Gravity Perfects 3D, Spoils Space

10 Oct

Here’s my pro spoiler review of Gravity making this the antithesis to Mr. Carl Wells’ spoiler free review. Gravity is being touted as the first movie made explicitly for 3D, but whoever is saying that obviously never heard of Spy Kids 3D. Lots of movies these days claim to be made “explicitly for 3D.” From Avatar to World War Z, production companies rake in the extra dough from the apparent unnecessary rental fee for plastic glasses in order to watch a few things “pop out” at you during the movie.

Old People enjoying a 3 dimensional moving picture

No one actually reacts like this in the theater

What makes Gravity different from every 3D movie that predates it is that 3D is a requirement, not a suggestion. Every other 3D movie before this could be watched in 2D without missing much. You might be confused by how many objects inexplicably explode or are thrust toward you, but you won’t be missing out on any of the story. Gravity is unique because utilizing 3D engages you with the setting, characters, and story like no other movie ever has.

The movie opens and the scene is set with a disclaimer that makes every physics-loving, Star-Wars-disproving, movie nerd giddy:

At 372 miles above Earth, temperatures range from 250˚F to -150˚F. There is nothing to transmit sound. No atmospheric pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible.

As this and the title screen are displayed, a soft melodic orchestral tune slowly crescendos into a volume that no doubt tests the limits of Dolby Digital sound, and then BAM… complete silence. You are thrown into space with a beautiful view of Earth – pristine blue oceans, enormous swirling clouds. The eerie silence and the intense realism of depth from 3D effects genuinely make you feel like you are in space (not like I know from first hand experience, but I’ve geeked out on space books a time or two).

Kid being dumb in space

Are you insane, child?!? Put your helmet back on before the blood vessels in your eyeballs rupture!

Director Alfonso Cuarón wanted the movie to have the feel of an IMAX documentary, and, let me tell you, he does such a fantastic job employing IMAX 3D (or RealD 3D) and Dolby Digital sound to depict space. A pitfall with 3D movies is that the polarized sunglasses you have to wear make everything so dark, which actually works well with a movie that takes place in space (and Tron). Being in a dark and silent theatre, the 3D effect of astronauts, space shuttles, debris, and Sandra Bullock’s buttocks coming toward you and floating by make you experience the antigravity and desolation of space.

Bullock's buttocks

Other women considered for this role were Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts, Abbie Cornish, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, and Olivia Wilde. All winners.

Now, if only theaters could install some refrigeration and heating elements to get the temperature accurate. Space is beautiful as George Clooney’s character, Matt Kowalski, routinely points out, but Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, says it even more perfectly with, “I hate space!” The epitome of disparity, space is excruciatingly hot and agonizingly cold, blindingly bright and frighteningly dark, full of countless stars and utter emptiness. Without 3D, viewers could not experience the setting of Gravity the way it was perfectly and meticulously planned to be experienced.

The cast list for Gravity is quite small, but the actors are huge. Both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are Academy Award winning actors. There may be other movies that were made “explicitly for 3D,” but none of them have a lineup like Gravity. The only other character you ever “see” is some guy named Shariff, who engages in tomfoolery and then the first time you actually see his face it looks like this:


Beckoning back to his Apollo 13 days, Ed Harris is one of the mission control voices. The voices go silent pretty early on in movie, and we are left with Matt (George Clooney) and Ryan (Sandra Bullock) in what appears will be a buddy film about two astronauts trying to find their way home in space but find love instead. Clooney does an extraordinary job portraying the veteran astronaut, who can’t shut up, remains clear headed and logical, has a sense of humor, and is determined to break the space walk record. Bullock brilliantly plays a first timer in space complete with anxiety, self doubt, confidence, intelligence, stupidity, and a great buttocks. The emptiness of space reveals the depth (double meaning?) of Matt and Ryan. Matt isn’t only the hunky, loquacious, egomaniac astronaut; he is also a rational, self-sacrificing adventurer. Ryan isn’t just the blue or brown eyed, stubborn medical engineer; she is also an emotional, ambitious ex-single mother. The characters drive this movie. Being that the layman has never explored space, there is nothing else the audience can relate to besides the characters. With the 3D effect, the magnitude of space in the backdrop forces you to focus on the comparatively small characters right in front of you, and Clooney and Bullock hit it out of the park like no other actors have ever done in a 3D movie.

