Review: 'Gravity' Is The Next Best Thing To Actually Being There - The Final Frontier

Reviews
by Michael Jones
October 15, 2013 4:14 PM
7 Comments
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In 1977, the underbelly of a huge star destroyer engulfed the screen.

In 1978, a man in blue tights and a red cape flew across the screen.

In 1981, a guy in a fedora with a bullwhip kicked ass onscreen.

In 1982, a short squat alien became the friend everyone wanted to have.

In 1993, dinosaurs came back to life onscreen.

In 2001, a fellowship, a Balrog, and a weird little green guy with a ring fetish dominated the screen.

What does any of this have to do with Gravity, you ask? Well, the aforementioned films all instilled a sense of jaw-dropping amazement in me, validated my decision to go into film and video as a career, and made me love the medium of film. Here, in 2013, is the film that does that same thing for me all over again. From the very first frame of Earth’s horizon in space  that encompasses a screen nearly three stories high (oh, it’s a given you’re seeing this in IMAX, right?), the jaw drops and doesn’t relax for the next hour and a half. Walking out of this completely immersive experience, I felt like I had just gone through an advanced course in space aeronautics.

How did director Alfonso Cuaron manage to get such long unbroken shots that are incredibly realistic? How did cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski get his camera to do the things it did? How did George Clooney and Sandra Bullock prepare for what must have been the most grueling wirework in any movie ever? How is it that the two leads (plus the obligatory Red Shirt* character) look convincingly weightless in space? How does Bullock come off the uninspired, albeit hugely successful film The Heat, looking ragged and then in the same year, knock it out of the park in this film and even manage to outshine Sigourney Weaver in a pair of shorty-shorts? Going in, I wasn’t thrilled about seeing Bullock, who I really have only liked in Speed (1994) and Crash (2004) (what an interesting coincidence, those two titles) and I liked her in Demolition Man, early in her career. I was thinking how great it would be to see Julianne Moore or Jodie Foster (who really stunk it up in Elysium) in this role. But Sandra Bullock, who essentially is playing Sandra Bullock with all the familiar tics and stutters, nails it. George Clooney comes off as slightly cocky and a little sexist, but given that I’ve just partially conflated Bullock’s performance with her ability to fill out a pair of shorts, I don’t have much leg to stand on. And hey, it’s Clooney, one of our last great male leads. Short of Batman And Robin , I’ll cut him some slack.

The story is pretty simple. Two astronauts are on a mission to repair the Hubble telescope when debris from a demolished Russian satellite in orbit rampages towards them and causes havoc. I think it was Newton who determined that a body in motion stays in motion. Well, as there is no friction in space, a body going in excess of 20,000 mph with nothing to slow it down is not a good thing. And when said object smashes into another object creating more debris going at 20,000 mph, it’s definitely not a good thing. For the duration of this film, which at only 90 minutes, seemed much longer (and I mean that in a good way), Clooney and Bullock have to find a means to return back to Earth.

Earth, which looks at once beautiful and absolutely terrifying in the opening shot. This movie makes it clear that the most mundane things we take for granted here on terra firma can quickly become deadly in space. Simply breathing in and out too fast, air pressure, atmosphere, a spark of flame no bigger than the head of a match can mean the difference between life and immediate death. I used to think that I would gladly take a trip into space if afforded the opportunity, no question in my mind. Ironically, despite the real and actual tragedy of the 1986 Challenger mission, it’s this movie that has me thinking, hmmm, maybe I would think twice about that.

This is a must-see movie and if I haven’t put a fine enough point on it yet, let me emphasize once again that it must be seen in IMAX 3D. If, as posited by Star Trek, space is the final frontier and it’s doubtful that I’ll ever make it up there, then this film is the next best thing and safest means of getting there. And once it’s released on Blu-ray, I’ll be re-visiting the final frontier from the safety of my couch over and over again.

*It’s a Star Trek reference. For a mild spoiler, look it up.

