GRAVITY REVISITED - Part One
Gravity is still selling tickets and has recently topped $200 million at the domestic box office. Recently three of my journalism students wrote reviews of Gravity, which I am going to publish here. Here is the first one by Ben Luptak.
Gravity Keeps You Pinned to Your Seat
The last frontier action blazes across the stratosphere at a million miles a minute for Warner Brother’s latest and greatest sci-fi thrill ride, Gravity. With a positively spectral orchestral soundtrack (Water Tower Music) and an all-star cast consisting mainly (pretty much exclusively) of Sandra Bullock (Ms. Congeniality) and George Clooney (Oceans 11) Gravity combines essentially nonstop action with eerily realistic moments of complete hopelessness and utter despair to deliver one of the most compelling and genuinely enjoyable thrillers of any released in recent memory.
However, while the overall presentation and feel of the movie as a whole are likely to out-produce anything that will find its way into theaters this year, a noticeable (to say the least) lack of character development, will almost without a doubt cause the attentive viewer to leave the theater, wondering about what could have been. Like anything else in the world, when the film is measured against what it had the potential to be, it ultimately comes up short. That being said, director Alfonso Cuaro`n (Children of Men, Harry Potter 3) has without a doubt, lived up to his epic reputation of producing creative cinematic masterpieces with a piece of work that, for all its trivial shortcomings, has the ability to become one of the most popular titles in the movie marketplace for years to come if not more and is definitely worth the price of a ticket or two, to experience on the big screen.
The film is essentially a mix of the lost-in-the wilderness and astronauts-trying-to-survive-shuttle-problems-in-space-genres, and it pulls off this largely unprecedented hybrid refreshingly well. Clooney and Bullock star as a wise-cracking, aging NASA shuttle captain and some kind of freelance, hospital-related technology engineer (the films not very specific on that part) who are sent into space on a routine satellite-repair mission when suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Due to the Russian government self-destructing one of its own satellites because of malfunctions, a cloud of debris is trapped in earth’s gravitational pull and begins a high-speed orbit-of-death around the planet that systematically destroys almost every satellite orbiting earth and snowballs into a faster-than-a-speeding bullet cloud of mangled metal. About ten minutes into the film, Bullock and Clooney’s shuttle is struck by this debris, severing their communications with NASA and destroying their ride home in the process. From there it becomes a race against the clock and dwindling oxygen supplies to escape a terrible and unimaginable death of an eternity adrift in the total and absolute darkness, of space.
While both Clooney and Bullock give respectably stellar performances throughout the film, a noticeable lack of character-development hinders any kind of deep-seeded emotional connection the viewer may hope to form with their two characters. And this emotional reliability, if it had existed at all, would have had the impact of making the already scary-as-hell action scenes (and there are a lot) much more terrifying. For instance, we know that Clooney is a laid back, cowboy shuttle pilot who enjoys country music, fast cars and loose women, but that’s where the character essentially stops. Likewise we know that Bullock is a tomboy, super-smart science chick who is still secretly brooding over the untimely death of someone close to her but, once again that’s about as far as the character development goes, throughout the entire movie.
Essentially, all of the movie’s characters are static at best and even though they are played phenomenally well, their lack of dimension makes it all but impossible to empathize with them and therefore, gives the viewer the feeling of being detached from the action, in the very moments when they should be feeling the most immersed. For instance, I for one found myself repeatedly saying; “Man they might kill Clooney, but no one’s killing Sandra Bullock, she’s just too famous.” A thriller like this hinges its success off the feeling of the audience that at any time, the actor they’ve been watching could suddenly die in the blink of an eye. Gravity is a film that uses the fear of death to stay scary and it just seems a little too obvious that while maybe one of the characters might die, they definitely both won’t. They’re just too famous and therefore, the overwhelming fear of them dying just isn’t quite there like it is for instance, in horror-genre movies that use no-name actors for the very purpose, of making the horror more believable. Would Gravity have been a scarier, more thrilling and more immersive experience with slightly less famous actors and slightly more relatable characters? Unfortunately, the world will never know.
Once again, despite some obvious and puzzling character flaws, Gravity definitely delivers. From first minute to last the viewer is completely enthralled by what, by and large, is an almost completely original plot premise. In a mainstream media world mainly concerned with vampires, crime and violence, it can get more than desirable from time to time, to just set adrift and get lost in space for a couple hours. Over and above all, Gravity succeeds as a movie, because it is just really cool. The story ideal is cool, the action is cool and the whole ideal spending a couple hours off the surface of the planet in the first place… is just plain old cool. While it may not be the most thought- provoking or emotionally complex movie out there, it is by far one of the most fun. So sit, back strap in and get ready for lift off, as Gravity… pins you to your seat and never lets you go.
Saturday, October 25, 2014, Watertown, NY