Gravity

gravity

  • Alfonso Cuaron might be my favorite director, George Clooney is my favorite A-List star, and my appreciation for Sandra Bullock has been growing ever since she starred in Miss Congeniality. Plus, Gravity has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it is safe to say I had higher expectations for this film than any other released in the first nine months of 2013.
  • Outside of the score, Gravity exceeded my expectations.
  • As with The Grandmaster, the core of this film is artistic spectacle, and here the spectacle is Instant Classic quality. The 3D technology is more stunning, more essential than in any other 3D movie I have ever seen. When a bolt floats toward the viewer, or when tethers, bodies or debris drift aimlessly in space, the 3D viewpoint gives us the same sense of weightlessness and zero gravity that its characters experience, even though we are safely affixed to our seats on planet Earth. It is this weightlessness that fuels the movie’s tension, and I cannot imagine a 2D screen creating the feeling near so well. Gravity is the first time I have felt like the increased ticket price for 3D was not only justified, but essential.
  • The sound mix and sound editing is astounding.
  • And, of course, Gravity is gorgeous. Astonishingly gorgeous, to be precise. I don’t know that we see anything all that different from other space-based movies, but Cuaron and Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki make familiar images feel fresh, in much the way last year’s Life of Pi made water more beautiful than other movies.
  • I will say it again: from an artistic, or technical, standpoint, Gravity is an Instant Classic.
  • However, I do not like this film’s score, at least not anymore. I loved it upon my first viewing, but after the second my opinion is quite different. Now I think it overpowers the movie, prevents Gravity from playing the silence it promises. Now I think the score Gravity’s greatest flaw. In fact, I think it so significant that my grade has fallen from an A- to a B.
  • Yet, Gravity is still very good, if only because it creates ample suspense and generates equal emotion. Cuaron shows us thinly developed characters and a simplistic plot, so he uses sound, cut-aways, interesting camera angles and imagery to fuel a frenetic pace and haunting tone. He keeps us on the edge of our seats by giving us just enough time to catch our breath and just enough intimacy with his characters, and then he throws something new at Matt (Clooney), Ryan (Bullock) and us. Cuaron’s direction is, in other words, excellent, his heavy score notwithstanding.
  • I do wish Cuaron would have avoided Bullock curling into the fetal position. The symbolism is a tad too obvious for my tastes.
  • As hinted at earlier, the plot is simplistic, and the characters are only marginally developed. I don’t write plot summaries in my reviews, but I could write one about Gravity in a single sentence. Similarly, the characters do not have much definition. As much emotion as Cuaron creates, he could have created even more if he had found some way to make Ryan and Matt feel more like real people and less like broad generalizations.
  • And yet, it is a minor flaw. Gravity doesn’t aim for character or plot development. It aims for a story about survival told through genuine artistic mastery, and it accomplishes that.
  • Final Grade: B

15 thoughts on “Gravity

  1. Great review, and agree on almost all points with the exception of the use of the fetus symbolism. I agree that it wasn’t subtle in i’s representation. However I remember watching Cuaron organically develop that scene so deftly and gently that when she finally rested in that pose I got tingles and an overwhelming sense of calm after the tension of the opening how ever many minutes before that point. But that was just me. My buddy thought it was to much so I believe it probably split opinion!

    • It probably is. It might not have bothered me as much if he hadn’t lingered on it for so long. I’m not certain how long the pose persisted, but I am certain it was long enough that I felt bludgeoned by the symbol.

  2. Spot on my friends. We do agree on many things here.

    By the way, I’m looking for a follow by email button on your site. Do you have one? I find it easier to track people’s posts that way!

    • Thank you!

      I don’t . . . Know? I’m still pretty new to this whole blog thing and have simply let them WordPress decide what goes on the site. I’ll see if I can figure out how to include a follow by email button. 🙂

  3. I still haven’t seen this, which is a shame. But I am curious to see how my opinion lines up, especially given what you’ve mentioned about the score. Music is often a pet peeve of mine (especially given my other gig as a music critic) and I often find it rather invasive in these sorts of films. I wonder if it detracts from the tension as much as it sounds like it does.

    Great review.

    • The first viewing the score didn’t bother me at all. The second it did. Just too loud and too constant.

      There was still plenty of suspense, even knowing what was coming, but the film did lose something for me.

  4. Greta review. Saw this last night and immediately wanted to see it again. maybe tomorrow.

    So far, I think this is my favorite movie of 2013. We’ll have to see what can top it from here on in 🙂

    • I still like this one, but I’m actually about to downgrade it further. On further reflection, after my second viewing, the score bothers me even more than it did when I left the theater.

      So much of Gravity is fantastic, and the visuals remain masterpiece quality. The characters have enough depth to be memorable. And so forth.

      Maybe that’s why the score bothers me as much as it does. I don’t know.

      • saw Gravity again and I gotta say, the score really adds to the viewing experience not take away from it.

        Wonder why it bothers you so much.

        😦

      • It’s beautifully composed, no doubting that. And I suppose it complements the visuals.

        But that’s my problem, really. Gravity tries to accurately represent the sound, or lack thereof, in outer space. It even promises, in the pre-film introduction, that sound and life are impossible in space. And yet the movie is never silent, because the score replaces the audio we’d expect to be in other movies.

        Take the destruction of the ISS as an example. We don’t hear the space station’s parts snapping, breaking or colliding, just as we don’t see flame, the way we have in other space-based films, but we still hear, and therefore experience, an explosion. It’s just an explosion of booming music, instead of sound effects.

        I think visuals like the ISS destruction would have been more tense, more suspenseful, more powerful if the score had been silenced, or at least quieter. In that event, we’d have really felt disorientation from soundless destruction.

        Which is say: Gravity promises that outer space is silent. I wish it had delivered on that point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s