The Monkey finally got around to seeing this movie, via HBO “preview”. Thanks U-verse! And actually I saw it in two parts, the last part first, then the first part. THEN it made sense!
So here we have Sandra Bullock and George Clooney working on a future Space Shuttle (??) mission to repair the Hubble (that Hubble just keeps breaking down!), and that should be the first clue that this movie is not a documentary and takes some liberties in order to advance the story. Gravity, in fact, takes enough liberties that it should be judged separately on story versus accuracy – which is what I’ll do.
*** Warning – minor spoliers – eep! ***
From a story perspective, it’s fairly straightforward. You’ve seen this before. Someone suffers a terrible loss in life, and can’t seem to move on. And it takes some other danger, and a handsome sage, to talk that person back into letting go. In fact, Frozen had a similar theme in some ways. Another person is on their last mission or assignment or whatever. They will likely not make it out alive. Mix in some very amazing special effects and you have a movie. Thankfully the movie is smart enough to move along quickly. It does a fairly good job at mixing action and quiet times of divulging key background information. But just barely enough.
And that’s where the story is a bit “same old”. Two astronauts in space under dire circumstances, trained to be at their top, and they spend the “quiet” time doing psychoanalysis or telling stories of their youth? I understand the intent is to make the other calm down but still, these are professionals. And Bullock is a trained scientist, though admittedly on her first mission, and gets all weepy and scared repeatedly? She does a nice job of drifting into insanity and back, coming to grips with dying right then and there, and then being kickass like in Speed. She has the acting chops though it’s a bit hammy in this one.
Clooney plays an expected ruggedly handsome and smart talking character. He is so confident, clever with the quips, cracking that Clooney smile, talking about his young years at Mardi Gras. Is he an astronaut or just hangs around at the Why Not lounge? There are some chuckle-inducing lines about Clooney knowing she finds him handsome.
From an accuracy perspective, the movie falls apart. Not from the beautiful CGI accuracy of the shuttle, space station, destruction thereof, earth and stars but from the physics of it. Things in space do not have their own inertia unless given to them. In one key scene, Bullock’s leg is precariously attached to a couple of chords from the space station, she is holding a tether connected to Clooney – and the tether continues to pull at her, in danger of snapping the chords attached to her feet and sending them both plummeting to death in the atmosphere. Why is Clooney’s tether pulling on her? Gravity? No, there is only microgravity in space. Inertia? No, neither is spinning or otherwise being acted upon by another force. It’s a plot device and falls flat if you have any sense about physics in space.
Same goes with the idea that a) no communication at all is available with Houston Control. Zero? No backup anything? and b) all the other space stations and crafts have successfully been evacuated. They are alone in space.
In the Chinese space shape she pushes buttons using “eeny meeny miney?” Is this standard astronaut training? What if she hit the “eject fuel”, “self destruct”, or “release toilet contents into the cabin” button? No, she eventually hits the right button without doing damage.
And the final scene is one again of “scratch your head”. I get the metaphor. She, on Earth finally, is going to stand up and walk away from her horrible past. She struggles once or twice and then stands erect and walks off as the movie’s music crescendos. Again, I get it.
So as a movie, the Monkey feels it’s uneven. It delivers beautiful CGI and some pretty good acting. It does cause some stress in a number of the scenes as the characters are in terrible danger. The relationship between Clooney and Bullock is okay, though seems to be way too cozy too quickly.
In summary, out of Five Bananas, the Monkey gives it 3, saying, check it out for the CGI and destruction of at least three space stations/ships – but as a well written movie, meh…