Don't Look Down
October 2, 2013 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Why Gravity Director Alfonso Cuarón Will Never Make a Space Movie Again
posted by Artw (164 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am EXTREMELY excited about this movie; it seems like a rare INTELLIGENT movie about space exploration.
posted by Renoroc at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2013


Does TFA contain spoilers?
posted by jcreigh at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2013


Don't think so.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:10 PM on October 2, 2013


Does TFA contain spoilers?

The third last question, about intimacy, appears to describe some of Sandra Bullock's character and her character's emotional journey including a thing that she does (no idea where in the movie this is), with a pull quote from it appearing after the question about space movies he's enjoyed. The technical stuff is before that.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:11 PM on October 2, 2013


I am legitimately excited to see this film, same way as I was excited about Pacific Rim. I really strongly hope that it doesn't get fucked with, and that the breathtaking action we've seen in the trailers will be without environmental sound, because how amazing would that be? Plus, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are great.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:11 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this on Monday at a private screening. I can't describe how amazing it was.
I urge you to see it in the most impressive IMAX 3D theater you can find. That opening 15-minute sequence, Jesus... I've never experienced something like it in a movie.
posted by naju at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh shit it's out today I didn't even realise! Also tickets are almost thirty dollars each! Wow! Two big surprises at both ends of the ass-fucking spectrum!
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


That was pretty much the answer I expected. This film is being so hyped that I'm wondering if it can live up to expectations. I'm gonna try to do as naju has recommended and see it in Imax.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:19 PM on October 2, 2013


Damn. For a moment I really thought this guy was wearing a glorious mohawk under a fishbowl helmet.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This movie looks utterly terrifying to me and given my fear of outer space I am going to have such a hard time watching this when I go see it in glorious IMAX 3D. Those shots of Earth spinning below them during the trailer were making me nervous.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 5:21 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


*spoiler alert*

Sandra Bullock's character uses a drill at one point in the movie.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:32 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I must be some kind of really lame dork because nothing about this movie excites me at all where are the lasers
posted by Doleful Creature at 5:33 PM on October 2, 2013


Wow. Currently at 97% critics / 98% audience favorable on Rotten Tomatoes.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:34 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


How ironic it's probably coming out while NASA is still shutdown. Related.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


and that the breathtaking action we've seen in the trailers will be without environmental sound

This is one of those criticisms of movies set in space that everyone loves to make and which is often based simply on a kind of wilfull blindness to familiar filmic conventions (I'm not saying it is in your case, by the way). The sound we hear when looking at an image in a film need not be the sound we would hear if we happened to be standing where the camera is placed. No one worries if they are looking at a long distance, telephoto shot of a car chase and we hear the motor racing as if we were right beside it. No one worries if we see a shot of a house from outside and see a couple through a window talking but hear every word they are saying as if we were in the room with them. But somehow everyone's brains explode if we see a shot of a spaceship moving through the void and the directer chooses to couple that with the sound we would hear if we were inside the spaceship. It's one of those maddening things where everyone chooses to become super literal minded just to give themselves the joy of the nitpick.
posted by yoink at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


In space, no one can hear you gripe.
posted by Songdog at 6:10 PM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


An example of a film convention that nobody complains about because it's obviously a narrative device is being able to hear Captain Kirk dictate his log while the scene shows the outside of the ship. An example of an irrational accommodation that people do complain about is hearing the ship go whoosh as it goes by ... which you wouldn't hear inside or outside the ship because there's nothing to make the sound.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:15 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, Firefly got this right. You see them set off explosives and hit things with hammers in space, no sound. But you also hear them talk, because they have radios, and it's understood that we're privy to that communication.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


naju: so normally I don't care for 3D, especially if the movie wasn't originally shot for 3D. IMAX is a given here, but should I do 3D or not?
posted by nushustu at 6:24 PM on October 2, 2013


This is one of those criticisms of movies set in space that everyone loves to make and which is often based simply on a kind of wilfull blindness to familiar filmic conventions (I'm not saying it is in your case, by the way).

Yeah, I know all of that stuff, but I just think it would be amazing to watch something on-screen that is happening in space as though we were really an audience for that actual thing happening, rather than the audience for the film that depicts that thing happening.

One of the biggest thrills I got from the trailers was seeing all the silent destruction. Firefly and Serenity did this as well and I really enjoyed those rare and brief sequences (and even forgave the big space battle at the end because it was in near-planet atmosphere). Even the muted sound of Battlestar Galactica added an extra dimension to my enjoyment of the space battles in that series, because it was just so different and immersive.

For some films it of course works very well. The original Star Wars wouldn't have been what it was if it wasn't basically battleships in space, firing broadside salvos at one another, with the little ships maneuvering like WWII fighters. None of that stuff would happen in a space battle (we're reliably informed) but it really added to the thrill and spectacle. I think that Gravity, being the film it is, will be best served in the thrill and spectacle department by being soundless.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too many comments from me I suppose, but Whedon really does get that the silence of vacuum is plenty dramatic in itself, more so than a fakey, annoying-to-us-joyful-pedants noise would be.

Iron Man nukes the Chitauri forward base. Captain Mal shoots up the Reiver ship. Jayne fires his rifle (suitably wrapped in a space suit so the cartridges aren't fucked up by the vacuum before he can use them). All of these happen in silence and they're more dramatic for it, not less.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you RTFA Alfonso makes it clear that the sound in the trailer is not in the film... that you only hear sounds that make sense, like Bullock's character using a drill because you'd hear it in her helmet. In fact, he says that he thought about making the film completely silent, but that people expect music so in order to make it more widely enjoyable he included music.

The only sound you hear in space in the film is if, say, one of the characters is using a drill. Sandra’s character would hear the drill through the vibrations through her hand.

I thought about keeping everything in absolute silence. And then I realized I was just going to annoy the audience. I knew we needed music to convey a certain energy, and while I’m sure there would be five people that would love nothingness, I want the film to be enjoyed by the entire audience.
posted by Huck500 at 6:34 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And OMFG, finally another Alfonso Cuaron movie!!!
posted by Huck500 at 6:35 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


An example of a film convention that nobody complains about because it's obviously a narrative device is being able to hear Captain Kirk dictate his log while the scene shows the outside of the ship.