Despite the $100,000,000 budget, this movie is extremely simple. The computer effects are by no means simple, but the story is. To sum it up in a tweet I’d say:

Debris in space causes 2 astronauts trouble. 1 sacrifices so the other can make it back to Earth

Dang. Is that it? I still have 44 characters left, so I guess I would include this short link: You can tell right from the get go that something is going to go horribly wrong. Ryan is installing some motherboard looking things to the exterior of a space shuttle. Her vitals are all messed up, and mission control won’t stop giving her grief about it. Meanwhile, that joker Shariff is tethered to the shuttle acting more excited than a toddler in a ball pit. Matt parades around the shuttle with his badass jetpack while playing old country songs (apparently NASA installs iPods in spacesuits) and recounting stories of Bourbon Street. Everyone participates in small talk before mission control suddenly gives an emergency warning: a satellite was destroyed. There is an effect called the Kessler syndrome, which causes a chain reaction with debris in low Earth orbit. Satellite debris is orbiting Earth every 90 minutes wreaking havoc on nearly everything in its way, and it is headed right toward the astronauts. Fast flying, silent junk hammers their space shuttle. Shariff loses a majority of his face, Matt jetpacks the hell out of there, and Ryan launches into a stomach turning, revolving assent into the abyss. She is screaming and deranged. The audience, in turn, sees her point of view. Getting a first person perspective of space in 3D does a number on you. You can feel the emptiness and you feel emptier inside every 360º when you catch a glimpse of Earth. Her oxygen levels are depleting, down to only 8%. Things seem hopeless for Ryan. Then Matt comes to the rescue. Ryan tethers on to him to go for a space cowboy ride as they make their way toward a Russian space station in the distance. It is during this time that Ryan breaks down and becomes hopeless. They are together, but are separated by their spacesuits. Space is no isolated island. They can’t take off their helmets, procreate, and pull a Swiss Family Robinson. This is it. They will die here. Ryan reveals that she had a daughter, who tragically died playing tag at school. Matt comforts her and keeps his cool as they slowly drift toward the space station before the debris orbits back around. They arrive at the space station moments before the debris. After it passes, Ryan and Matt are stuck in a monkeys-in-a-barrel situation.

A Monkeys In A Barrel Situation

Matt forces Ryan to let him stray into space, so she can make it inside the Ruskie space shuttle, which very inconveniently doesn’t have an escape pod for re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. He coaches her along on the radio as she desperately tries to enter the shuttle before succumbing to oxygen deprivation (she is running on CO2 fumes at this point). She makes it inside and immediately strips off her suit (this is when you see her buttocks). After catching her breath, she seeks out a radio to try to contact Matt. No luck. She is in this alone now. Matt’s last bit of advice was to take the Russian shuttle to a nearby Chinese station where she would find an escape pod to Earth. A real thriller, at this point in the movie, you want to think she will make it back home, but you would not be surprised if she were to die alone in space. After having contact with some Chinese guy with a radio, dog, and baby on Earth, she becomes delirious. She shuts off her oxygen, which induces a hallucination where Matt returns, drinks some imaginary vodka, gives her hope, and is overall charming. Ryan snaps back to reality and continues toward her Chinese ticket back to Earth. In another thrilling action sequence, she silently uses a fire extinguisher à la Wall-E to reach the space station. She pulls the classic button smashing technique to somehow make the Chinese escape pod burst through Earth’s atmosphere. She lands in some unfamiliar water surrounded by green mountains. For one last shuddering moment, the pod sinks. The viewer sinks with it, “Great, she made it this far and is going to drown?” But after this crazy ride, there is no way Cuarón would let it end that way. She escapes and floats to the shore. Then she looks to her left and sees the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand. Kidding. Or am I? You’ll have to see for yourself. So simple, yet so engaging. I don’t see how that simple of a story could have been as captivating as it was without the perfect use of 3D to set the stage and wonderful actors to portray the characters.

It is no surprise that Gravity broke the October box office record with its $55 million opening weekend beating out such Oscar worthy competitors as Paranormal Activity 3, Jackass 3-D, and Scary Movie 3 (that’s a whole lotta 3). This movie merits the praise it received as the 3D movie. You could probably watch Gravity in 2D, but I have no idea why you would. Gravity perfects 3D making space feel all too real, which takes the romanticism of it away. Instead of the great unknown with endless possibilities, it is the great unknown where life is impossible. 3D effects give some people nausea, but, in Gravity, the intensity of the story is enough to cause nausea. Fellow Stupid Opinions writer, Carl Wells, suggested you watch this movie with a beer. I would not recommend that at all; you want a clear head for this one. With all the edge of your seat thrills, I suggest a Xanax. Then drink a beer after the movie to settle your nerves and revel in the fact that seeing Gravity is about as close as you will ever have to get to space.


5 Responses to “Gravity Perfects 3D, Spoils Space”

  1. Carl Wells October 11, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Thanks, I think, it seems like you liked and/or hated Gravity, it is hard to tell for sure. I tried to covey that I liked the technical achievements so much because they were so flawless in their executions that their scientific inaccuracies; plot holes, and Sandra Bullock’s presence, were all superseded by the perfect utilization of the IMAX 3D format . The entertainment value is in the showing of the story rather than in the story itself, it may not be perfect, but it is unique. And you’d have to be crazy to go to the lengths it took to make this movie so see it the way those crazy people wanted you to.

    • Derek October 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      I liked it. I tried to convey that the movie was done so well technically–utilizing IMAX 3D–that instead of idealizing space (Clooney’s character’s view), it portrayed space as it really is, scary as hell (Bullock’s character’s view). After seeing the true nature of space, I don’t want to experience it outside of a movie theater… unless it is senicide.

      • Carl Wells October 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

        Now I get it, it spoiled the allure of space. I completely agree with you there. Great job on the graphics too by the way.


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