Gravity is a harsh mistress.
Bonus nerd points if you know where I got that quote. So another movie with a title ripe for puns that is disappointingly excellent. I guess they all can’t be After Earth (the pun there was afterbirth). I should know by now that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are experienced enough to really only choose good scripts, and once I saw this was written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron I knew it was going to be at least just this side of awesome (he did Children of Men, one of the most underrated movies of 2006 and conclusive proof that the Academy hates science fiction). However, as I sat through the innumerable trailers there was a dark part of my soul hoping it would be less than worthwhile so that I could play with jokes on the order of “Gravity sucks”.
Gravity does not suck, however. On the contrary it is excellent in all regards, as close to a flawless movie as I have seen since Argo. In spite of the fact that it only has two characters I was drawn in and engaged with both of them. You feel each of their pains like it is happening to you, and root for them with the core of your soul. Visually stunning, and rather than treat the movie as a wheezing half dead mule to hang 3D and special effects on Alfonso used the 3D and special effect to enhance the story. Like cooking with spice special effects need to be used with a delicate hand. Too little and you might as well be eating flour and water and too much can turn your meal in to a spice exxxxxxxxxxxxtravaganza that will have you feeling it twice, if you know what I mean.
Experienced readers of my blog should know that when it comes to science fiction movies at some point I have to bitch about the mistreatment of my dear friend science. Some writers treat science as an annoying technical guy who’s contribution to the script is to raise points that are mostly ignored and who once in a while inspires another bad series of abuses of the Fundamental Laws of Physics. Other writers treat science like a the Gimp from Pulp Fiction, brought out only for convenient sexual gratification and otherwise locked in a box wearing a leather bondage costume. Still others treat it like the Tooth Fairy; a creature only really believed in by children but who can be safely ignored by adults who want to believe that you can survive a nuclear blast by hiding inside a refrigerator (you know who I’m looking at, George. Also as long as I am on this subject suck it Stephanie!).
I’m happy to report that Gravity treats the Laws of Thermodynamics like laws rather than those instructions to never cut the tags off mattresses. Conservation of mass and momentum are adhered to nicely. At one point I thought the movie had gone severely off the rails but when you figure out what was happening it makes total sense. Not only do I as a fan of science appreciate that Alfonso knows a thing or two about physics (or had the foresight to hire a couple of experts) but I love that fact that since this movie is ruling the box office it shows the ignorant inbred Hollywood creative types that the audience doesn’t need to be pandered to.
There are very few movies that move us like survival movies. One person against insurmountable odds, fighting to live in spite of the universe being stacked against him or her. This is what I love about zombie movies, and it’s hard to find something bad to say about regular survival films such as Cast Away, the Grey, 127 Hours, or Tree of Life (wait, that wasn’t a survivor movie? What the hell was Sean Penn doing wandering the desert with all those dead people? Or the kid in the flooded house? The real struggle to survive was me not dying of boredom. Since it’s not a survivor film I guess I can find something bad to say about it. Tree of Life sucks). You will never find an environment more inimical to human life as space, and as such it is almost inevitable that a survivor movie be done about it. Sure, it’s been done before but not this well.
Like many great movies the story is beautifully simple. It starts off with Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock-the Heat, Crash, the Blind Side) and Lt. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney-Ocean’s Eleven, the Descendants, Batman and Robin) in orbit on the Hubble Telescope. Dr. Stone is a civilian specialist of some kind brought in to install some new viewing technology onto the Hubble. Dr. Stone is working tethered to the station while Kowalski does a space walk with a very cool EVA jet pack (for the record, there is never a movie, video game, or life situation that cannot be greatly enhanced by the addition of a jet pack of any kind. If I had had a jet pack on my last failed date it would have been much better experience for me in spite of the rejection. However, in most cases you have to use the correct term: “a M-F-ing jet pack!”). There is some other red shirt working out there as well but he doesn’t play much into the movie.
Nearby a Russian missile impacts another satellite, causing a cloud of debris to approach the shuttle and Hubble with terrifying speed. The red shirt suffers the fate of all red shirts while Dr. Stone is cast loose from the station, tumbling in a sickening manner. At the same time large amounts of communications are disrupted (OK there might be some abuse of astrophysics going on here but I won’t ding the film for it) by all the debris.
Honestly I don’t want to get into the story much more that that. I can’t say much without giving away how the people survive and that is the whole point of a survivor movie. I will say that everything the characters do makes total sense and one can hope to have that kind of collected thought in a similar life threatening situation (or just trying to figure out which checkout lane will move fastest at Costco). Also, remember the great scenes in Alien and Aliens where you get to see Ripley in her tank top and panties? Well, you get something similar here a couple times (not quite as good, but still), but don’t expect too much. This film is locked into the PG-13 rating very strongly. (Weyland-Yutani logo from Aliens image courtesy of the Sci Fi T Shirts)
A simple story that makes total sense and is simply awesome. Two stars. Excellent acting and casting for both characters. I really believed them both to be who they were supposed to be, and Dr. Stone was not some super human but rather a real person who had her own massive weaknesses and failings. Two stars. I have to give Alfonso credit for really drawing me into the characters, especially Bullocks. A good film has you rooting for the stars and everyone will be in her camp. One star. A science fiction move that appreciates science. One star. Flawless special effects and CGI, all done tastefully and well. One star. Visually stunning film. You could watch most of this film with the sound off and Slayer playing on your stereo and enjoy the hell out of it. One star. The 3D was done to excellent effect (and you know it has to be good for me to say something positive about it). One star. Overall an excellent movie experience. Two stars. Total: twelve stars.
The black holes.
Nothing, really, and I’ve had a full day to think about it. There are a couple minor things I could nit pick but that would be just petty and small minded (two descriptives that on a different day could readily be applied to me but I am feeling magnanimous today). Honestly this film is nigh flawless (a hint to the answer to my question from the first paragraph, in case you are still wondering).
Twelve stars and not a black hole in sight. Anyone who doesn’t see this film is a sucky poopoo head. Don’t be that guy. See it in IMAX 3D. The pleasure centers of your brain will reward you with endorphins. Date movie? Absolutely, unless you are trying to make your date out to be a sucky poopoo head. The triumph of the human spirit in this film should have her clothes flying off faster than Supermans and even if they don’t at least you get to see an awesome movie before your let’s be friends speech. Bathroom break? Hell no. Hold it. This movie is worth the risk of wetting yourself. It’s only 90 minutes and if you really think you can’t hold it that long Depends it up. There is not a spare moment to be had here.
Thanks for reading. Movies like this make me glad to do what I do. If you have comments on this movie or my review feel free to leave them here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. Talk to you soon.