then survive. (It was noteworthy to me that an American astronaut ended up wearing a Russian cosmonaut’s space suit inside a Chinese space capsule. You’ll need to see the movie to understand that, I’m sure.)

That is the short synopsis. The movie was nothing like what I expected. That is probably because I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I definitely didn’t expect what I watched. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as it gives me plenty of time to re-think and assess what I saw after the movie. There was very little of the movie that I would consider a formulaic treatment of an age-old story trajectory. Therefore, I enjoyed it. There have been lots of other reviews written, including one that saw deep spiritual meaning to the storyline.

The treatment of “life in space” seemed to ring true to me. This wasn’t some Star Trek or Star Wars approach to space where people have more-or-less control of their movements in a hostile environment. Nope; the space travelers in this flick were pinballs in a celestial pinball machine–if they started moving in a direction, they kept moving in that direction via frictionless inertia unless acted upon by something with larger mass moving in a different direction. If they were spinning out of control, they kept spinning out of control unless they hit something. And, true to pinball life, there was a lot of hitting things and bouncing off of them. It all added to the feeling of non-control that one would have in space. Scary, unyielding, unforgiving stuff. (What does one do when one is spinning on three axes into the nothingness of space?)

The special effects were amazing. Literally. I haven’t seen such good, high-quality, realistic special effects since 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie isn’t nearly as groundbreaking or epic as 2001, but it is every bit as beautiful. (2001 also sticks with me because I believe the story was deeper and more complex than Gravity’s. That, and I gravitate–pun intended–toward good science fiction.)

One thing I really liked about the film had nothing to do with film making, but it made watching the movie much more enjoyable–there were really no opening credits. IIRC, the title showed up for a short time a few minutes in, but all the credits were left to the end of the movie. In my book, opening credits aren’t done for the benefit of viewers. They are done for the ego of the participants and the strengthening of the participants’ personal brands. Thus, I applaud whoever made the decision to do away with the opening credits. Thank you. Sincerely.

My recommendation: Go see the movie. Much of the beauty of the cinematography and the special effects will lose their grandeur on the small screen as opposed to the large. Bullock does a good job and Clooney plays an experienced, round-the-block, cowboy astronaut well.