Posted by: jgurner | October 14, 2013

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

A couple of years ago, when I first heard about this movie Gravity by director Alfonso Cuaron, I wasn’t very excited. At the time, it was being described as a movie about astronaut Angelina Jolie trapped in space directed by the guy who who made the third Harry Potter movie so annoying and also made  that movie, Y Tu Mamma Tambien, I had to suffer through – without subtitles – for a college Spanish class.

Then, slowly, bit-by-bit, word about the movie began to change. I saw Children of Men, which while I didn’t think it was great, I gained a better appreciation of Cuaron. Angelina Jolie became Sandra Bullock, who I’m still not a big fan of, but she so much better than Jolie. And George Clooney came on-board and I’ve grown to like Clooney. Plus, the description of the movie began to sound more intriguing.

Then, last year, word began to leak out from people who had already seen parts of the movie. Stories began to emerge about the work being done behind the camera to make Gravity unlike any movie you’ve ever seen. Comparisons to Avatar were made – technologically and filmmaking wise – about the innovations behind the filming of the movie. People on-line whose opinions I respect, especially at Ain’t It Cool News, started frothing at the mouth about the movie. So my curiosity was piqued.

As the release date neared, more and more I was looking forward to the movie, but also fearful that after more than a year of hype, it might be a big let down.

Boy, was I wrong. If anything, the hype doesn’t even come close.

On paper, Gravity is a simple movie: Astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski are stranded in Earth orbit after a disaster destroys their space shuttle. Their only hope of survival is finding some way to safely return to Earth. But while that succinctly sums up the plot, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the movie is about. It’s not a space movie, though it takes place in space. It’s not a science-fiction movie, though it’s set in a fictional world of science. It’s not an adventure movie, even though it’s pulse-pounding, edge of your seat excitement, to use a few cliches.

So, then, what is Gravity about? Well, if I tell you, it would spoil things a bit. Let’s just say it’s a very human movie.

I will say that it is one of the most beautiful, spectacular movies I’ve ever seen. It is the first and only movie I’ve even seen that makes me wish I could actually see it in 3D. (As those of you who know me are aware, I’m no fan of 3D movies in large part because I can really only see out of one eye. So, to me, 3D movies are red and blurry.) But even on a relatively small screen screen of the 2D showing at the localish cineplex, you became completely immersed in the world Cuaron created. From the beauty of the sun coming up over the terminator to the detail of the Earth’s surface, hundreds of miles below, the visuals will just blow you away.

As for Bullock and Clooney, well, let’s just say you have to be one hell of an actor to carry a movie completely on your shoulders. Though you hear a few other voices, they are the only ones on screen and through much of the movie, the story is shown, not told. Cuaron spends a lot of time telling the story through Sandra Bullock’s face. I read in an interview about the movie recently that Cuaron said most movies, you can close your eyes and still be able to “watch” the movie through dialog and sound. You can’t with Gravity. You have to watch. Watch every second. It’s like that Dr. Who episode with the weeping angels: Don’t even blink.

But do remember to breathe. I forgot a time or two.

Usually, when I watch a movie – even a big-screen spectacle – I go to the theater, watch it once, then wait for the Blu-ray. This summer, I watched Pacific Rum twice on the big screen, something I don’t often do. With Gravity, I can see myself going again and again, soaking it up on as big a screen as I can find because no matter how big my TV is and how high quality the Blu-ray is, it just won’t even come close.(I don’t expect the Pacific Rim Blu-ray to come close either, but it will still be tons of fun.)

I have a lot of hope for Gravity. I’d love to see it rack up a slew of major film awards – maybe even an Oscar in something besides special effects. But, most of all, I’m hoping it will show Hollywood that it is possible to make a big, spectacular, CG-filled science-fiction movie that, at its core, is completely human.

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