It seems like I’m catching up on all the movies that I missed over the last year and a half. I’ve been so busy moving to a new country and settling down that there hasn’t been enough time to quench my movie appetite; besides the face that where I’m living now is not a big movie culture. It’s not so easy to see movies here as they comes out in theaters in the USA if it even comes here at all. Gravity was one of those movies that I wanted to see on the big screen before I left the states, but now I’m almost glad I didn’t pay the New York theater price to go see it.
What a disappointment for me. Sorry folks. I really wanted to like this movie.
I love science fiction movies and when I saw the trailer for this, I was mesmerized, captured by the terrifying thought of being lost in space. I think, if I hadn’t worked in the aerospace industry I could have enjoyed this movie; but I just couldn’t turn off my engineering brain (very similar to writer brain, only apply the symptoms of engineering and science instead of writing and storytelling). Unfortunately because I am well acquainted with the aerospace industry, I understand how dangerous space can be and what precautions we humans take in order to preserve life in space. Astronauts go through very rigorous training before actually going into space and there are strict regulations of how space walks are done, etc.
One positive thing I do have to say about this movie is that “It’s a beautiful movie!” The only reason to see this movie in the theater, especially in IMAX, is to experience the magnificent visuals. I think the technical team on this movie deserved all the rewards they received and more.
Suspension of Believability
I certainly got a rush from the idea of being flung out into space, I’m sure this is every astronaut’s nightmare, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief of many of the scenarios that happen during this movie.
The first unbelievable moment was George Clooney flying around in the jet pack. (Would he really waist all that fuel flying around?) Ok. The writer in me reminds me, “This is a movie.” I’ll overlook it for the sake of cinematography because “damn are those shots beautiful!”
Second the terrible way they setup Sandra Bullock’s character’s inexperience in space. I totally get being nervous. I’m sure it’s night and day to train at the bottom of a pool and then actually being in space, but I just don’t think it was handed well. I get loosing a screw and all, but all of her tools would be tethered to something so that they don’t float away. Ok. I get it. We are setting up character and her story. Writer Brain commands me to overlooking reality for the sake of story, again.
Third, no one understands the dangers of space more than astronauts and mission control! The way that the inciting “accident” was handled was extremely unbelievable and irritated me to no end. There is no way that mission control would have allowed a life threatening space walk (for every space walk is potentially life threatening) to continue if they “realized” that something abnormal was happening within the remotest vicinity of the spacecraft. NASA values human life over machines and scientific knowledge believe it or not. If the disposal of a satellite was known, the likelihood of the space-walk happening at all around that time would be basically almost zero. I’m pretty sure in the movie it was unknown, but again the moment mission control would have found out they would have aborted the space walk not told them, “Oh yeah, it’s far enough away, don’t worry about it.” NASA wouldn’t risk life without a thorough investigation of the dangers. If this movie had happened in real life, the space program would be dead. Look how long space flights were suspended after Challenger and Discovery. Anyway…
It would have been more believable for an unscheduled Russian missal to hit a nearby satellite, mission control would have told the astronauts to immediately abort the space walk, and then the debris could make it to the shuttle much faster than the astronauts could react sufficiently to the situation. Things can move pretty fast in space – the story would have still worked and you wouldn’t need the ridiculous “I need to stick this card back into the Hubble” scene. No one would do that in a life threatening situation.
If we were really living in the world of Gravity the main character should have died, with all the micro debris flying around due to the various spacecraft impacts — could you dodge a machine gun in zero gravity? I think not. Sure spacesuits are designed to withstand a certain amount of micro debris, but they are not impervious.
These were major strikes in my believability factor. There were many more problems, but I’m not going to bore you with more technical rantings.
Effectiveness of the Story
As a story, the movie was all right. I get that the movie is about solitude and the willingness to keep on living in the face of death. I believe Tom Hanks in Cast Away did a better job of displaying solitude, though Gravity gives you a bigger adrenaline rush because you’re constantly wondering if Sandra Bullock is going to make it. The movie is slow with pockets of life threatening situations. We get snippets of real human beings, but those moments are so few that all I could see was a panic stricken, inexperienced astronaut, who I only wanted to live out of principle versus any real caring for her character. Sure she has this sudden “awakening” that motivates her to “live a better life,” but these parts of the movie were so heavy I didn’t really care.
I was happy when the movie was only 90 minutes. There just wasn’t enough character for me to buy into this story for much longer than that. But I was so distracted by the inaccurate portrayal of the science and the minimalist information we get about the main character that the artist’s true meaning of the story was lost on me.
The only thing I could think about at the end of this movie was how much better Interstellar was. That was a slow movie too, but somehow spoke louder and portrayed the human condition and loneliness so much more effectively. And the science in Interstellar is all real and portrayed accurately, with a few futuristic exceptions such as cryogenic sleep (but we’re working on that). Interstellar is set in the future, which makes it easier to accept the ability of us going to other galaxies. Gravity, on the other hand, is set in the now, which unfortunately suffers more realistic scrutiny that can pull the audience out of the story.