Warning: the following is full of spoilers. Do not read if you haven’t seen the movie. I’ll be giving everything away! You have been warned.
I am going to go against the tide (or against the gravity, maybe).
I saw Gravity the other night, and I thought it was just okay. Not horrible (like Man of Steel), not a masterpiece (as is being espoused), but just okay with the occasional really good bits.
Five things I liked about it ~
- It’s visually magnificent. It’s an overwhelming visual spectacle, particularly in 3D, communicating the vastness and solitude of space. There won’t be a moment you’re not immersed in the film.
- The score is brilliant. It’s atmospheric, it’s uplifting, and befitting an epic.
- The acting is excellent. Sandra Bullock’s had her critics in the past. For mine, she’s effectively always playing herself, (except in The Blind Side, where she played herself with a Southern accent). She’s great here. Ditto for George Clooney, although he doesn’t have much to do . (Disturbingly, he’s back to his head-wobbling best in one scene. Come on, you’ve seen him wobble his head whenever he’s playing debonair).
- There’s a story. Yes, an actual story. That’s unusual in today’s Hollywood, where story is secondary (if that high). Gravity tries to be about something, and the effects are vehicles to tell that story as best as possible, rather than the stars, with a story interwoven throughout to tie it all together.
- It’s original. It’s not a superhero movie, it’s not a reboot, it’s not a mindless action flick (although it disguises the fact it is an action flick), it’s not an adaptation. That list comprises most of what Hollywood makes today.
Five Things I Didn’t Like ~
- This is a story about survival. When your film is predominantly made up of one character, guess what? It’s a safe bet that until the climax of the story, that character’s safe. I understand that in most movies, there’s an unspoken pact between movie and audience that the protagonist won’t die, or at least won’t die before the climax, but here, because there is just the one character, that means all the threats she faces are just threats, or the movie will end prematurely (and that’s obviously not going to happen).
- The character’s stupid arc. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) lost her daughter in a schoolyard accident and now feels a sense of hopelessness. Stone’s thrown into peril, at which point she fights for her survival. At one point, with everything going wrong, and nothing to go back to (on Earth), she gives up. But she comes to realisation that life’s worth living and that she has to take care of herself. So she battles on. This might have a point if we hadn’t already seen her fight for her life repeatedly previous to this epiphany. They’ve created a resolution that already existed.
- The story goes all in too early. Stone is servicing the Hubble Telescope during a spacewalk. Debris from a Russian satellite hits and destroys their shuttle. Stone is cast adrift. Kowalski rescues her. They must grapple to anchor themselves to the International Space Station. This is the opening of the story (and kills the other three crew-members). Then it’s basically just this happening again and again and again: Stone needs to get to a location, is almost cast adrift, debris hits, she moves onto the next location. Cue repeat. (I know this is the point of the movie, but it becomes self-defeating.)
- The best and most meaningful scene happens too early. Kowalski and Stone thruster-pack to the International Space Station, hoping to use a module to get back to Earth. There’s one remaining module, but its parachute has already been deployed, making the module useless for re-entry. Kowalski and Stone overshoot the station. Stone latches onto several of the parachute’s suspension lines with her foot, and grabs Kowalski’s tether with her hand. Kowalski’s inertia is pulling Stone clear from the parachute. Stone tries to hold on. Kowalski asks her to let go (or they’ll both be sacrificed), and when she doesn’t, he untethers himself and floats off, leaving Stone to reel herself back in by the parachute’s suspension lines. Cool scene. But wouldn’t something like this have worked better as the story’s climax (although I understand that fundamentally changes the story)?
- Murphy’s Law runs rampant. What can go wrong will go wrong … and it just keeps going wrong. It creates tension until you’re programmed into expecting every foul-up that’s going to occur. Then it’s like, Okay, fire away.
Sleuth (Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Alec Cawthorne) is one of the best movies I’ve seen containing limited locations and actors. You can never guess what’s going to happen next. But as difficult as this story must be to tell (whilst attempting to keep it engrossing), Gravity – by virtue of what are meant to be its strengths – becomes predictable, with the only real (sustained) wonder coming from the visuals and music.
I would’ve actually preferred had the bulk of the crew survived the initial impact, and then the events of the story lopped them off one at a time, so we had no idea who might survive. Then you could’ve slotted in a scene like the one that occurs when Kowalski untethers himself to save Stone, which would’ve had meaning had they spent eighty minutes of film-time together and bonded. I understand that changes the story but, for mine, that would’ve been far more compelling.
Still, Gravity is better than most movies out there at the moment.