The bets is when he's dictating a log while he's stranded somewhere sans equipment or while he's in the middle of doing something where he clearly wouldn't be dictating jack.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:41 PM on October 2, 2013


naju: so normally I don't care for 3D, especially if the movie wasn't originally shot for 3D. IMAX is a given here, but should I do 3D or not?

I can usually take or leave 3D, it mostly doesn't add a great deal to the experience. It tends to be a poorly implemented after-thought. Cuaron agrees. This movie is different, though. It's the best use of 3D technology I've yet seen. It's pretty important to the feel of the movie, too: you're drifting in open space with these characters, devoid of most of the easy contexts we use to situate ourselves. This provides an important spatial dimension, and in a stunning way. So I'd recommend 3D for the experience, unless it actually gives you a headache or something.

(I'd be more concerned about getting physically sick, honestly. I'm expecting news stories about this.)
posted by naju at 6:42 PM on October 2, 2013


And OMFG, finally another Alfonso Cuaron movie!!!

So I've been reading the Harry Potter books with the kiddo and then watching the films when we are done. We've almost finished Prisoner of Azkaban so possibly I get to watch two Alfonso Cuarón films that are new to me this weekend.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If my reaction to the trailer is any indication — viz. "Nooope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope." — I'll never see this movie. I now change the channel or block my eyes with my hand. Not even kidding. I say this as someone traumatized for life by Mission to Mars. I ain't watching astronauts fly off into space.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:55 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm so glad the director decided not to stick with the working title, "SPACEBULLOCK"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


'Children of Men' had interesting sound design. Rather low-key until the final act, then, woah.
posted by ovvl at 7:22 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


An example of an irrational accommodation that people do complain about is hearing the ship go whoosh as it goes by

Yeah, sure, but you also get complaints if you see a shot of a ship and hear "thrum thrum thrum" --which makes perfectly good sense if we just go by the same conventions we apply if it's a long distance shot of an ocean liner. Or, again, you get complaints if "spaceship hits object" produces a noise--but as long as it's the noise you'd hear inside the ship (echoey etc), there's nothing wrong with it.
posted by yoink at 7:36 PM on October 2, 2013


I am excited to see Gravity.
I am probably even a little more excited to someday see SPACEBULLOCK.

MAKE IT HAPPEN, SANDRA
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:39 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If my reaction to the trailer is any indication — viz. "Nooope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope." — I'll never see this movie.

Some of my friends had the exact same reaction, while I'm plotting to see if I can go on Thursday night, before it opens on Friday. I saw the trailer in IMAX, at a viewing of Pacific Rim, and was completely floored and hooked.

Take my money, please!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kind of want to see it but the existential terror of "So you're floating alone in space and will inevitably die and there's nothing you can do about it" is the scariest kind of horror movie to me and I'm a connoisseur of the horror genre.

Yes, I've just described the human condition. EXACTLY.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:47 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Children of Men is my favorite movie, and yeah, the sound design in it is amazing. I was impressed with it right away after that explosion in the first scenes of the movie. It also had amazing camera work (that tracking shot!), so I have high hopes for Gravity. Though hey, I did not realize Cuaron directed A Little Princess too! I don't recall much about the craft of that movie, but man, Sara screaming for her Papa in the rain will always make me cry.

I am getting concerned about whether Gravity will make me physically sick though. Cloverfield was about ten minutes away from making me barf with its camerawork, and a lot of 3D movies really tire out my eyes. The 3D trailer I saw for it before Pacific Rim was fine, so hopefully I won't end up needing to run for a trashcan or have a lie down afterwards? Whatever, I'm leaning towards WORTH IT for any physical discomfort it may cause.
posted by yasaman at 7:54 PM on October 2, 2013


I saw this at the local film festival last month and was very happily entertained. The Wired article doesn't have any real spoilers but I think you should go in knowing nothing (other than that don't worry, it won't be a Clooney-fest). Don't read anything about the ending, let yourself be surprised.

And yes, I also strongly recommend seeing this in 3D. If money's tight, skip IMAX but still see it in 3D. For example, there's a few shots where the POV zooms into the helmet and goes into the helmet and then back out. Both the sound mix and the 3D depth is used tastefully to enhance that long shot.
posted by tksh at 7:55 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I went to see the Hobbit, the theatre (i guess) accidently played about 5 minutes of a rocket launch. It was awesome hearing and seeing it in Imax 3d (no idea what it was though, just some 3D show-off thing?.) This should be great.
posted by thylacine at 8:04 PM on October 2, 2013


I really want to see this movie. I just wonder how many times I'll have to remind myself to breathe, like I did with some scenes in 2001.
posted by azpenguin at 8:14 PM on October 2, 2013


I am probably even a little more excited to someday see SPACEBULLOCK.


Until then, you can always watch SPACEBOLLOCKS.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:18 PM on October 2, 2013


Songdog: "In space, no one can hear you gripe."

Finally, guilt-free flatulence.
posted by Samizdata at 8:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In real life, I now work on space and space-related endeavors daily. (And at age 48, it's been a long, twisty road to get here to space professional. But that's another story...)

Space is what inspired me earliest of all my interests. It's what hooked me on books, film, art, comic books, video games, the works. Even hip-hop. It has always been space.

That said, there is no way I am going to see this film. When I saw the trailer I felt the blood drain from my face and I became nauseous. It's not that it doesn't look amazing. It's that every NASA-person I know works to do their damndest against such a tragedy.

It's space. It's not safe. It's dangerous. But it's not like fighting zombies or even GTA. What makes space the most awesome of all that is awesome is that it's dangerous and it's real.

Later, when we have lots of people coming and going in space, I can suffer the heartache of loss and even chalk it up to life. But right now? To me, every spaceman and spacewoman is like a diamond in the sky.
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:40 PM on October 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


yoink: "No one worries if they are looking at a long distance, telephoto shot of a car chase and we hear the motor racing as if we were right beside it."

You callin' me a nobody?
posted by Bugbread at 9:08 PM on October 2, 2013


We had to do the whole film as an animation first. We edited that animation, even with sound, just to make sure the timing worked with the sound effects and music.

Holy crap, that would be an amazing feature to put on the Blu-Ray disc.
posted by zardoz at 9:30 PM on October 2, 2013


An example of a film convention that nobody complains about because it's obviously a narrative device is being able to hear Captain Kirk dictate his log while the scene shows the outside of the ship.

The bets is when he's dictating a log while he's stranded somewhere sans equipment or while he's in the middle of doing something where he clearly wouldn't be dictating jack.


