Thursday, February 6, 2014

Only now does it occur to me... GRAVITY

Only now does it occur to me...  that the glory of 3-D has brought us a giant ape flinging boulders right at me and Jason Voorhees squeezing a man's head until the eyeball shoots out.  It's shown us Freddy Krueger, Michael Ironside, and even Charles Bronson in three-dimensions.  I've even seen blue cat people have strongly-implied weirdo hair sex.  But never did I ever expect to be...   


Let me make this brief and relatively spoiler-free:  while GRAVITY indeed boasts some incredible visuals, its manipulative attempts at emotional depth are in general clumsy, unearned, and give off the overwhelming impression that they've been scraped together from the afterglow of superior movies (DON'T LOOK NOW?  APOLLO 13?).  Sadly, this cannot be remedied by an Ed Harris vocal cameo (he gets about 10 minutes of screentime, tops) or any number of George HaClooncinations, even when he does his best Doug Ross impersonation.

[It's also worth mentioning that Sandra Bullock's numerous wardrobe changes– from spacesuit into hot pants/tank top and back again– flavor the film with a "peekaboo– gym bod!" salaciousness that distracts from the narrative drive and nearly suggests a sexploitation movie, which gave rise to the idea that I'd much rather have seen a GRAVITY that was made in the 1970s, starring Pam Grier and Sid Haig!]

Perhaps I made a mistake in watching it nearly back-to-back with one of my all-time favorite 'survival journey' movies, THE WAGES OF FEAR, a film that that firmly balances character development and white knuckle thrills with virtuosic integrity; conversely, GRAVITY's mushier than a melty banana split (and I don't mean one made with astronaut ice cream!). 

Hell, I don't mean to shit on this thing; it seems that many have derived genuine emotional responses from it, including some teary-eyed patrons at my local theater.  Perhaps ours is a fragmented era of ramshackle profundities, where the existential hum can be quieted with a pat on the shoulder and a few empty platitudes.  Perhaps the legacy of cosmic wonder and moral wisdom forged by writers like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke has merely become... CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE ASTRONAUT SOUL.  Now that makes me sad.  I s'pose you succeeded after all, GRAVITY!

In closing, for its unsubtle attempts at emotional button-pushing and a visual vocabulary that consists of objects hovering slowly across the frame, I think perhaps a better title may have been:


Brian Collins said...

I think I liked it more than you, but yeah, it left me with the same feeling as last years critically acclaimed, deeply profound story of survival, best use of 3D ever movie Life of Pi: Well, it sure looked pretty.

Out of curiosity, what are you're thoughts on the Liam-Neeson-versus-wolves film The Grey? Very underrated, in my opinion. Covers similar thematic territory as Pi and Gravity, but in a way that's much less sappy and with a less uplifting, more ambiguous ending, which is probably why it's not as popular as those two.

J.D. Lafrance said...

Yeah, I also probably enjoyed GRAVITY more than you did, Sean. Is it a perfect film? Definitely not, but it certainly has its moments and in technical terms it is quite the marvel to behold. It is gorgeous 3D eye candy. 2001 it is not.

Sean Gill said...


I actually haven't seen THE GREY yet; it's been in the ole' Netflix queue for some time now, and from everything I've heard + a few friends' recommendations it certainly seems as if it'd be up my alley. I'll have to spring for it soon.

Oh, absolutely it's technically impressive. I guess it just gets me that in a world where we have so much thoughtful and brilliantly done sci-fi (from literature to film, from classic to contemporary) something like this captures the popular attention and "legitimizes" sci-fi/space-set movies, as if there's somehow been a dearth of good ones since 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
So I suppose I'm almost feeding off of the wider reactions and the rush to place this in the "canon" as much as I am the film itself, which, flawed (Armond Whitish?) critical approach though it may be, is the way I feel.