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.

9 Responses to “Gravity”

  1. I liked the movie, but I had a problem with the exact same thing you’re mentioning. Like, “Hey, dying in space sucks, I should try and not do this!’ isn’t enough to get someone to improve their lot in life. I mentioned to others I had a few issues with the science–orbits and delta-v stuff–but the point you bring up was unnecessary.

  2. WanabePBWriter Says:

    There is no pill for what ails you. The answer is simple; to get what you want you’ll have to be the one who writes it.

  3. Why oh why did I highlight the spoiler when I haven’t seen the movie yet?! *facepalms at self*

    Granted, when my older sister and I first saw the teaser trailer, she looked at me and said, “That looks like the entire movie right there. How are they supposed to stretch that out to feature length?”

  4. Juls Says:

    If it makes you feel any better Carrie, I haven’t gone to see this movie because this sums up pretty much everything I thought it was going to be. xD

  5. jdtargett Says:

    Not seen the film yet, as it isn’t out in the UK until November. I’m at home, ill, drugged out of mind on anti-cold meds, so my mind is wandering in vague directions. A questions I am pondering, tangentially to your post, is that given that this is supposed to be “The Golden Age of TV” could you do a TV series about living / working in space? Off the top of my head you could structure it about a manned colonisation mission to Mars (with both mission control and the crew of the spaceship … imagine doing it real-time with actual lag between messages between the pilots and control) with the finale of season 1 being arrival on Mars,

    It seems to be that Hollywood only makes the films that focus groups say they want to see, while some of the TV companies are the place to go if you want to see something where they are willing to take a gamble.

  6. Adam. Says:

    TV probably could do it, I’m just not convinced they could be persuaded to keep it simple (stupid).

    That weird flopping sound you hear is caused by Defying Gravity lumbering around with its mystical orbs…

  7. Adam. Says:

    Me again….Double posting….oops.

    There was a (Larry Niven?) story about a group of astronauts on a spacestation that was being decommissioned due to lack of funding/enthusiasm in the worlds governments (citing lack of resources/expense). The astronauts hijack the station rather than leaving and head for the asteroid belt to become miners and kickstart a world economic boom. Which gives a them-and-us without having to go wibbly with the plot.

    Never going to happen though.

    I’ll just have to dig out the DVDs and watch Star Cops again.

  8. carriev Says:

    James Corey just sold the TV rights to their Expanse series of near-Earth space opera. I am cautiously hopeful.

  9. Jill Says:

    Wow, you are quickly becoming my most favorite movie critic, because you think the same way I do. I too loved the visuals, but was severely disappointed by the story. It had a lot of potential, but we don’t need a giant space epic to tell us about a mother missing her child. I also don’t know why a medical doctor was working on the Hubble or why a professional astronaut had to give her medical advice, but that’s a problem for another day!

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