Gravity (2013)

GravityDirected by: Alfonso Cuarón. Released: October 4, 2013. Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice). Runtime: 91 min.

As far as survival movies go, I usually like them. It takes a lot for me to hate them, but it also takes a lot for me to love them. It also seems that they’re usually either slow or thrilling. “Gravity” makes me conflicted. It is a good human drama with substantial symbolism, but it has such little substance in other major areas. Let’s say if the story substance is a wire in space; Bullock’s character would not want to hang onto that wire, because it would break within seconds.

The film follows Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, under the guide of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), in command of his final mission before retirement. On a seemingly normal space walk, they are caught in the way of falling satellite debris. Their shuttle is destroyed and contact with Houston, and Earth in general, is severed. They are left adrift in space with only each other, and one hell of a view.

This is a terrifying situation. If this happened to me, I’d probably be that first astronaut who gets hit by debris and gets a nice hole in his head. You could throw a baseball through it. (It’s some seriously awesome CGI effects. I don’t think it’s a major spoiler because I don’t even remember the guys’ name.) It’s terrifying to even imagine oneself stepping into Stone’s space boots and having this happen to them. That makes Bullock’s character more admirable, because she keeps kicking and repeatedly escapes death; but her repeatedly escaping death makes the character slightly unrealistic, as well.

Stone is the main character, and she is somewhat interesting because she contributes to the film’s human drama aspect. She finds it tough to hang onto her hope because of something that happened in her past, that has also made her a reserved person. One of her motivations to go up into space is because of the peace. She struggles to forget about her past and try to find happiness… Experiencing a trauma is never easy. Rebirth is one theme of the movie. Stone floating in space is a literal and metaphorical journey for her to find her way again. I won’t go into further detail about that – it is better to watch the aspect for yourself. Hope is an occuring theme, too, because that’s a good motivation to survive. It feels like Stone has one layer, so she isn’t as compelling as the actress portraying her. Bullock performs mainly with varied types of breathing; an impressive way to convey emotions in cinema. One could tell what she is feeling throughout. This acting job seems difficult, and she does well.

As for George Clooney, the guy is good at being charming, but he is average here. He isn’t forgettable enough for people to ask “Which Batman starred alongside Sandra Bullock in Gravity? Val Kilmer?,” but he isn’t anything to praise. His character has many decent stories and he is good comic relief for such a situation, but he’s generic.

Director Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) knows how to portray Stone’s pain well, but his story needs a lot of work. “Gravity” is good for Sandra Bullock and it is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen, in just about ever. If you’re just there for the effects, you’ll be satisfied. Some of the 3-D effects are pop-out scary, which is edge-of-your-seat intense. In one scene when a character cries, the teardrop is really cool. This experimental film works in a few areas, but it relies on effects too heavily to enhance its weak narrative.

The film’s first half is thrilling. But the good thrills are too repetitive, and when they’re repeated in the second half, it’s much less interesting. The screenplay’s main event is “escape inevitable death; from debris, fire, and lack of oxygen, and try to think of a way home,” and it happens over and over. It makes the second half have moments well worth a yawn or two. A more diverse screenplay would be welcome, and the character development leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps it is strange to expect more from a minimalistic filmmaker; but alas, this is one highly anticipated film of 2013 that doesn’t make me feel any sort of passion for it.

Score: 63/100

13 thoughts on “Gravity (2013)

  1. Good review Dan. The movie looked beautiful and really brought me into its part of outerspace that I never want to venture to again, for health reasons. However, the script was a bit weaker than I had imagined, and it took away from the overall experience.

  2. First off, welcome back. For me, it was a 7/10 and I saw it twice in IMAX 3D on the same day (not doing that again). I don’t think I can watch it in 2D when it comes out for home media; just not the same visually.

    1. Haha thanks Thomas 🙂 Yeah it definitely won’t be! I saw it in IMAX 3D, too. Not twice though, ahaha. My mom really liked it, so it seems that she’s with the majority. 7 outta 10 is a pretty good score 🙂

  3. Nah, best film released this year easily. Who cares about the story when the ‘experience’ is this amazing. The story is decent enough for a film that clocks in at only 90 minutes. Clooney is basically a supporting character so he is fine as he is. I do agree that it might not have the same impact in 2D but if you watch it how it was intended to be seen then no film comes close! Sometimes it goes beyond the film, and this was almost like a theme park ride.

    1. A fresh experience yes, but definitely not the best film of the year for me. Not one of the worst, either, but I can’t get behind this one. I don’t really like theme parks, so maybe that’s why I didn’t love this one. Haha.

  4. Huh. That is a muted review. I agree that the lite character development works against Gravity, but I think Cuaron deftly handles high octane desperation with subdued respite. The flick never loses suspense or pace for me.

    1. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on most of this one 🙂 What score did you give it? I’m not big on movies that make me feel like I’ve seen something before, meaning about fifteen-twenty minutes before in this film’s case. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      1. I gave it an A-, and currently have it slatted in my top 5, I think.

        One of the comments I made is that I’m not sure Gravity gives anything we haven’t seen before, so I agree on that point. I just think it makes the familiar feel new, largely, no doubt, because it does it better than other movies.

      2. That’s great! I bet it’s going to be on a lot of Top 5 and 10 lists of 2013. Wouldn’t be surprised if it went home with the most Oscars, either. I can see where you’re coming from on that point 🙂

  5. Interesting review – probably the most negative one I’ve read about this film. Well made points, even if I disagree with the low mark! “Which Batman starred alongside Sandra Bullock in Gravity? Val Kilmer?” made me laugh!

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