The narration is in the present, the action on screen is in the past. There is an implied "captain sitting at his desk writing in his logbook, pausing and looking up thoughtfully as he recalls the action of the previous day..." scene.
posted by gjc at 9:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


No one worries if they are looking at a long distance, telephoto shot of a car chase and we hear the motor racing as if we were right beside it. No one worries if we see a shot of a house from outside and see a couple through a window talking but hear every word they are saying as if we were in the room with them.

That would be me.

I can count the number of films I thought were scary on one hand and have fingers to spare, but I saw the trailer for this and was about to jump out of my seat (I saw it before that haunted house movie that was out a few months ago, which was…fine).
posted by bongo_x at 10:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: "This movie looks utterly terrifying to me and given my fear of outer space I am going to have such a hard time watching this when I go see it in glorious IMAX 3D. Those shots of Earth spinning below them during the trailer were making me nervous."

I love Sandra Bullock, but the trailer made me cry in fear. So I'm vicariously reading about it, but not too much, because then I remember the trailer and start tearing up again.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:23 PM on October 2, 2013


I know I love Alfonso Cuarón films, I know I love movies about space, I know I love the concept, I know I love the sheer technical achievement that this film represents.

But I don't think I can see this in the theatres. I think I'll be too busy curling up in a ball going "NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE."

Like I am right now just thinking about it.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:36 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm with yoink in that maybe my film fan tendencies long ago overcame my sf fan tendencies and I don't object to "sound in space" (although maybe a swoosh isn't the best sound for a spaceship going by). I wouldn't raise the slightest hue and cry over an engine hum sound while we're, uh, looking at the engines. There really isn't, as yoink fully explained, a necessary implication that this is diagetic sound from the position of the fictional/notional camera. I mean, if you're going to object to a sound being heard in space, why not object to the fact that there's no camera there, as well? We fully accept the one, but not the other. Film is simply a visual language for telling a story, and from its earliest days developed conventions that are adhered to today (although more and more often elided, simplified, or reworked). It's a little like the convention of the POV shot as used in Breaking Bad: the camera could never be here in real life, it makes little sense to have a notional human seeing this from here, but instead, we want to draw the viewer's eye here for narrative purposes.
posted by dhartung at 1:39 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes yes yes! Gravity exceeded my expectations, in that I thought there would be long sequences of zero G motioness drifting. Wrong.

Certainly if you're prone to vertigo give it a miss, or wait for the DVD so you can pause it every 5 minutes. But the 3D is not intrusive, and helps the relationship with depth and dimension.

The final sequence is a fine reward for sitting it out.
posted by arzakh at 4:08 AM on October 3, 2013


I *know* it's going to make me motion sick. I'm going to take Dramamine (despite my firm belief that it's just a placebo, thereby negating it, if it is). And I'm going to warn the folks in front of me.

But ever since the first teasers of it, I have been sitting on the edge of my seat every time there's a trailer, or glimpse of it.

I mean, if you're going to object to a sound being heard in space, why not object to the fact that there's no camera there, as well?
I'm using that argument against every pedant that I see discussing that now. Thank you!
posted by DigDoug at 5:06 AM on October 3, 2013


This review sold me on Gravity. Gutted I'll probably have to go and see this on my own because my wife watched the trailer and said it gave her all the Nopes in the world.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:21 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


From now on, I will only see films from directors with Spanish surnames, and those surnames must not be Rodriguez.
posted by Mister_A at 7:21 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote: "If my reaction to the trailer is any indication — viz. "Nooope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope." — I'll never see this movie. "

I had the same reaction, which is why I'm going to watch it. I'll bring a few xanax in case of panic attack, but that's the first real reaction I've had to a movie trailer in forever. How could you not go?
posted by boo_radley at 9:44 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


if you're going to object to a sound being heard in space, why not object to the fact that there's no camera there, as well?

I’m not getting that, that sounds more like "How are we seeing that, there’s no movie theater in space?".

I think the reason is there can never be silence. There is a certain, not small, percentage of the population that is uncomfortable with silence. A percentage of them will respond to any lack of noise in the theater with coughing, giggling, and saying "funny" things loudly, taking everyone else out of the film. So you have to keep things moving so they’ll be quiet, like jiggling keys in front of a baby.
posted by bongo_x at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ARS Technica article Poking holes in the Gravity trailer with NASA’s help
posted by chambers at 11:01 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get the phobia around drifting off into space. You'd die from asphyxiation. You'd essentially drift off into sleep. I mean, obviously it would be scary for psychological reasons (and there are pH-sensing ion channel in the amygdala that may induce some panic), but this is how scientists "sacrifice" most rodents used in research because it's relatively humane. We should all be so lucky to die in such a manner. Well, makes more sense than being afraid of clowns, I guess.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:17 AM on October 3, 2013


Holy shit that trailer is awesome and there is no fucking way I can watch this movie... oh my god.
posted by odinsdream at 11:29 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd die from asphyxiation. You'd essentially drift off into sleep.

I'm pretty sure asphyxiation from rapid oxygen depletion is a good deal less pleasant than that. Basically imagine feeling like you can't breathe even though you are breathing, then you start going pretty insane. I don't know how quickly the oxygen levels deplete once your tank runs out, but I suspect it's very quick; a reasonably designed system would maintain a nominal oxygen partial-pressure as long as there's any oxygen remaining in the tank, and then fail all at once. Given the tiny volume of air in the suit, that percentage would then fall off a cliff within a few breaths, at which point I think it's metabolically equivalent to having your mouth and nose taped over, for all that you seem to be breathing something. Anyway, unconsciousness would come fairly quickly but those couple of minutes would be pretty ghastly.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:46 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone with a response of "there's no way I can watch this" definitely SHOULD see it, in my opinion, even if everything in your body and mind tell you to stay far away. It's so rare when movies make you feel things on such a visceral, primal level. To affect you so profoundly you have a physical reaction. Those are the words I would use for this movie above all: visceral, primal, physical. I'm still reeling and completely in awe of what I've seen.
posted by naju at 12:02 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Onion Reviews 'Gravity'
posted by naju at 12:14 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, this thread made me go and watch the thing. Despite a couple of good shots, it left me cold. In particular the soundtrack is dreadful and overused. The story is not that bad but I wish they'd left out that one tearjerking substory.
posted by Kosmob0t at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2013


The narration is in the present, the action on screen is in the past. There is an implied "captain sitting at his desk writing in his logbook, pausing and looking up thoughtfully as he recalls the action of the previous day..." scene.

I always assumed this, too, but they are always in the present tense with no small amount of suspense.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:34 PM on October 3, 2013


Thoughtcrime: "I don't get the phobia around drifting off into space. You'd die from asphyxiation. You'd essentially drift off into sleep. I mean, obviously it would be scary for psychological reasons (and there are pH-sensing ion channel in the amygdala that may induce some panic), but this is how scientists "sacrifice" most rodents used in research because it's relatively humane. We should all be so lucky to die in such a manner. Well, makes more sense than being afraid of clowns, I guess."

I think, for me at least, it's tied with the fear of being lost at sea. I've lost two family members at sea, and regained one when we thought all hope was lost, so it's a vivid sort of a fear for me. Being lost, tumbling, further and further from hope and love and life, and knowing I'm going to slowly suffocate as my oxygen runs out? Bites close to the bone.

There's a line between 'meaningful' and 'destruction' for me with media, and this dances along that. It'd be powerful for me to see, no doubt, but the aftermath is not something I wish to court.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:37 PM on October 3, 2013


I think the reason is there can never be silence. There is a certain, not small, percentage of the population that is uncomfortable with silence.

You know, I saw Lars von Trier address this in the features for Melancholia. He said that you can take a very still long shot, but the audience will not be comfortable with that utter immobility. So he adds a very small bit of random motion digitally.

I’m not getting that, that sounds more like "How are we seeing that, there’s no movie theater in space?".

In a way that's what I'm getting at. The entire notional underpinning of cinema is sort of a secretly watching eye. It actually took audiences a while to get used to it, and early experimental directors played with this in various ways, such as the famous down-the-barrel-of-a-gun (camera) shot from The Great Train Robbery. In time, we came to accept the idea of this universal eye, but it still gets small modifications -- a camera with a bit of motion behind a screening object, for instance, implies that the characters in frame are being watched by an unseen person. Extend the concept to space movies, and we're all cool with the establishing shot, even though it either makes no sense for something to see the spaceship up close or right in the exhaust of its fusion drive or whatnot. We accept that there is a universal eye as a convention because we are used to, narratively, such things as establishing shots that tell us where the human action is taking place, i.e. inside this house/car/spaceship. Similarly, both diagetic ("in narrative") sound and other sounds such as a score are conventions that we've grown to accept, because they help us, the audience, grok the narrative.
posted by dhartung at 3:51 AM on October 4, 2013


Important Safety Tip: The new trailer — new to me anyway — that showed up during Highly Questionable today is much worse than the older ones.

The first… it seems like hours but is probably only seven seconds the only sound is a woman's panicked breathing. I accidentally caught a glimpse of the screen as I scrambled for the remote and the shot is an astronaut flying into space. It was bad enough that I needed a drink but all there is in the house is crappy gin.

It's what I get for not watching with the remote in my hand I guess. I should know better during horror season. I thought my cover-my-eyes method of dealing with it would be sufficient, and it was until they decided to use that clip in the new trailer. If this movie engages your phobias, avoid the trailer at all costs. You have been warned.

Anyway, long story short, now I'm actively angry at the marketing for this movie. As in, whoever is responsible had best hope they never utter the words, "I did the marketing for Gravity" while standing within my arm's reach.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:17 PM on October 4, 2013


Saw the movie today; it was absolutely beautiful on a big screen. The best space cinematography I've seen without comparison.
posted by Justinian at 11:55 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also think Gravity is one of the strongest arguments you can make for what we lose with the ongoing transition to a home theater environment instead of a massive-screen dolby whatever thx thingie dts something something surround sound system environment. The idea that the experience of watching this movie will be at all comparable in anything but a monster high end dedicated whole-room home theater is laughable. And even then it won't be nearly the same, just not as utterly sad.
posted by Justinian at 12:04 AM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


biscotti and I saw it earlier and... holy crap. Both of our first reactions were "I don't think I've seen that kind of movie before."

We knew it would be visually gorgeous and all that, but I really didn't expect it to be so emotionally affecting. Like, the most affecting movie I've seen in years, at or beyond the level of Grave of the Fireflies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:43 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That took my breath away, heart still pounding an hour later.

The story itself is a bit bumpy, but smoothes out in the end.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:50 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found the action surprisingly emotionally effective. This is an unusual response for me. I'm sometimes moved by emotional depictions. But the action scenes that take center stage in this movie are literally otherworldly, and unexpectedly drew a emotional reaction.

Not much of a criticism. But I would very much love to see the movie without the score. I found it at times a tiny bit distracting. And I'm curious if the movie could be just as or more affecting without.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:56 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found the action surprisingly emotionally effective.

Here's probably why:
We had to do the whole film as an animation first. We edited that animation, even with sound, just to make sure the timing worked with the sound effects and music. And once we were happy with it, we had to do the lighting in the animation as well. Then all that animation translated to actual camera moves and positions for the lighting and actors.

We did a whole exploration of the screenplay, every single moment; we made judgments about everything. Once we began shooting, we were constrained by the limitations of that programming.
The action was synced to the sound and music, which gave and extra emotional punch. I noticed this while viewing and it was incredibly effective, yet almost too intense at times.

Will have to investigate further on a second viewing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:33 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really liked it, but far from emotionally affecting I rolled my eyes a little at the baby bit. Oh, yes, a baby. Of course.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:32 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were some details of Stone's backstory that just came across as hamfisted attempts at tugging at your heartstrings, James Cameron style. Pretty unnecessary. As a lean, spare story without that extraneous stuff, it's already so gripping and overwhelming. They should've trusted in the power of what they'd created. But this criticism feels petty when everything else in the movie is so fucking good.
posted by naju at 9:31 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree. I rolled my eyes at that stuff too, especially since it felt so unearned and right out of a 60s/70s disaster movie with a CAST! OF! THOUSANDS!.

But biscotti and I still walked out of the theater weak-kneed and weebly, and that feeling stuck for a while. There's something about it that just worked as an experience, in a way that I'm not sure a movie has ever worked for me before, and I'm not sure what it was.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2013


My wife and I had the exact same conversation about how neither of us felt like we'd ever really seen a movie like that before. I can't remember the last time I came out of a movie loving it that much. There are a handful of little things I could question / nitpick, but why? Nobody's ever going to make a 100% perfect movie, I'd rather just wallow in finding one that came damn close.

I did get a perverse kick out of pointing out to my wife - who was justifiably happy that the hero of the movie is a capable woman who figures things out on her own without being saved by a man - that Gravity technically fails the Bechdel Test. Which means nothing, of course, but it was fun getting the eyeroll from her.
posted by COBRA! at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2013


Another small but concrete thing that makes me happy:

THERE WILL BE NO SEQUEL. THIS IS NOT A FRANCHISE.
posted by COBRA! at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2013


Gravity 2: The Gravitting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2013


weak-kneed and weebly

So you wobbled but you didn't fall down?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:21 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


THERE WILL BE NO SEQUEL. THIS IS NOT A FRANCHISE.

Well, somebody had to get rid of that storm of debris and avenge Mark's death.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:48 PM on October 6, 2013


Who better than Stephanie Ripley, grandmother of Ellen Ripley?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:50 PM on October 6, 2013


Didn't Clarke write some ridiculous thing where Frank Poole was brought back to life by aliens in one of the going-back-to-the-well-too-many-times 2001 sequels? They could always go that route if they wanted to hose things down with cheese.
posted by COBRA! at 3:38 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gravity has earned $55.6 million in its opening weekend.

Didn't think of it until I read the comments in the article, but the movies stars an over 40 female lead who isn't involved in a romance in the movie. Strange day for Hollywood.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:40 PM on October 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


the movies stars an over 40 female lead who isn't involved in a romance in the movie

One of the reviews I read (can't remember which) classified the movie as a "failed romance." Failed or not, I don't think anything could be further from the truth.
posted by naju at 5:34 PM on October 6, 2013


Just saw it. That was pretty amazing.
posted by Artw at 10:07 PM on October 6, 2013


I bet Tom Cruise is pretty pissed off he didn't get that gig.
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on October 6, 2013


Super Science Guy Neil deGrasse Tyson "enjoyed #Gravity very much" but did tweet a few quibbles that he called "Mysteries of #Gravity".
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:35 PM on October 6, 2013


Tyson calls Stone a medical doctor. She's a biomedical engineer. Why a biomedical engineer is repairing the Hubble is just as a good a question as why a medical doctor is repairing the Hubble, though.

Of course the last person I am aware of to actually work on Hubble was in fact an oceanographer. So maybe it's realistic after all.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Super Science Guy Neil deGrasse Tyson "enjoyed #Gravity very much" but did tweet a few quibbles that he called "Mysteries of #Gravity".

That was nerd pedantry at its worst. Why people want to pick apart a film they enjoyed is beyond me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:50 AM on October 7, 2013


Tyson's objections are (some, not all) well and good, but the thing I found oddest was that Tiangong was re-entering on its own for no particular reason, as though it was only the goodwill of human thoughts or something that kept it aloft.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:21 AM on October 7, 2013


So, I'm not going to pick it apart too much -- it's a movie so some things have to make sense or be possible because otherwise there's no movie.

But I will admit that the one thing I sincerely wished that Cuaron had done that (AFAIK) he didn't was film at least a few scenes in actual microgravity in a vomit comet. Not much... just a few shots of Bullock without her headgear on, hair floating around in that way that it does, maybe a couple of necessarily very brief shots of her twisting in space.

the thing I found oddest was that Tiangong was re-entering on its own for no particular reason, as though it was only the goodwill of human thoughts or something that kept it aloft

Blah blah impacts blah, and there's nobody on board to do stationkeeping burns, and no functioning comms to do it remotely.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:39 AM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, re: impacts, it doesn't really seem like either station got hit before she got there, as everything tends to fly apart like a pinata when the debris cloud comes along, and nothing seems decompressed, etc (see also: why was that panel sparking, and why was the emergency chute deployed). I guess the disaster could have happened right when a station-keeping burn needed to be done for the CSS, but I would guess the orbit would take more than three hours to decay to the burn up point. I could be wrong.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2013


I'm enjoying a sense of mild menace pierced by moments of absolute terror by listening to the soundtrack as I work.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on October 7, 2013


... but the thing I found oddest was that Tiangong was re-entering on its own for no particular reason, as though it was only the goodwill of human thoughts or something that kept it aloft.

The oddest is Bullock and Clooney's characters surviving. Anything debris cloud that would wreck a shuttle would have shredded their suits. No biggie, it was one of the most enjoyable movies that I don't want to see again, but once you accept that, everything is easier to swallow.

The Soyuz being out of fuel was a nice touch. I do wish the last shot would have lingered a bit more, as it looked like she was on a strange new world instead of Lake Powell in Arizona. The one eye roll was Mark's sudden appearance. That felt cheap.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:50 PM on October 7, 2013


Is there a full spoiler review online somewhere? I've struck out finding one. Given the hints dropped in this thread, I might could be convinced to see this movie if it ends the way I've surmised. Still mad about the commercials though.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on October 7, 2013


The oddest is Bullock and Clooney's characters surviving.

Well, ok, yes, that is true. You and I might watch a 5 minute short called Sandra Gets Shredded, but for most people that wouldn't make much of a movie, I guess. I went into it knowing hardly anything, so everything that happened was a surprise to me, but man, the Cuarons took the commandment that you can use coincidence to get your character into trouble really seriously.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:59 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote, here you go. I haven't read it yet, mind.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:01 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If she looked for the vodka, would it be there?
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on October 7, 2013


You and I might watch a 5 minute short called Sandra Gets Shredded

Nope, but I would watch 30 minutes of Clooney Gets Schredded. I kept expecting him to pull off some con where he was going to steal the Shuttle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:12 PM on October 7, 2013


The first few minutes, until she reestablishes radio contact, were some of the tensest cinema I have ever seen. My heart hasn't pounded like that since the end of Blair Witch Project.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh wow. There's a short film showing the other side of the AM radio conversation.
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd rather see Ed Harris's side of things in the beginning.

The soundtrack was superb (except for the little jump scare bit on the shuttle, too obvious).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2013


Ed Harris probably has his own mission control.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


the Cuarons took the commandment that you can use coincidence to get your character into trouble really seriously.

