I didn’t think it was possible for a film to somehow be less scientifically accurate than ‘Pacific Rim‘, but so many people praised ‘Gravity’ for its ambition that it’s not too surprising that it achieved that mantle.
‘Gravity’ looks amazing, and so perfectly showcases the visual journey of the single-most-unlucky person alive that it will leave you breathless. Breathless from the sheer spectacle of it, and breathless from laughter.
‘Gravity’ is the story of Dr. Mrs. Sandra Spacewoman, and her desperate struggle to regain a career after the dizzying heights of ‘Miss Congeniality’. I’m sure Sandra Bullock’s a lovely person, I’ll bet she vaccinates her children and hardly ever kills dogs just for fun, but I have always struggled to accept the premise that she’s an actor.
She seems to just Be In Movies, smiling and being nice and not really actually, y’know, portraying a character or anything. Maybe I’m being unfair. I’m not saying she’s a bad performer. It never looks like she’s reading her lines from an off-screen cue-card.
But put her next to someone like Anne Hathaway or Scarlet Johanssen… Let’s put it this way. Emily Blunt in ‘Adjustment Bureau’ is not the same Emily Blunt in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’. Have you ever seen Sandra Bullock being anyone other than Sandra Bullock?
My irrational distaste for S-Meister B aside, ‘Gravity’ is exhausting. That’s almost a credit to the film itself; I left the cinema feeling almost as tired as Spacera Blastoff’s character presumably felt, but for the wrong reasons. Every scene stretched my suspension of disbelief to breaking point.
The fanciest, most realistic effects in the world don’t make the string of incredibly unlucky events that follow each other (all within the space of an hour) any easier to believe. I greeted each new development in the story with a dismissive “Yeah, right.”
Partly that was due to my space-nerdery telling me that Things Don’t Work Like That In Space. The story kicks off when a rogue Russian missile blows up a satellite, which creates a debris cloud which then systematically destroys every single man-made thing in the solar system, apparently.
But Starra Blofeld’s a tough cookie, and she survives each new disaster that befalls her. She gets to the shuttle, but it’s been wrecked. She makes it to the ISS, but Jean-Luc Picard’s pulled a drive-by “Self Destruct” on the thing, seemingly, as it immediately starts collapsing around her.
She escapes the lethality of the space station (have we really had people living on it for years? That thing’s a deathtrap, apparently) to go some other places, all of which are equally terrible and deadly.
Apparently, every space program around the world is run by the same tribes who built all of the temples in the ‘Indiana Jones’ trilogy. All space things are apparently rigged to instantly kill the first person to set foot inside of them. Maybe it’s an allegory for Australia.
She has a baffling moment of respite where she briefly turns into a werewolf. I guess it’s always a full moon in space. Once she’s done with that, she does what any other sensible human being would do and decides “God has a plan for me, and that plan is short-term, so I will obey his wishes” and turns the oxygen off.
Sadly, that’s not the end of the movie, as Clorge Mooney reappears (we’ll get to him in a bit) and gives her the pep-talk she needs to get her shit together and get out of this Space Jam! Some more stuff blows up spontaneously, she lands in a pond, credits roll.
I could write for days about the scientific inaccuracies and plot-holes in this film. I really could. I won’t. Just go play Kerbal Space Program for half an hour and you’ll get the idea.
What I do want to write about is the only other character with a face in the film, George Clooney. And isn’t it a lovely face? Let’s look at it for a moment.
Wasn’t that lovely? I think so.
In ‘Gravity’ he plays the experienced, about-to-retire Manstronaut who knows what’s up, who rescues Sandy Bumhole initially and later reappears to her as a dream-ghost, giving her the inspiration and drive she needs to Not Die A Pointless Death.
He’s mostly a loose stereotype, played with great charisma, obviously, but it’s his significance to Bullock’s primary character that irks me. The story could’ve been about the Toughest Girl In The Galaxy, about her own will and drive to keep going, keep surviving, and it just about is.
But for me, it gets side-tracked by Gooney’s reappearance at that critical point. Now, it’s about a Girl Who Is The Toughest In The Galaxy As Long As She Has The Example Of A Man To Inspire Her.
I mean, this is a really minor point, and it works more-or-less fine in the film, but could we have had a woman in Jorge’s place? ‘The Martian’ had Jessica Chastain to prove that you can have a capable badass female astronaut who takes names and kicks arse; would it have been such a stretch to have, say, Sigourney Weaver as the veteran, the one who saves Panda Hillock and later inspires her to keep going? THAT could have been neat.
Or maybe just have Shandy Bulmers inspire herself into survival. Maybe she looks at a picture of her dead daughter and decides “No, somebody needs to remember her”. Or maybe she just looks out at the stars, realises internally that her life is shaped by more than the things that happen to her, and decides that she’s going to go down fighting no matter what.
I dunno, maybe this isn’t the place for advancing a feminist agenda. But maybe “First All-Female Science Fiction Movie” might have been a better title to have than “Somehow Less Realistic Than Giant Robots”.
Oh, and in the final scene, she starts swimming up to the water’s surface after having landed in a pond, and a piece of seaweed starts to wrap around her leg, and people in the cinema, myself included, actually started laughing.
I would have enjoyed this movie more if the creators had been brave enough to have the main character get drowned by seaweed.
Then they could have called it ‘Buoyancy’.