October 7, 2013
So, yeah, I’m going to be that one person who’s a curmudgeon about this movie.
First off, Gravity is beautiful, mind-blowingly gorgeous, with lots of crunchy visual space detail (I will never forget those parachute cords flapping in zero-G). It should win every visual effects award in existence, and a few should probably be invented just for it. I loved that a woman scientist character carried the whole thing, and how well the movie locked in to her point of view.
I’m pretty sure the problem is with me and not with the movie. Plenty of people are raving, and I understand. But. My writer brain never shut off, and here’s why. After the first act, this was pretty clearly a “one damn thing after another” disaster story. Which is fine, but the whole thing became less scary, less gripping as a result. Especially when a debris field slamming into you at 50,000 miles an hour every 90 minutes is apparently not intense enough and the movie had to start throwing random shit at Stone.
Then we get to the bottom of the second act (see what I mean about not being able to turn my writer brain off?) and that one scene happened, and I thought, “Wait, you mean to tell me this whole frakking thing is a metaphor?” And the answer is yes. The whole thing is a metaphor. Which I guess is okay, but that’s not the movie I wanted to see.
We may not have gotten zombie taikonauts coming at us from the abandoned Chinese station, but Gravity once again shows us that Hollywood has a hard time trusting that space stories are interesting enough all by themselves to hold an audience. This time, instead of throwing monsters at us, we get angst. And not just angst, but *SPOILER* (a woman character angsting over her dead child). And it kind of lost me.
If I’m a curmudgeon about Gravity, it’s because it turned out not to be the movie I wanted to see. I wanted an Apollo 13 about a problem the space industry is seriously worried about right now. I want a movie of Downbelow Station and The Forever War and The Stars My Destination. I want a movie about living and working in space that’s actually about living and working in space. If I squint real hard, I can turn Gravity into that movie. But it’s not, quite, and that made me just a little bit sad.
Update, to clarify: To be entirely fair, I’m sure this is exactly the story Alfonso Cuaron wanted to tell. And that’s fine. But it’s a Hollywood story. And it turns out I’m a pretty hard core science fiction and space nut, who is cranky that C.J. Cherryh’s Merchanter series will never be a movie.