Movie Review: Stellar views abound, but ‘Gravity’ falls flat

To begin, I absolutely loathe 3-D format. I am sure I’m not alone and I’m probably in the minority. Yet it never ceases to amaze me why so many moviegoers think 3-D movies are so great and inventive. After all, it proved a failed venture in the 1950s when movie studios were desperate to attract audiences away from a newer, more popular product— television.

It seems that so many movies are released today and so many classics returned to theaters after the three-dimensional process is performed. I hoped it would prove a fad, but it seems 3-D will stick around. Fortunately, some filmmakers have tried to experiment with it in order to bring greater depth and technical finesse to their work.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is such an example, but I’m still not convinced the movie experience wouldn’t be just the same without the silly glasses. The latest production from one of the finest filmmakers working today, the Children of Men and Y Tu Mamá También director has crafted a visually stunning, unique work that sadly feels oddly hollow. The plot, such as it is, follows two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) on a routine mission to make repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope when debris from an exploded Russian satellite bombards them, destroying their spacecraft and leaving them stranded in space. They must find courage within each other and themselves in order to survive.

Gravity is sparse on details about these two people and we only hear a small part of Bullock’s backstory in the middle of the film, but it is an event that powerfully alters the way she views life. Otherwise the movie does little to provide any character development which may be why I found nothing that compelling in the production. Bullock’s acting is fine though the early Oscar buzz is strange as there is really nothing award-worthy about her role. Her character seems just as synthetic as the spacesuit keeping her alive, although the final twenty minutes of the film does allow the actress an opportunity to show some emotion and prove she’s not a robot.

George Clooney, on the other hand, plays George Clooney. Jon Stewart even made a joke of this when Bullock appeared as a guest, asking, “Do you really think audiences will actually believe George Clooney to be this big ladies’ man?” I’m sure you get the idea.

Perhaps the movie was not meant for its acting. In that case, if it is purely an exercise of special effects, then it wins the grand prize as the visuals are astounding. I do not know if the 3-D format helped in this instance, but it truly feels as if you are in space with these stranded astronauts. A great deal of commentary has focused on the cinematography and effects, and unquestionably countless volumes will be written on the achievement. The sound proves stunning as there is none, just like space. The buildup to the destruction of the spacecraft at the beginning of the film is intense and when debris bombards the ship, all music and talking between Bullock and Clooney ceases. That sequence is a brilliant blend of cinematography, sound and visual effects, and will undoubtedly receive recognition come awards time. 

In the end, Gravity is a film you can admire for its technical prowess rather than actually enjoy. Considering the current state of Hollywood, Cuarón should feel proud of his ability to make such a high-profile (and expensive) movie that is both original and not a standard popcorn-fare remake or sequel.

I don’t know what would have made the film more enjoyable: perhaps more character development?  But it just didn’t work on an emotional level for me. However, if your interests lie in the technical qualities of film then I cannot recommend this movie enough.

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