Many friends had told me about it, and I had read about it in several places, so when I went into GRAVITY I had the idea that maybe I’d see the next step in computer graphics – for better or worse. I also had a few notions of what to expect from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney – more on them later, but first the visual stuff.
There are some long, seamless camera shots that are a wonder to behold; one of which is a panorama starting on George Clooney, panning all the way around, and ending on George again encompassing the earth, a mess of space debris, and a well-damaged space shuttle — and it is an eyeful, for sure. There are more like this, and from other venues that I won’t disclose here in order to avoid spoiler situations. Visually, the movie is a stunning achievement.
Sad to say, due to my own physical limitations, having had a lazy eye as a young child that required surgery, I was not able to see the 3D effects – although I could tell when they were supposed to be their most effective … things float by that I’m sure would be effectively 3D – pens, a dental retainer, ping-pong paddles (if you spot those paddles, tell me why I thought, “Hmmm… is that racist?)….. Clever stuff – I wish I could have seen it as intended.
And the CGI? I know some consider it mere trickery, nothing but hack work. Well, in some cases and in some movies, maybe so … but in this case, I think the effects are subtly used – so they don’t take away from the experience.
In fact, perhaps what we’re seeing in such seamless effects is the next step in the whole spectrum of ‘plays’…. We started live and on stage (like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) – hanging on such as that for a couple hundred years – then came silent movies, then talkies (and radio drama) then TV … then color, then Technicolor, then stereo…. Each new step in technology was laughed at initially, or even scorned – but now, those steps are considered standard. Even the use of 3D, which started in the 1950s with those horror movies, is making a comeback – don’t know why, don’t really care.
Technology does that – it evolves. Consider music – at one time, brass instruments had no valves – and along come the industrial revolution and suddenly valves become standard gear. Stringed instruments, even, saw an evolution when Les Paul found a way to amplify guitars and totally changed the face of popular music with amplifiers and echo effects …. And in recorded sound, we had the Edison cylinder, the disc, the 78 rpm record, the 45, the 33 1/3, the reel to reel tape, the cassette, the CD, MP3: the evolution of the technology is mind-boggling….. But hey, back to the movie…..
As for the characters, George Clooney (as Matt Kowalski) should almost be required to have a license for that charm he uses. His character is the wizened veteran on the flight who is rattled by nothing – and can talk about how to get out of such rattlings with aplomb and surety. In his last moments on the screen (no more to be said about that — spoiler thing again) he is as charming as any other role in which we’ve seen him…. And that includes the OCEANS movies.
Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Strong, is a strong, professional woman who knows what she’s doing and has been trained well, manages to get taken down a bit by her fears, desperations and past memories – there’s part Ripley here (from ALIEN) and perhaps she took a few cues from Kate Winslet’s ROSE in TITANIC …. She brings us a full character to meet and to learn as she deals with her rookie experience in space, allowing us to compare the two.
The sound is full of our space age mentality. Some of the sounds are clear, some static-laden, some off in the distance, and maybe even some of them a bit bogus in some ways as we ‘hear’ the space debris… but I understood the need to allow that to happen.
Back just as I finished high school, a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey came out and changed the way such movies were made … perhaps GRAVITY is the next in that evolution of space movies.
The director and producer is Alfonso Cuaron, who shared the writing with Jonas Cuaron. The music – rather typical stuff for a film like this, was composed by Steve Price . Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubetsky.