Totally Weightless: Gravity

09/25/2013 4:00 AM |

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Judging from the breathless fervor of its reception—to date as universal as it is overzealous—it would seem as though the Children of Men director’s long-awaited latest has gone ahead and changed cinema irrevocably; it ought to go without saying that this is dubious. Admirers, doubtless compelled by the union of cutting-edge technology and an interstellar setting, invoke Kubrick as the most flattering comparison, drawing tenuous connections between the stars and claiming this schlock as heir apparent to 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it’s significant that critics struggled to make sense of 2001 upon release in 1968, while critics today easily embrace Gravity. The lack of friction speaks to its both its populist bearing and intellectual paucity. Who could possibly be challenged or provoked by this, let alone moved or pushed to thought?

Despite constant intimations of philosophical import and cosmic grandeur, Gravity ultimately resembles nothing more than an unusually portentous Disney theme-park ride or a video-game cutscene expanded to feature length, Cuaron having marshalled his talents toward what’s essentially the world’s most expensive 90-minute sizzle reel. It’s effective only insubstantially and superficially. A demonstration of (not inconsiderable) technical prowess, the movie shows scant interest in the human dimension, sidestepping the hard work of writing characters and drama by furnishing its paper-thin narrative with overused archetype and cliche. Kowalsky (George Clooney, faux-charming) and Stone (Sandra Bullock, faux-scared), stock types dusted off and thrown in space, hurtle from one ludicrous miniclimax to the next, every moment of repose disrupted by the whiz-bang of some new deadly cataclysm. Our heroes can’t even pause to catch their breath without finding they’re out of oxygen.

And so it is that Gravity motors on, stopping on occasion to unload an embarrassing bit of half-baked backstory or to ponder mortality with the air of a college-aged stoner. Cuaron, to his credit, seems dimly aware that his dialogue is laughable (the film opens with a “Macarena” joke!), and so he soon conspires to jam inter-astronaut communications to better focus on the much-discussed contemplative silence of space. But even here he fails himself: Steven Price’s bleating, obnoxious score drowns out the natural sounds of nothing at all. It’s just more of the same old spectacle, precision-calibrated for audience appeal. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Gravity facilitates such praise. It’s been constructed as a vehicle for enthusiasm, tailor-made for gobsmacked and unthinking awe before its glitzy high-tech wonders.

Opens October 4

6 Comment

  • Sounds like someone went in wanting to hate this film…I would ignore this review if you haven’t seen the film yet. Some people can’t be pleased by anything. I found the sheer beauty and pulse to this film to be staggering. At a time when global chaos seems to command every outlet of the news, it strikes me as a good thing to see the Earth from afar, take in its beauty and scope and feel the humanity between these characters that have been placed in a dire situation miles above her surface. This isn’t Michael Bay blowing up cities as buxom, barely legal pin-up’s twirl their hair and wait for the young stud to save them. This is a cinematic marvel for all ages.

  • I agree with both the review and the commenter above! The backstory is thin beyond belief but the beautiful digital mastery of the film is something to behold. the orchestration is too hollywood and absolutely drowns out the silence of space and then some, but works in other places of the film. I went in expecting nothing in particular and found myself winching as space debris floated at me and the time flew by during what was a fun and suspenseful ride. At the end (no spoiler here)…my first thought was that the plot wasn’t all that hollywood after all as two very typical elements in Hollywood endings did not happen, and that made me happy too.

  • Gravity’s popularity is also why McDonald’s makes billions each year; it is familiar, uncomplicated, and engineered for instant gratification. The fact that feeble minded viewers are praising this as a groundbreaking film (ask them: what precisely will it change? They will breathe from their mouths) as if comparing a Big Mac with Kobe beef is what irritates me. Sadly, we are the minority viewpoint.

  • I have to disagree here. The film works as a technical marvel and a realistic edge-of-your-seat thriller, but the entire scenario could also be read completely as metaphor. That doesn’t really strike me as being shallow or “weightless.”

  • As a college-aged stoner I resent your comparison to the half-baked philosophy in this film.

  • @Michael I thought that metaphor was kinda shallow, but I agree that it’s a technical marvel.