Friday, April 4, 2014

Gravity

In this two-man show, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are normal, everyday astronauts who get caught in the middle of an epic space-disaster, aka, a dramatic Oscar-bait scenario. And it halfway worked; visually it was pretty incredible, and even though I didn't see it in 3D, or even on huge theater screen, I can see how it earned its Oscars in all those technical categories. But I can't judge the quality of the film based solely on the technical difficulty, and the way the content was produced being supposedly ground-breaking is no reason to ignore the lack of, or faulty content in other areas.

Avatar is another prime example of this sad phenomenon of wasting magnificent technological advances in film-making on mediocre and/or (as in this case) contrived scripts. But Avatar was far more enjoyable.

But I did start that last paragraph with the intention of giving this film its due praise, so here it is. Visually, technologically, in the way it was filmed, Gravity is unlike anything I've seen before, and though I believe I would be more impressed if I knew exactly how hard and ground-breaking it was to film, that does not mean I am anything less than impressed by it. The cinematography was immaculate, almost to the point of being tedious; the digital effects made the desolate location astoundingly real, and combined with the filming style and directing, the silent, foreign threat of space was terrifying.

It was most terrifying and chilling in the more subtle moments though, where the threatening environment itself was slowly and realistically closing in for the kill. Once one ridiculously unlucky situation after another occurred, (each followed by a proportionally lucky escape) over and over and over again, the thrill and chill and terror quickly began to die away, as every tiring turn of luck felt continually more desperate to revive it.

This is just making me dizzy...

It seems silly to be disappointed that a film was exactly what its hype said it was. I knew and know that the main point here was to stun with wonder and fear of the wonderful, but I still expected more; I expected this film to be accurate to reality (because if it's not, what is the point of all the effort put into making it look accurate to reality?) and I expected a thoughtful plot with a heartfelt theme or two for all the wonder to enhance; something to humanize the foreign heights, but no, it remained aloof and cold through and through.

Hang in there...

My first expectation was destroyed in one fell swoop, and sadly was the main turning point of the film: (Spoiler!) When Ryan is attached to a satellite and Matt is attached to her; they're flying away from the satellite, and when they reach the end of the rope it pulls tight, and then... keeps pulling. Matt detaches himself because he's pulling too hard for Ryan to pull him in, sacrificing himself for her -- but why? There was no inertia to pulling him away, so he should have just bounced right back, making any need for him to make the sacrifice obsolete. (End spoiler.) The importance of the event just makes the flaw that much more disastrous. And they seemed all too happy to be realistic elsewhere -- as long as it enhanced the suspense, and didn't get in the way of the plot! In "realistic" movies (and especially in one entitled Gravity) the laws of gravity should be obeyed, no matter how convenient it would be to temporarily ignore them.

My other expectations slowly fizzled away, as the contrived suspense took the front seat. It seemed that most of the situations were either caused, or greatly enhanced by Ryan's incompetence, or simply not thinking on her toes, not knowing what she's doing, or being paralyzed by fear (except when it was just dumb luck). It seems very unlikely that someone so inept and unable to control themselves would be allowed in space. And it doesn't make for a very likable character worth cheering for either. Happily, in the climax she comes to her senses, finally achieves something of a heroine status, and makes the ending more worthwhile than I expected it'd be at around the hour mark.

You can do it -- reach!

This is hardly worth mentioning, but in zero gravity, tears do not drip off your face and float around the room; they just pool on your face around your eye -- not nearly as dramatic I know. But I guess that's exactly my point; this movie was just contrived to manipulate a more dramatic impact out of the visual splendor, and I could sense my emotions being prodded and coerced, and it only made me less and less interested in actually letting myself be involved. In the end the only thing Gravity had that made an impact was its beauty -- and I mean breath-taking, gorgeous, precisely crafted and performed beauty -- but, in the end, its beauty was the only impact that wasn't worth beans.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with you in everything you just said. I thought it was a beautiful film visually, the view of Earth from space is so, so beautiful. The scene when we see the sun rising is beautiful. But there wasn't anything other than that that I liked about Gravity, sadly. Nice review!

    xx

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    1. Thanks! And since the best thing about it was how pretty it looked, I now kinda wish I'd seen it on a big screen in 3D, so as to get the best experience. But then I probably would've regretted spending so much more money on it. :P

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  2. I have to agree with you on basically all points. Gravity’s is brilliant from a technical standpoint. Virtually everything, especially the sound oddly enough, was just about perfect. Unfortunately, the characters were so clichéd and one dimensional that I never cared for them in the slightest. The movie tried to be emotionally manipulative, and like you, it only made the movie even less effective and overly dramatic. Overall, I would give it a slighter higher rating due to its technical proficiency, but I definitely agree with on everything really. The movie was all effects and no substance (like Avatar!). Excellent review!

    -James

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    1. I liked Avatar better than this because it reminded me of the kind of things I would imagine when I was little. Both were equally lacking in substance, but Gravity was just boring. Except of course, like you say, if you can appreciate the technical stuff. Which I did a little bit -- I'm glad you did more -- I was just so annoyed at the complete lack of depth that it tainted the whole experience. Thanks very much! :)

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