These past few months have been a big one for movies. Many have made big impressions on critics, and for good reasons too. However, there is one film that has been making waves that I recently saw, only because it was a frontrunner at practically every awards show. The science fiction film “Gravity” was so widely advertised and praised, I felt inclined to see it. The trailer had made me feel uncomfortable, as Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stranded in space. However, in order to make a fair judgment, viewing was required.
I finally got around to seeing it a few weeks ago, and wow. Just, wow. That was probably one of the strangest films I had sat through. Thank God it was only an hour and a half, and I watched it at home. Otherwise, I would have been seriously pissed for paying to sit through it.
The situation it sets up is interesting, I’ll give it that. A medical engineer, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are stuck in space upon an accident that can potentially kill them. The space shuttle is destroyed, and Kowalski decides to detach himself and float away in zero gravity, leaving Stone on her own to figure things out. Amy Poehler was right at the Golden Globes this year. “Gravity” really is further proof that George Clooney would rather float off into zero gravity than spend another moment with Sandra Bullock.
The director, Alfonso Cuaron, has been making waves at award shows for “Gravity.” His accolades include Best Director at the Golden Globes, along with Movie of the Year at the AFI awards, and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film for the Director’s Guild of America. Cuaron’s directorial and producer credits in the past include “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Children of Men” and “Great Expectations.” It’s clear that his past works don’t exactly connect to each other. His broad experience prepared him to take on this project.
The bulk of the film was a result of CGI. It took four years for the film to be fully developed, as the technology Cuaron was looking for wasn’t available yet. The cinematography, visual effects and creation of the outer space atmosphere were too much to take on at the time.
The script was strange, too. All of the sudden, Bullock starts howling while stranded in her space shuttle. Howling. There were also several awkward exchanges between Bullock and Clooney. His character’s sense of humor was trying, even for a couple of people stranded in space. If it wasn’t for his good looks and almost robot-like perfection, there would have been an infinite amount of cringing during my viewing.
Bullock spent six months physically training herself for the film. She also spent a decent amount of quality time with Cuaron discussing the script, namely rebirth after adversity-the major thematic aspect. At one point, I felt like she was even channelling Shakespeare. The existential Hamlet was showing between the lines, as Stone starts to question what it’s like knowing your death is impending, so I commend the screenwriter for that. Topics ranging from Bullock’s breath reflecting her dialogue on screen to the blocking of her character’s movement. She had long pieces of dialogue to memorize and rehearse, so she had to coordinate some of her lines with the way the wires attached to her moved. Bullock’s dedication to preparing for her role was beyond normal, which is admirable.
James Cameron is even impressed with Bullock’s work. “She's the one that had to take on this unbelievable challenge to perform it. (It was) probably no less demanding than a Cirque du Soleil performer, from what I can see.” He says, “There's an art to that, to creating moments that seem spontaneous but are very highly rehearsed and choreographed. Not too many people can do it...I think it's really important for people in Hollywood to understand what was accomplished here."
One scene in the film is a major turning point, and it wasn’t even a part of Cuaron’s original script. Basically, Stone has to figure out how to find a resolution once she enters the space pod. Cuaron was having trouble finding a solution to this problem, so George Clooney managed to rewrite the scene, and include himself in it. Learning this thoroughly convinces me that Clooney is one perfect robot of a man.
I totally respect the solid facts behind why this movie is such a big deal. This film is a rarity, as there aren’t many science fiction films out there that have a heroine (as opposed to a hero) as the main character. The only other film out there with that honor (that managed to become a cult classic, let alone successful) was “Alien.” The 1979 film featured Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, the warrant officer aboard the spaceship. By making a female the lead character in the film, it would help her character stand out in the testosterone induced genre of science fiction. In fact, “Alien” led to a nomination from BAFTA for Weaver; looks like it did the same for Bullock.
At this year Academy Awards ceremony, “Gravity” has been nominated for the following awards: Best Actress (Sandra Bullock), Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Directing (Alfonso Cuaron), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. That’s a total of 10 (10!) Oscars. The bulk of them are in regards to the production of the film. All of those categories are the backbone to “Gravity;” without any one of them, the film would be lost. From a moviemaking standpoint, it’s pretty clear why “Gravity” would be such a big deal. However, as impressive as the cinematography is, and even though Cuaron is able to make the world look so peaceful from space, the feast for the eyes is not enough alone to garner this film the Best Motion Picture award this year at the ceremony.
“Gravity” is highly overrated, regardless of what BAFTA or the Academy tries to tell you. Not even the fact that Mr. Clooney graces our presence a few time throughout the film can rescue it. I would gladly sit through American Hustle again if it means it would delay a future viewing “Gravity.”