On Gravity

Jan. 23rd, 2014 01:14 pm
bellinghman: (Default)
[personal profile] bellinghman
So on Tuesday we finally caught up and went to see the film Gravity. Only about 10 weeks late, but what the heck. The screen was reasonably full, and [livejournal.com profile] dorispossum/Kate and [livejournal.com profile] bdikkat/Malcolm came in and sat behind us. (At the time they came in, [livejournal.com profile] bellinghwoman was out of the room and I was buried in an article on my phone, so I didn't note their arrival. Oops, and sorry!)

The film itself was pretty damned good. We were in the 3D screening, and it's fair to say that if you want to see how well 3D can work, this is the best I've seen: it's stunning. Sound is done well too - the film makers have really thought about the fact that sound doesn't carry through a vacuum, so there are parts where it is totally silent.

(This made the slightly late arrival of one viewer particularly noticeable.)

The music was a bit overloud, but that could be fixed by turning down the volume.

But what about the content?

Well, this is going on my Hugo nomination list (as and when that opens). It's the best space-based film I've seen yet. It's very much a single person film, and Sandra Bullock shows just how flexible she is as an actor. We already know how well she does kooky comedy, and she's also done action, but this is different: it's serious, her character is the only survivor from a five-man shuttle mission, and her chances of survival are remote. At about halfway through the film, she's given up and is literally sitting back waiting for death. And then from somewhere comes a determination to fight all the way, to not give up after all, no matter how pointless it all seems. And the anger when the universe seems to be conspiring against all her efforts seems real.

Bullock truly deserves her Academy Award nomination for this.

There are some phony physics moments in it, mostly to do with Hollywood timing.
  • The initial disaster — a Kessler syndrome situation — would not develop that fast.

  • The 90 minute collision period is dodgy, assuming that it would happen once per orbit whereas a debris ring would be crossed twice per orbit. (But I only realised this later, and there may be some orbit which did permit a 90 minute period)

  • The closeness of the Hubble, the ISS and the Chinese station is unlikely. (We're in a slightly alternate universe anyway, what with a Shuttle not from the original fleet)

  • When George Clooney's character dies heroically, that whole bit requires some force dragging him and her from the ISS when there is no such force.

  • Fire in zero-G actually has extreme difficulty keeping going at all.
But while I spent those scenes mentally going "it wouldn't work that way", the rest was done so well that I was happy to forgive these issues.

So, I'll give it 90% right, and concede that I'm not sure how I'd fix the issues I've mentioned without breaking the story. The inside/outside helmet view switches make for a beautiful dramatic device, something that wouldn't work in other films but that does here. This is a film that I'll be wanting to see again.

It totally fails the Bechdel test, but then we've only got two actors in it whose faces we see. Like Pacific Rim, it's an example of how while that test is a good rule of thumb, it's not infallible.

And then, because the film was only about 90 minutes long, and 3D showings have fewer ads, we wandered downstairs to Frankie and Benny and had (in my case) coffee and drinks with K&M and chatted for a while.

Date: 2014-01-23 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pir.livejournal.com
The first 3D film I've watched with 3D glasses on that hasn't made me motion sick and given me eyestrain... and I actually liked the 3D bits, they added something positive to the film rather than just being a gimmick.

Methinks I'll be buying a copy, probably on bluray, and might even pick up the 3D version and find the 3D glasses for my TV that I've never used.

Date: 2014-01-23 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bellinghman.livejournal.com
I don't get the eye strain or motion sickness, but with many I can feel a slight feeling of unnaturalness. None with this.

I do so hope other 3D film makers can pick up from this.

(I'm not about to rush out and buy a 3D TV though. Not for the one film, but if other films were commonly this effective I might change.)

Date: 2014-01-23 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pir.livejournal.com
I react badly enough to 3D that I have a couple of pairs of these: http://www.2d-glasses.com/
Sometimes I'll switch between them to get a break or see if I can cope with the 3D in a given film. Never had zero side effects other than this.

My TV was bought recently enough (to replace the one I bought in 2005 that didn't do 1080p) that there wasn't much choice in getting 3D. I have it turned off, though.

Date: 2014-01-24 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bellinghman.livejournal.com
I'd not realised that the incremental cost of 3D had dropped so far that it wasn't a disincentive if you didn't actually want it.

And the 2D glasses was an obvious idea, but I'm glad someone is actually doing it.

Date: 2014-01-23 02:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jemck.livejournal.com
Have you seen the companion short film? It's... well, just watch it.


Date: 2014-01-23 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bellinghman.livejournal.com
I've heard of it, but not yet seen it. I intend to (especially now we have an upgraded Interwebbything).

Date: 2014-01-24 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bellinghman.livejournal.com
And now I have.

Yes. OK, short-form nomination for that.

Date: 2014-01-25 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dorispossum.livejournal.com
Yes - Gravity was a great watch on all sorts of levels: the 3D worked, passed the 'edge of your seat' test and Sandra Bullock was surprisingly believable in role. And great homage moments - Alien (obviously) but also liked the Barbarella sequence (extra playful, given that's not a film most of the audience would have ever seen). Agree on the techy reservations - as you say, George Clooney's heroic end was for no reason at all: trying to apply the physics of a mountaineering movie to space is just plain silly. But was well worth the trip.

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