Bringing ‘Gravity’ down to earth

I admit it: I wanted to be blown away, like most critics and bloggers. I just wasn’t. Gravity, it seems, just didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped.

It’s still a good film and definitely one of the must-sees of the year. For me, it’s worthy of 3 ¾ stars, making it a strong thumbs-up. The visuals are stunning, and it breaks new ground technologically. But I said the same thing about Avatar, and that was worthy of only 3 stars. I’m not comparing the two films, as I think Gravity is much better. But both films seem like an example of art supporting craft instead of the other way around. In other words, it’s as if the filmmakers wanted to show off their technology and visual skill and created a story to fit that purpose instead of first fashioning a great story, a great message or a great piece of artistic expression and then using the craft to bring that to life. In that regard, it’s nowhere close to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and, frankly, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Moon.

I settled on these thoughts not because I was looking at it as a critic. Indeed, I wasn’t reviewing this film, just enjoying it as an audience member. I developed these ideas because I was strangely unmoved for most of the film. Admittedly, I was blown away by the first few minutes. I loved the serenity, beauty, calm and silence of space. But then the banter between Bullock and Clooney started to annoy me, and the over-the-top music started shattering the silence, and the story became predictable. It’s as if I was watching a really great movie at a science museum, demonstrating what space looked and felt like. But when all was said and done, I was left with a good movie but not a great one. Take away the technology, and what have you really got here? A fun ride, for sure – but not much else.

I should end with a personal disclaimer: Yes, I saw it on a good screen, with 4K digital projection and in 3-D, which is how I recommend everyone see it. However, I did not see it on an IMAX screen. If you like IMAX, you should see it on an IMAX screen for a more immersive experience. But I’m not a big fan, since the images are often just a bit too much for me to focus on. They are so big that they actually take me out of the moment slightly. (That’s one of the reasons I don’t sit too close to the screen in a regular theater.) I know there are some of you out there like me – I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, or alone in my distaste for handheld camera. In short, see it the way YOU want to see it, but don’t insist that EVERYONE see it on an IMAX screen.

2 Responses to “Bringing ‘Gravity’ down to earth”
  1. Barbara says:

    That is EXACTLY what I thought, except maybe 3 not 3.5 stars. It has been getting such accolades in the press, that I somehow feel manipulated, as if someone were telling me how to feel about a movie. I was blown away by the first half hour or so because it was visually stunning, but did George C have to tell us how beautiful everything was over and over (when he tells Bullock’s character how beautiful the sunrise is …. or was it sunset, etc). We get it!

    If the director was going for the reality of space, then the big hole in the film’s logic–that the space stations would never be so close, then I feel duped. Which is quizzical to me because I’m not usually offended by movies that deviate from reality.

    I didn’t feel the suspense. Wasn’t it obvious what would happen? .

    But again, it was stunning, Bullock was amazing. However, if it is a must see for the visual, then I think that this movie would be served well by IMAX. Think of the educational IMAX films.

  2. cameron says:

    Thanks, Barbara. I too was amazed by the visual spectacle, but I felt other elements were heavy-handed. The latter half didn’t live up to the promise. Still, as I said, it’s quite a ride.