Note: I’ve heard tell of critics, mostly scientists and engineers I believe, complaining how the film is not realistic because the debris is travelling in the wrong direction for geosynchronous orbit, and also because Bullock’s hair should be floating in zero-gravity. I suspect this is why her hair is bobbed in the film, as an attempt at addressing this issue, because it would be more than a little distracting to see long hair fanning out in every shot. But I would also say this to the critics: Where have you been since the mid-1960s, when the USS Enterprise first traveled in space? How about the late 70s, when the Millennium Falcon and TIE fighters were audibly whooshing through space and firing lasers (laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Yet there’s no light in space per se (visible light in space is due to reflection off an object or atmosphere, otherwise light passes through the void of space, which is why space is dark). There’s definitely no sound. Yet you come forward in 2013 to criticize Sandra Bullock’s hair?


Michael Jones is a ten year veteran producer, director, shooter and editor, specializing in marketing and promotions. As an independent, he counts Nickelodeon, TV One, BET, L'Oreal Sony BMG, and R&B artist Brandy among clients. Born in Baltimore, raised in Indianapolis, lived outside of Chicago, Atlanta, greater New York, Princeton, and now Philadelphia, work has carried Jones to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but he's most at home in front of his laptop. http://qstorm.com.

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7 Comments

  • Andrew | October 20, 2013 2:58 PMReply

    This film was magnificent in 3d. Last year we Life of Pi, and now this. this to me is why 3D is made. I think the people that are finding racist tones are seriously thinking way too hard into this. I mean, here is an epic masterpiece, and you're going to complain about a ping pong paddle? (Which I see no problem with, btw). Also, yes that character died...but if they had hired a white guy to play it then you'd be complaining why they didn't hire a black person. Do you honestly think that the director is racist? I highly doubt he thought 'oh this character is going to die...I'll hire a black guy for that part'. Stop trying to make everything into a controversy.

  • deecreative | October 16, 2013 9:10 PMReply

    yeahhhh if you are Russian or Chinese you had to feel some kind of way, like why did the Chinese escape pod almost break apart!? It was designed for re-entry and yeah I saw the ping pong paddle. U.S. astronauts played ping pong! Visually though the movie is AMAZING!!! I felt like I was in space for 1 hour 30 minutes, literally! But yeahhh I thought what if the main lead was black and why did the Indian dude have to first even though everyone died except Sandra Bullock. But I have to go back to the overall feel, I haven't been to a movie in recent memory where I felt like I was there! I saw it in 3D(which was great!) Oscars are going to be long!

  • Liling | October 16, 2013 12:05 AMReply

    The movie was amazing and also the movie of least characters I've never saw. However, when the woman entered the Chinese station, we started laughing. Because it implied made from China is of low quality somehow. But it's still a interesting experience for me. The vividly 3D effect, wish I could see some movies like this in China!

  • Jennifer | October 15, 2013 11:23 PMReply

    I find it interesting that nobody has pointed out the racist elements in the film, not just the fact that the first person to die is a brown person, but when she gets to the damn Chinese space station, there is a floating ping pong paddle. I cringed at that.

  • EP | October 15, 2013 4:34 PMReply

    Here is one of the most honest reviews I've seen, She even talks about the Cliche of Black/Brown People being the first to die. http://youtu.be/81W8bPvuuyE

  • Marcel | November 3, 2013 2:33 PM

    People always have to complain about something. If that astronaut had been white, people would have complained about the movie showing only white astronauts, while in reality there are people from all over the world. And the "ping pong" straddle in the chinese station - I didn't even notice that. The fact that chinese spacecraft technology finally saves Ryan was something that probably made chinese moviegoers proud - at least that's what I thought. But of course you can always keep looking for something to nitpick on.

  • Marcel | November 3, 2013 2:33 PM

    People always have to complain about something. If that astronaut had been white, people would have complained about the movie showing only white astronauts, while in reality there are people from all over the world. And the "ping pong" straddle in the chinese station - I didn't even notice that. The fact that chinese spacecraft technology finally saves Ryan was something that probably made chinese moviegoers proud - at least that's what I thought. But of course you can always keep looking for something to nitpick on.

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