I am somewhat at a loss for words right now. Mostly because I’m not sure how I should be reacting to Gravity. I love science fiction movies probably more than anything else. Heck, whenever I roll around the idea of me actually writing something or daring to eventually make a movie, science fiction is what immediately springs to mind. Because that particular genre is probably the one in which you can explore almost every concept imaginable. It’s a genre that offers truly limitless potential.
So why exactly do I feel so ambivalent about Gravity?
Well, it probably stems from the fact that this movie doesn’t have a theme to it. I already mentioned something similar in my review of Interstellar, but it still rings true here. Good science fiction needs to tackle a problem, to present a big idea, otherwise it’s just a story that happens to be set in space. And as much as I love outer space and dearly hope that commercial space travel will become a reality during my lifetime, I don’t so much care about the backdrop if the movie has little to nothing to actually communicate to the viewer.
Now this isn’t to say that Gravity is a bad movie, not at all. It’s quite a thrilling piece to sit through. But for all intents and purposes, this is a disaster movie, not a science fiction movie. And even looking at the film from this angle still just makes it seem empty to me when I think about it. The structure of the movie can be summarized as follows: Shit hits the fan, improvised attempt at fixing the situation, shit hits the fan again, impending resignation of the protagonist, another improvised attempt at fixing the situation, shit hits the fan a third time with a last improvised attempt at getting out of this alive and finally doing so.
There’s little to no character interaction to be found here, everything is absolutely focused on what happens around the people. And I get that the urgency of the situation they find themselves in doesn’t lend itself to a bunch of expository scenes in between, but the film still attempts to do just that and it just falls flat for me. I know a bit about the Ryan Stone, Sandra Bullock’s character, but George Clooney’s character is literally just a bunch of self-aggrandizing lines that just happen to be said by someone who has enough charisma to barely pull them off. I don’t get to know this character and as a result, his sacrifice in the movie feels hollow.
Even the triumphant ending doesn’t really resonate with me because Ryan is a classic example of a character who is completely down on her luck. She’s such an artificially tragic figure with the backstory that she tells us, that overcoming the obstacles in this movie is framed at her somehow regaining control of her life. But it just doesn’t work for me. Especially because the movie literally doesn’t have a first or last act in there. It begins in medias res and it ends without any closure whatsoever.
From a technical perspective, there’s a lot to appreciate in this movie. The editing is spectacular, especially when it’s completely absent and we get treated to long takes that range between five and ten minutes at times. The cinematography is gorgeous and the score does a lot to enhance to mood of the piece and I can definitely appreciate the scientific accuracy that went into the making of this movie.
However, all the technical achievements only make up a fraction of what makes a good movie. I reiterate, Gravity is not a bad movie, but it’s one that didn’t engage me all that much. I was already suspicious when I read that it was barely 90 minutes long though I concede that it’s an arbitrary criticism. Still, I can’t really understand why this movie got that many accolades. I guess the acting is ok, though I don’t really see what others obviously saw in Bullock’s performance. I get that carrying a movie largely on her own is a big task, but if that’s all it takes to get an Oscar these days, can we get Ryan Reynolds a retroactive Oscar for basically doing the same thing in the much more engaging Buried?