Monday, October 14, 2013

The FTT Movie Review: Gravity

That's a floatie
I saw this while trying to avoid full-on sun in Tampa on Saturday. If you aren't familiar, "Gravity" is a quasi-realistic sci-fi story of a NASA mission that goes very badly as debris from an exploded satellite sets off a chain reaction that more or less causes everything in the working part of Earth's orbit to get turned into space pinatas. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, it was years in the making and all kinds of technical wizardry abounding, and the money is clearly up on the screen. Long shots of terrifying natural beauty and vacuum-based science abound, and if you leave the theater as anything but convinced that space travel is a case of wildly inadequate technology trying to do something we're probably not ready to do... well, I'm not sure what you just did with the last two hours of your life, but it didn't involve the movie.

The long opening scene is pretty great, technically. From the opening credits that duly remind us that life in space is impossible to the growing realization of what's going on and who is involved, it's all one long cut, and yes, the directors have studied their film history to try to do something arty. And then the statement "I could get used to the quiet" is said, and it's the cinematic equivalent of a character saying that they are afraid of snakes before getting on a plane.

But beyond the See It Coming Plot, the bigger problem, oddly, is also something that many people are going to consider a strength: the cast. Clooney and Bullock are both exceptional actors, and they make their characters believable... but they are Movie Stars, and you've seen them in lots of other movies. It's hard to get lost in their characters, or find them to be all that believable, since their archetypes and motivations are pretty underwritten, and you know that both are, well, capable of more. As beautiful and dramatic as the film is, I found myself remembering Bullock's pre-Botox lips, or how Clooney's voice is probably the single biggest reason why he got this role, and how both are probably too old to be green-lit into space, or that Bullock really is in good shape for someone in her 40s, especially when she's floating around in functional space undies.

It's worth seeing on a big screen, and in no way a bad movie. It's thoughtful, which is hard to imagine from a big-budget movie any more, and the effects budget is well-spent without seeming superfluous to the plot. But after an hour-plus of action movie torture porn, peril escape and greater peril, and the growing sense that this was more roller coaster than movie... well, it ends. And you are left wondering whether the ride really was anything all that great, and if anyone would ever ride it twice.

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