I’m a little ashamed to admit that, prior to seeing this movie, whenever I heard the word “gravity,” I thought of this song.
I know. I don’t even like John Mayer that much! I mean, I like him, he’s talented, but that’s not even his best song. Whatever. This post is not about John Mayer. Fuck you, John Mayer, for making me bury the lede. Onto the movie, for Pete’s sake. This movie, dear friends, is obviously a massive piece of art, as you probably well know. It’s obviously best seen in IMAX, as you also probably well know. It’s all of the things everyone says. What do I have to say about this movie that’s unique? Let’s find out together.
The combined bottom-line aspects of this movie are wholly unappealing to me. In space? Not a fan. (I only recently saw Armageddon, as I don’t do well with meteors. In my defense: Who does?) 3D? I’m a wuss. (I don’t go on roller coasters. The only other 3D movie I’ve seen is Despicable Me.) Movie stars? George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are great and everything, but they are not unfamous enough to be convincing as astronauts. I remember seeing the trailer for this movie several months ago and audibly laughing in the theater at the absurdity of Perpetual Bachelor and Miss Congeniality floating around up there in space. It seemed like the ultimate Hollywood grab-ass.
Then the reviews came pouring in. Against my better judgement, I listened. I also read a whole lot about the movie, about the work that went into it, about the inherent risk, about the lack-of-action-bullshit that it contained. And so I went for it. 3D, IMAX, all of it. All in, like Jess and Nick.
90 minutes later, having gripped both armrests and noticeably completed several breathing exercises throughout, I had what I assume was a jaw-drop expression on my face. The first 20 minutes was not nearly as breathtaking for me, because it had been built up by everyone else, but it was still a visual wonder. Alfonso Cuaron and his crew worked wonders with, for lack of a better term, technology, and they did it in such a minimalist way. Whereas Avatar is CGI porn, Gravity is CGI… I don’t know, waltz? Documentary? Whatever the graceful, beautiful opposite of porn is. Gravity contains CGI in the way that I like to see it, which is to say, I don’t want to see it. I want to believe everything I see. Of course, when 99.9999999% of the world hasn’t been to space, it’s easy to fool them (damn you, Neil DeGrasse-Tyson!), but still. Cuaron’s goal, I imagine, was to make us feel like we were in that shuttle, and in that capsule, and most terrifying of all, inside that suit with only a few layers between us and zero G. Sure, there was swelling music–this is Hollywood–but there was also a lot of silence and emptiness. Those two factors, in space, are scarier than the most rabid zombie or the most crazed murderer.
So, yes. Even independent of the actual storyline, it’s worth going to the theater to experience the atmosphere of it all. But it’s worth staying for Sandy. It’s hard to believe that she basically alternates between shits and gems, but it’s what she does best. And when she unearths a gem, it’s a priceless one. Despite being probably the most recognizable American actress right now, she has a face that lends itself well to blending in, kinda like Tom Hanks. She’s not so beautiful that she’s unrelatable. Buried in there somewhere is a regular girl, and she lets that girl out in this movie. (And makes her really, really, really smart.) She is able to carry essentially this entire movie–and tons of space equipment–on her back. I’m not sure that I’d have believed anyone else in the role, nor would I want to.
The rest of the cast… is basically nonexistent. The only other face we see is the Cloons, who is his usual charming self, except in a giant space suit. He is her guardian angel, both literally and figuratively. I don’t know if Bullock’s Ryan Stone would have made it without him, but it’s also interesting to think about if he was ever there at all. Is she stronger for having fabricated him in her mind? Or does that make her more insane? He sure provided some much-needed comic relief in the movie’s darkest, loneliest moments, and he gave us a way in to Ryan’s initially impenetrable, impersonal core.
Of course, the true stars of this movie are the hundreds of names of animators and crew that flew by in the credits, barely recognized for their phenomenal efforts. Let’s hope this thing cleans up at the technical Oscars. Go support quiet, spectacular movies, y’all. It’s worth it, even if it’s also a little scary.