I have no idea if this is true, but my friend was saying that the debris that keeps showing up and causing exponential trouble is explained by the Casimir effect.
posted by naju at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2013


my friend was saying that the debris that keeps showing up and causing exponential trouble is explained by the Casimir effect

I had this whole thing typed out where I said that sounded like the episode of Car Talk where a caller's friend ridiculously invoked Bernoulli's principle to explain why he gunned the engine to free her stuck door, but I think you either misheard or your friend misreferenced Kessler syndrome.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kessler syndrome.

That's pretty much explicitly stated, isn't it?
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on October 7, 2013


Yes, mission control describes it as the reason they need to GTFO (sans name), but not everyone knows it's a real thing that people worry about.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:13 PM on October 7, 2013


so in order to make it more widely enjoyable he included music

Yeah, there were a lot of "let's make this more palatable to the mainstream" decisions like that. For me, they kept the movie from being an Awesome SciFi Film and dropped it down to an Damn Good Mainstream SciFi Film - a pretty significant drop.

But it's still the best mainstream scifi flick since Moon; it's gorgeous, absolutely worth seeing on a big screen, and has just enough emotional punch, especially toward the end, even if I agree with the folks above who think Bullock's backstory is presented in a hamfisted and corny way. There are moments in the last third of the film where you can clearly see the amazing and deeply intelligent science fiction film Gravity wants to be, but in aiming so squarely for a popular audience, it only partially gets there. I'm not quite at the level of snark in this Slate review, Gravity Is Going to Be a Camp Classic (I thoroughly enjoyed the fetus moment when Bullock gets her first oxygen after the smashup and the evolution callback at the end), but damn were there some stupid plot moments and some 1950s-era melodrama all over this thing. It's the best we can probably hope to get out of Hollywood as far as scifi goes, for sure, and almost certainly the most thrilling and entertaining mainstream action flick so far this year, but that's about all.

Oh, and folks who are scared of seeing it because LOST AND SPINNING IN SPACE: don't let that stop you. It's not a dominant element (we're nowhere near Tom-Hanks-talking-to-volleyball levels of isolation) and there's plenty of awe and wow to make up for any discomfort during the fantastic opening segment.
posted by mediareport at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


THERE WILL BE NO SEQUEL.

I'd kinda love to see a sequel about humanity struggling to get back into outer space a generation or two after a Kessler Syndrome event that smothered the earth in satellite debris blocking low-earth orbits.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that's a Ken Macleod novel.
posted by Artw at 6:39 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, there were a lot of "let's make this more palatable to the mainstream" decisions like that. For me, they kept the movie from being an Awesome SciFi Film and dropped it down to an Damn Good Mainstream SciFi Film - a pretty significant drop.

Eh. Gravity and Europa Report can both exist without taking anything away from each other, and it's a generous world that gives us both of them in the same year.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2013


Ooh, I just saw Europa Report coming in to my local DVD rental place this afternoon. Is it any good?
posted by mediareport at 7:12 PM on October 7, 2013


I actually thought Mark's sudden appearance was very clever once the 'trick' was revealed -- it shows full on that there's a part of her that wants to survive and will come up with whatever it takes. It was a fierce, overwhelming, primal instinct for survival. Though I too went WTF? at first when his bloody face showed up.

mediareport: Europa Report is pretty good if you like quiet suspense done in a fake documentary way. Don't go in with too much expectations though, it's an one trick pony.
posted by tksh at 8:56 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I too need to watch it.

What not to watch: Apollo 18
posted by Artw at 9:01 PM on October 7, 2013


Ooh, I just saw Europa Report coming in to my local DVD rental place this afternoon. Is it any good?

It's pretty much what you said you want, and more generally what people who want that sort of movie generally want: a very smart SF movie that doesn't pander to lowest-common-denominator mass appeal, that stays true to itself. Where everyone is more or less smart and motivated by the science and the joy of discovery instead of silly soap opera crap. Where the story is motivated by the science instead of by Random! Meteor! Storms! or Disney Martian ancestors or silly soap opera crap between the characters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:13 PM on October 7, 2013


Sold. I'll rent it this week.

I actually thought Mark's sudden appearance was very clever once the 'trick' was revealed

Me, too. I was a bit put off by this bit in Vanity Fair's attempt at a debate over the film's "gendered subtext," Is Gravity a Chick Flick in a Space Suit?:

Bruce Handy: So here’s my thesis: Gravity is a chick flick in action-movie clothing...I say this because the movie’s third-act turning point has Clooney riding to Bullock’s rescue in classic some-day-my-prince-will-come fashion, even if it turns out he’s only present in her imagination. She’s some kind of space scientist, but she still needs a prince, alive or dead, to save her—especially because he’s the one who knows about rockets and other boy stuff.

That seems completely unfair; it's clear that Bullock saved herself, using knowledge that was hers alone. The Clooney appearance was a nice dramatic device; I was convinced it was part of the plot (I mean, the rest was already kind of unbelievable, so I'd been expecting Clooney to orbit the earth and meet Bullock again anyway) and was surprised/delighted to find the movie *not* actually going there. Bullock simply used her impression of a veteran astronaut's confidence to wake up her own innate confidence. Would it have been cooler if the veteran had been another woman? Sure, just like it would have been cooler if one of the astronauts had been black. But, sigh, it's fundamentally a movie aimed right at the throat of the mainstream, which explains (but doesn't really excuse) the "plodding, Lifetime-y dialogue" the other Vanity Fair debater makes fun of. We get our pleasures where we can.
posted by mediareport at 9:38 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, there were a lot of "let's make this more palatable to the mainstream" decisions like that.

The use of music hardly separates "mainstream" film making from nonmainstream film making.

The thing that kept breaking me out of willing suspension of disbelief was the patently absurd physics of so many of the various objects in the film. If you're going to have a film called "Gravity" you'd think you'd at least want to get basic, Newtonian physical interactions right. The worst is the moment where Clooney's character has to release himself from the tether to Ryan. What imaginary force are we to suppose is keeping that line taut? Why have they not both bounced (pretty rapidly) back towards the ISS when the lines first reached their full extent?
posted by yoink at 7:28 AM on October 8, 2013


*SPOILERS-ISH*





Oh man did I enjoy the hell out of Gravity. The sequel should just be the rest of Ryan's day, where she gets mugged before the rescue van comes to get her, then the rescue van picks her up and the van runs out of gas. Then the van driver has a heart attack so Ryan has to walk to get the gas. Then as she's walking towards the gas station she sees a huge chunk of flaming space station land on it and it explodes. So she has to walk to the gas station further down the road. Which also gets hit by debris and explodes. But she gets picked up by...George Clooney! He was fine the whole time! But then he mugs her and steals her wallet. As he's running away, another chunk of space station lands on him and he explodes.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:43 AM on October 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I guess I just figured that she hadn't actually arrested Clooney's motion entirely, and it was continuing to pull on her.

