After years in development (the last film to have this long of development because of technology was that of ‘Avatar’) Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘GRAVITY’, has finally entered our atmosphere (yes I do mean that as the UK is one of the last international territories it’s been released in). Co-wrote with his son, the film (very reminiscent of the 1969 B-movie ‘Marooned’) focuses on Sandra Bullock’s astronaut get back in contact with Earth after space debris hit the satellite she is working on with George Clooney’s veteran.
To begin with, the special effects in this are just immense. Everything feels seamless, and organic with how the VFX looks real, as if Bullock and Clooney are really in space. It is something which is a dead certain to win in the ‘Best Special Effects’ category at the Academy Awards next year, and its something I believe in being the next stop in photo-realistic effects making. The teams really deserve centre stage on this, and where they are located on the credits (they are right at the top) just feels right. It is one of those rare moments, where you think the years developing these effects have lived up to its claim. The level of detail just in the Earth itself is very impressive (there is a blue glow around the Earth when looked at from space), as you can see the changing climate. The attention to detail is just remarkable. But what is more remarkable, and probably more impressive here, is the 3D. Now this is something (like the most harden critics say), who does not like/can’t see 3D in cinema. My eyes can’t ever compute it, but for once (and something which has been developed with the special effects technology), it adds depth. There is a real sense of a three layer depth. This can be seen in the opening 13 minute continual shot (more on that later), where the Earth is in the background, with a slightly larger Clooney flying around and Bullock even closer. Everybody in that shot has a level of ‘‘3D-isness’’ to it which brings depth, while having only one in your face shot.
Now this 3D does add a level to immersion, with its depth, but the trick here is how Cuaron has used this as a tool to help build on his direction. Everything about Cuaron’s direction is about the fluidity and sense of scale with what gravity does to you in space. Every scene is measured with scale, it helps the audience to really participate with Bullock’s character, it also helps set rules with how these characters have to react in this world set in space, and helps play on the fear that you can’t live in space. There is also an incredible 13 minute opening shot, which really sets the overall tone, and showing you how the direction, acting, 3D and visual effects are working together. Regarding the narrative, there is religious undertones to it as it is very much (literally and philosophically) about getting your feet back on the ground and what it means to be alive. Like I said before, it is very much a B-movie with how things do happen (again 1969’s Marooned comes to mind), and there isn’t anything big or bold nor have the metaphysical scope with its Sci-Fi counterparts of ‘2001’ and ‘Sunshine’. To some it might get a little somber in the middle, where basically it gives you time to breath. A lot of real life astronauts have taken against the film for its unrealistic portrayal of space exploration (Bullock should be wearing a nappy is an example of this). My reply is would you really want to have a film with Bullock going around in a nappy? I can imagine there would be more complaints if that happened then without it happening. The only issue I had is why doesn’t her hair move in zero gravity?
Regarding Sandra Bullock performance it is rather remarkable. Probably the best acting she has done in her career, she on screen all the time, and as an audience member you really do connect and strangely get a feel and experience what she is going through in the films running time. Bullock also resurrects memories of Sigourney Weaver in the original ‘Alien’, a headstrong Sci-Fi heroine indeed. George Clooney (replacing original star Robert Downey. Jr as the space mapping technology didn’t work with his spontaneous acting style) does appear (in more a extended cameo), doing his usual ‘’charming George Clooney thing’’, which could be a issue to some, and Ed Harris is heard over the radio (memories of ‘Apollo 13’ come to mind), but what’s good about this is how you don’t hear everything he is saying at the beginning, this idea of putting you as if you are a fellow astronaut and a ‘’WTF’’ feel to it.
Generally ‘Gravity’, while not a Sci-Fi classic for its undertones and such is an experience. It’s like a theme park ride through space. Again please remember it is moulded by B-movies. Some might see it a tech demo (I personally don’t), but it’s just the way everything complements one and other. It is the perfect mixture of 3D, acting, direction, story, narrative undertones, and visual effects. In other words go a experience and if you can (and depending on if you can see it in 3D – please do) see it on the largest screen possible, it is an essential experience in a cinema.