Vast Emptiness

So, Gravity, then. I’ve been wanting to write something about this ever since I saw it on Tuesday, but for various reasons haven’t got round to doing so. This isn’t a bad thing, because it’s given me a bit more time to think about what I wanted to say. Here goes. Oh, and there will be minor spoilerage, so if you haven’t seen it yet, look away now. Also, if you’re a friend of mine and you thought it was wonderful, you might also want to look away now. I’d hate this to come between us.

The thing is, I really, really, REALLY wanted to love Gravity. I’d seen the clip of the opening sequence back some time in 2011 (at least, that’s how long ago it seems) and I was desperate to see more. It looked utterly fabulous and it seemed to be one of those films (like, say, The Matrix) that would raise the bar to another level. The trouble was, it turned out that I’d already seen pretty much the whole film. OK, not literally, but I’d certainly seen the best bits and – despite taking great pains to avoid every other trailer and snippet of information floating around about the film – I reckon I had a fairly good idea of what might happen.

And so it turned out. Sure, it was great to see it on a big screen (I’d shelled out extra for the Cribbs Causeway Vue XTREME experience, more fool me), and if I hadn’t seen the opening sequence already, I really would have been blown away by it. And that might just have carried me through the rest of the film. But I had, and as a result there were no surprises left  – well, apart from that rather silly bit towards the end, but that doesn’t really count, does it George? Even the novelty of 3D wore off after a while (yeah, I’ve avoided all this trendy 3D stuff up to now, having not bothered with it since seeing the weird Star Wars/Muppets/Michael Jackson mash-up Captain EO at EPCOT back in the 80s).

The problem, of course, was with the story. Or, rather, the lack of one. Essentially, the plot boiled down to that old amateur trope of One Bloody Thing After Another. There was a bit of an attempt to add tension and emotional depth to this by gaffer-taping a tragic backstory onto Sandra Bullock’s character, but it wasn’t remotely convincing. I wasn’t actually that bothered whether she lived or died at the end, frankly, and I was almost hoping for a crocodile to rock up unexpectedly in the final scene. That might have been fun.

The moral is, even if you’ve got the technology to show stuff in an amazing new whizzbang way – in fact, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got it – you still can’t do without a decent story. See The Matrix, above. Or pretty much the entire filmography of Pixar. What was the second word of Pixar’s first feature title again? Remind me…

The real tragedy of all this is the awful thought that Gravity isn’t even my all-time favourite film involving a space shuttle being destroyed by debris and the ISS catching fire. And it can’t be a healthy state of affairs when you end up as runner-up behind a Michael Bay film starring Ben Affleck, can it?

Gravity: unexpectedly lightweight.

10 thoughts on “Vast Emptiness

  1. well not having seen the opening sequence (and DH being eternally devoted to SB) I’ll probably still go, but thanks for the (no)-plot warning, an all-too common occurrence in screen-writing these days IMO. Take last night’s Dr Who drama-doc – so they made Doctor Who after all – what a surprise. And the first doctor was getting on a bit. Please tell me something I didn’t know!
    Ali B

  2. Ah, now, we might have to agree to disagree about Adventures in Time and Space 🙂 I thought it was lovely. But then again, it WAS made especially for me…

  3. I was also planning to see this but given that my sister found the most comment-worthy element to be Sandra Bullock’s legs, then I think I might give it a miss.

  4. See, I came away thinking “That was brilliant… but I never want to see it again.” – it was the cinematic equivalent of a fairground ride. I didn’t mind the lack of plot (it was a short film anyway). I just went with it – and found it to be about the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. And totally immersive. I don’t know how much this was aided by the 3D IMAX experience, probably a bit. I also don’t know how much it was aided by having studied Physics and knowing just how screwed up things got. Although this did of course mean that I picked up several of the scientific inaccuracies. What the hell – if a scientific principle interferes with the story I say go ahead and bin it! Perhaps the stand out part of the production for me wasn’t that though, it was the sound design. Very cleverly done. Great article about that here: So, I’d advise anyone to go ahead and watch it regardless of any lack of story. And see it in the cinema – there won’t really be much point in watching it on a TV. Well, depends on your TV I suppose…

  5. C’mon, Jon. You must give points to George for his Buzz Lightyear impersonation. Once that thought occurred to me I couldn’t take him seriously… Well as seriously as… Well…

  6. @Sherri, Ms Bullock’s legs are certainly remarkable, but not necessarily worth the price of a 3D ticket.

    @Karli, I agree the sound design was pretty terrific. And, as I say, if I hadn’t already seen the opening sequence (albeit on the small screen), I would have been blown away. But the trouble was, I already knew what was coming. Trailers= Spoilers. And, yes, I avoided making any comment on some of the dodgy science – I can cope with a bit of that myself if it helps the plot along. But if the plot isn’t up to much, then you start to question it.

    @Oscar, Ha 🙂 Buzz was a bit less plastic, though.

  7. Agree 100%. Like you I was v excited about this film, was certain it was gong to be something totally new, and amazing, and mind-blowing. And actually, chaps it wasn’t.

    Oh yes, the technology behind the making of the thing may have fitted the mind-blowing bill, but guess what – in front of the screen, all you want to know is the story. The gubbins is irrelevant… and I had started to worry at the number of articles that were appearing upping the hype, talking about ‘all Bullock had to do most of the time, for the action sequences, was stand up, and we did everything else round her… aren’t we clever?’ To which the reply has to be, Well, yes, you are very clever, but you also shot yourselves in the foot. I was mote interested in working out ‘was she standing up in this bit then?’ that sinking into the story.
    Scott Pack had it as a film of thirds. (I precis)…The first third really exciting. This second third is bog standard space stuff. The final third is just Disney. That abut hits it on the head, I think.

    Inconsistencies throughout – like why the bloke’s head emptied of all matter when hit by debris, when the space station maintained its wiffling gravity-free status, allowing bodies and washing up brushes to float about when there was a dirty great HOLE in the thing… NB DO they do washing up in space rockets? I know we have Fairy Liquid but puhleeease…)

    oh enough.

    My rating is therefore this: Fun. but not quite the orgasmic level of fun its meant to be.


  8. Yup, I’d agree with all of that, Vanessa. When the tech gets in the way of the – ahem – fictive dream, you’re in trouble.

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