Cookiebastard has the movie's number for sure. Still beautiful.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:53 AM on October 8, 2013


The use of music hardly separates "mainstream" film making from nonmainstream film making.

No, of course not. But the decision not to use the silence of space during those scenes, but instead to fill them with lots of substitute sounds, in this case music, is a decision clearly aimed at making the film more palatable to mainstream audiences. I'm not seeing how that's at all controversial.
posted by mediareport at 8:13 AM on October 8, 2013


Well, I thought the music during the opening bits contributed an awful lot to the tension. I don't think it would have been as effective without.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:32 AM on October 8, 2013


I liked the score a lot. Apparently it killed a synthesizer:

Perhaps the most interesting sound in Gravity is one that – like a scream in space – you can’t really hear in the film.  There’s a fizzing noise at the end of the song “ISS,” created when Price funneled a trumpet recording through an old synthesizer that he’d borrowed from a friend. The effect sounded great, but it ended up destroying the music machine. While it’s difficult to discern during the action of the film, the noise is audible on the soundtrack.

“You can hear the synth dying,” Price said. “We killed it. It synthed its last. It made a great noise, but sadly not one I can ever repeat.”

posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on October 8, 2013


The worst is the moment where Clooney's character has to release himself from the tether to Ryan. What imaginary force are we to suppose is keeping that line taut?

That one bothered my a tiny bit in retrospect if only because the obvious "answer" would be to put a little bit of spin on the station to put some tension in the line.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2013


But the decision not to use the silence of space during those scenes, but instead to fill them with lots of substitute sounds, in this case music, is a decision clearly aimed at making the film more palatable to mainstream audiences. I'm not seeing how that's at all controversial.

It's only controversial in that the definition of mainstream that "has music" implies is so broad as to be almost useless in ordinary conversation, and is certainly too broad to carry the lowest-common-denominator connotation you seem to give it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assumed there was spin on the station. It doesn't make sense otherwise.
posted by Justinian at 12:23 PM on October 8, 2013


Pretty much everything in that movie was spinning.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:09 PM on October 8, 2013


From an interview:

There's one scene I was wondering about. When Sandra Bullock's character is holding onto George Clooney's character, his momentum seems stopped, but he's pulling her away? I'm sure I missed something that explains this.
What happens is she's grabbing the tethers and he comes with momentum. His momentum pulls her. They're moving together. There's a wide shot that shows they keep moving and you can see the background keeps on moving. What happens is, if he lets go, his force stops and the force of the tether takes over.

posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2013


(Also some fun stuff about Daniel Radcliffe)
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on October 8, 2013


and is certainly too broad to carry the lowest-common-denominator connotation you seem to give it.

That's a fair point, and I did like some of the music, even as it at times felt a bit obvious as it ratcheted up the tension for us. I do reiterate the point that the film's desire to play broadly resulted in multiple decisions - overexplaining at the beginning, the ham-handed Bullock backstory, et al - that ultimately made it a lesser film than it could have been. I'd love to see a more experimental version that didn't ramp up the FEEL TENSION NOW score every time the satellite pieces rolled around, for instance.

But like I said, it's a really fun and interesting mainstream film that's well worth seeing on the big screen. Best action film I've seen this year.
posted by mediareport at 3:00 PM on October 8, 2013


What happens is she's grabbing the tethers and he comes with momentum. His momentum pulls her.

I was right!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2013


Yeah, there were some silly moments (probably unintentional) but visually it was beautiful and very much worth the extra cost for IMAX 3D, IMO. I was saddened though to see what Sandra has had done to her face. Those sharp cheekbones (what I presume are implants) looked like they would cut you if you got too close and 3D only enhanced the scary effect.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:32 PM on October 8, 2013


What happens is she's grabbing the tethers and he comes with momentum. His momentum pulls her. They're moving together. There's a wide shot that shows they keep moving and you can see the background keeps on moving. What happens is, if he lets go, his force stops and the force of the tether takes over.

But it just doesn't work that way. Her leg is held by cords that are pulled tight--i.e., they are at their full extent. The tether between Bullock and Clooney is also at its full extent. They then have an entire conversation while in this condition, as Clooney continues to exert an inexplicable outward force at the end of the tether that threatens to pull Bullock free from the rope that is holding her to the ISS. There really is no possible justification for this scene in terms of any real-world physics. Clooney's body has been granted an inherent, uncaused acceleration away from the ISS.
posted by yoink at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2013


Yes, that's the Clooney Effect.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on October 9, 2013


It doesn't seem that hard to understand to me. He wasn't at rest relative to the station. She was. The cords weren't attached to her suit or anything, so by grabbing his tether she tied herself more tightly to him, so his continued momentum began pulling her and the cords started slipping. It happened slowly, but it doesn't seem beyond all physics to me.

I was not, however, a physics major.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:53 AM on October 9, 2013


I was not, however, a physics major.

You don't need to have been a physics major, you just need to have lived on Earth and have used a rope. The problem with the way they play the scenario is that they make the conversation between Bullock and Clooney take far too long. They have them sitting there, arguing about whether or not he should cut himself loose with the ropes at their full extent and no slippage occurring (although it is threatened). But once the ropes extend to their full length and once Clooney's motion comes to a complete stop relative to the ISS--which is the case for a considerable amount of time while Clooney is shouting to Bullock to cut him loose and Bullock is refusing etc.--then he should immediately have bounced back towards the ISS. (Ironically, this is exactly what we see later, of course, when Bullock is trying to fly away from the Russian station but is tethered by the parachute cables).

They could have constructed a scene like the one you seem to be imagining where Clooney and Bullock are both in motion, he sees that her foot is only uncertainly held by the cords it is entangled in and decides instantly and while still in motion to unbuckle himself from the tether between them so as not to risk pulling Bullock free of the ropes when they pull taught. But that is not what happens. The rope pulls taut, the tether between Bullock and Clooney pulls taut and then, for no imaginable reason, there is no rebound effect: Clooney continues to exert an outward force that keeps both cables bar-taut while the one around Bullock's leg can slip slowly and inexorably downward, millimeter by millimeter, while they argue about whether or not Clooney should sacrifice himself.
posted by yoink at 9:01 AM on October 9, 2013


Clooney continues to exert an outward force that keeps both cables bar-taut while the one around Bullock's leg can slip slowly and inexorably downward, millimeter by millimeter, while they argue about whether or not Clooney should sacrifice himself.

