Gravity is awesome

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Gravity_PosterNo, I’m not referring to that gravity which is ‘just a theory’, but which is nonetheless quite a handy thing.

I’m referring to the movie, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, which I saw about a week ago, but have waited a while for it to sink in. I chose the adjective ‘awesome’ deliberately – I was genuinely awe-struck, and that doesn’t happen very often.

I thought I would pass on some thoughts on the movie, but will try not to give away any spoilers.

The first thing to be said is that the subject matter of this movie once again underlines my contention that reality is way more interesting (and awesome) than the mystical/religious/paranormal/fantasy worlds which many claim to  exist.

But now to the movie itself.

The production values are superb, as is the attention to detail. For once, the creators have actually listened to the boffins, and got the physics right. While it’s a feast for the eyes, it’s certainly not a romanticised or air-brushed telling of a routine mission gone wrong. Rather, it reinforces what a dangerous place space is for humans, and in particular, how many different ways space can kill you. And that’s what makes this movie edge-of-the-seat stuff from beginning to end (ok, they do give you a few minutes at the beginning to get the ‘wow-that-looks-fun’ feeling happening, but that’s it for relaxation I’m afraid).

I do have a few minor gripes however, but they are minor:

1. At one point Bullock has seven minutes to free the entangled chinese capsule, and suddenly appears on the outside, all suited up to begin the work of untangling stuff. I think it would have taken all of that seven minutes to find the suit (which belonged to a departed chinese astronaut), get into it, and make her way to the outside of the craft.

2. When Clooney (in his jet-pack) picks up Bullock, he tows her back using a long tether – which looked about 20m long, ostensibly to get her out of his jets. That’s fair enough, but the resulting dynamics of two bodies whipping around wreckage is unnecessary, and completely foreseeable. This also would have accelerated the depletion of the fuel in the jet-pack, as it fought against the inertia of the other body. And the fuel in the jet-pack turns out to be critical. Why not have Bullock hold onto Clooney front-on? (Like many other women would love to do, including Mrs. rb, given half a chance). This at least would have made them a single body, much easier to control.

3. The close proximity of the ISS and Chinese habitats to the shuttle orbit and location was handy, and necessary to support the dramatic storyline, but  I think that the outcome (without giving away too much), would have been a lot worse in reality.

As I said, these are minor, and don’t really detract from an otherwise excellent film.

For those of you who watch The Movie Show with David and Margaret, I was surprised with David’s comments on the movie. He felt that that a certain scene 3/4 of the way through the movie was somehow silly and inappropriate (when you see it, you’ll know which one I mean). I’m not sure what he was on, but the scene was fine with me – not out of place at all, and completely believable, given the oxygen-starved environment at the time. Was he even paying attention?

The other fail for the Movie show was the failure to acknowledge Aussie astronaut Andy Thomas, who is credited as ‘astronaut adviser’. Given the excellent performances and realism, he has to take a lot of credit.

Overall, a great adventure, well presented.

Your homework: Read Ray Bradbury’s ‘Kaleidescope’, which tells the story of astronauts ejected from an exploding spaceship, and their various conversations as they drift toward their respective fates. Compare and contrast.

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5 thoughts on “Gravity is awesome

    Dan Rea said:
    October 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

    I wouldn’t call it a ‘fail’ mate; being a space and sci-fi geek (and a bradbury fan too; hat-tip to F451) I really wanted to like this movie but ended up giving it a 4/10; 1 for a good Clooney performance, 1 for good CG, 1 for very nice camera work that captured a sense of zero-G vertigo, and +1 for making NASA look cool again.
    I found two scenes very silly; the first’s symbolism was corny, but the second was laughable and seemed like someone really wants an Oscar. Bullock made me so sad I wanted to cry while punching my face until the movie finally stopped. It was all very exciting but the odds of not getting obliterated time after time were so very minute that it became increasingly unbelievable. It felt like an Apollo13 movie for a new generation with a shorter attention span.
    I reckon it could have been an 8/10 if only the tug-of-war went the other way…
    Mind you, it you thought Prometheus was a good movie (and not a pretentious bore with inconsistent characters oozing arty-farty symbolism) then you’re in for a treat.
    Too harsh?

      rationalbrain responded:
      October 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Interesting to hear your perspective. In terms of Bradbury, I found F451 a bit ponderous; I’m more a Something Wicked or Martian Chronicles guy, and maybe that reflects our different takes on this movie.
      To be honest, I haven’t seen Prometheus – but heard a long review of the massive science fail and preposterous premise. Still I’ll catch up with it, but that’s why I reacted so well to this movie – I think the science was pretty good, and balanced well with the suspense. It was always going to be a compromise – too much towards the accurate science and it becomes a documentary about the shuttle and gets shown at Imax with paltry crowds – and it finishes after 20 minutes when the first piece of junk hits, as you suggest. Too much the other way, and you get Prometheus and Avatar. So my assessment was for the good balance. We don’t often get movies that that go anywhere near that balance, so I guess in hindsight it was an encouragement award.

    Dan Rea said:
    October 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Maybe I’m just not one who enjoys symbolism. You’re right about the science being very good; I myself was encouraged to go and check on some physics. And if it’s good enough for this guy, it’s good enough for me:
    http://mashable.com/2013/10/10/neil-degrasse-tyson-gravity-2/

      rationalbrain responded:
      October 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Hey Dan, thanks for the link, interesting reading. And yes, he’s picked up a few more gripes, but also pointed out the good stuff. Damn, how did I miss the Clooney floating away thing? There was no particular momentum away from Bullock was there? Unless the whole station/debris was rotating at the time, but I can’t recall. If it is rotating, then NDT got it wrong. Also, I thought she was an engineer, but perhaps that’s confirmation bias. At least I picked up the bogus proximity of the other stations to the shuttle – I wasn’t completely star-struck!

    On Gravity and Religious Symbolism | rationalbrain said:
    November 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    […] In conversation with John Cleary, he proceeds to review Gravity, but in a manner somewhat differently to my approach, here. […]

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