I haven't seen the movie yet. But, based solely on what you're describing, could the motion be explained by centripetal force? If the rope is being kept taught because Clooney's body is experiencing a constant, but slight, force directed away from the craft (really due to a constant change in velocity due to both objects rotating about one another) then when that rope is removed this force would be able to cause distance to increase between Clooney and the craft.
posted by odinsdream at 9:44 AM on October 9, 2013


The only way to resolve this debate is to fire up a physics simulator, put it in zero g mode and recreate this situation. Get on it, Metafilter.
posted by naju at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2013


We can all agree that there are various instances of wonky physics in the movie, yes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:41 AM on October 9, 2013


Gravity: Disaster Movie As The Human Experience
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


HEY PHYSICS WONKS

I ask not to pick on it, because even if I'm right it would be stupid to do it that way in a movie given all the AS YOU KNOW BOBs it would require. But say you wanted to move to a different space station 100 miles "west" in the same orbit as you. Wouldn't you want to thrust away from the station to speed up and move to a higher, angularly slower orbit and let the target catch up with you, and then slow down to move back down to its orbit?

Or is 100 miles too small for that to matter and you'd just point at it and thrust?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:08 PM on October 9, 2013


If KSP has taught me anything, I would just burn retrograde a bit and let it come to me. I doubt a hundred miles is enough to allow a significant deviation in our orbits, and as it approached I would burn prograde again to match speeds. When we were very close I would thrust directly at it with RCS.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:06 PM on October 9, 2013


Yeah, but she only had the landing rockets, which fired once and for just a few seconds.

If it as KSP, you'd just brute force it and then howl with rage when you forget to open the docking port.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:19 PM on October 9, 2013


Just saw it tonight. Random thoughts:

- holy crap

- I haven't read any production background (going in essentially blind), but there's no way Cuarón was not inspired by those jaw-dropping HD time-lapse orbital videos from a few years back.

- Some of the most upsetting imagery was not the primal fear of slipping away into space forever, but seeing the poor shuttle and Hubble and ISS being torn to shreds. Maybe it's because it resonates with the ongoing dismantlement of the space program, but those scenes inspired more pathos than any other scene of Monumental Destruction I can recall.

- Speaking of upsetting, the use of a satellite cascade was clever. It's one of the more horrifyingly plausible concepts relating to deep space: that a single accident will rapidly multiply into a terrifying exponential clusterfuck that renders satellite use impossible and forever closes off human access to space.

- If you liked this, you'll probably love Boyle's Sunshine.

- Who's Mark? Clooney's character was Matt.

- Speaking of Matt: What probably happened to him.

- holy crap
posted by Rhaomi at 10:54 PM on October 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


(Also: Loved the baby -- a nice callback to one of the most powerful sequences in another Cuarón masterpiece.)
posted by Rhaomi at 10:59 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


SPOILERS - Matt is still up there as the friendly ghost astronaut, helping out whenever space travellers are in trouble.
posted by Artw at 11:01 PM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


How much dV is in fire extinguisher? Probably not a lot.

On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the soft landing engines impart a ton of delta v, either.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:59 AM on October 10, 2013


Hee, was just reminded of the "I HATE SPACE" line. That was great.

Loved that the movie was essentially "You are having a bad day in space and will not be going home," forcing Ryan to continually fight back from edge to survive. The timed debris reminded of the Battlestar Galatica episode "33," where the specific timing of the danger was good ebb and flow for tension and action.

The kid back story doesn't bother me, but her statement that "No one back on Earth would miss me or mourn me" was a huge stretch. Sure, it was Stone feeling sorry for herself, but seemed wildly out of place to me personally.

Matt's death was a bit silly, especially with Stone constantly saying "I'm going to get in the Soyuz and come get you!" Then once inside, she just forgets about that. Not that it would have worked, what with the Soyuz being out of fuel, but still. Go get your fellow astronaut and all that.

Had Stone tried to go get him in the Soyuz and then discovered it was out of fuel, that would have fit better thematically with her momentarily giving up and feeling powerless over the loss of her kid. She couldn't save Matt, couldn't save her daughter, why go on?

From there, she comes across the transmission from the person on the ground and finds the strength to go on from that distant, though human, interaction. That and she really hates space and if she's going to die, just doesn't want to die in space.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2013


I hate space, Jock! I hate it!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:30 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Matt's death was a bit silly, especially with Stone constantly saying "I'm going to get in the Soyuz and come get you!" Then once inside, she just forgets about that. Not that it would have worked, what with the Soyuz being out of fuel, but still. Go get your fellow astronaut and all that.

No, I liked that. She's having an understandable freakout and holding on to Mr. Competent Spacer as a totem, but once she gets inside and calms down a little the astronaut training she's had kicks in, along with something closer to Standard Issue Astronaut Preternatural Calm, and she realizes she he was right and he was beyond saving.

I wonder if it's a reverse-callback to the bit in the pretty but execrable _Mission to Mars_ when Mrs. Tim Robbins gets stereotypically hysterical because Tim is floating off and gonna die and she keeps on hysterical-ing so much that they have to restrain her from pointlessly going after him and he whacks himself to force the issue. Because astronauts trained for a Mars mission would totally do that... if they were girls. *ptui*
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:18 AM on October 10, 2013


Plus she can't even see him anymore and has no way of finding him again.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2013


The Shuttle, Hubble and Tiapong station are all within 100 miles of each other in the same orbital plane. Matt could be wearing a Personal Astronaut Locator Homing Beacon and that would still be more believable than the placement of those three things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:03 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of a Personal Astronaut Locator. Don't go to space without your PAL!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:05 AM on October 10, 2013


How to Clean Up Deadly Space Junk Before Disaster Strikes
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


An Astronaut Fact-checks Gravity
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:54 PM on October 10, 2013


The astronaut that did the fact checking in the above link, Scott E. Parazynski, is a physician and went on seven spacewalks. So Bullock's character being a doctor, yet doing a space walk, isn't out of place.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoops, Bullock's character was a bio medical engineer, not a physician.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2013


If anyone is still reading this thread you might also enjoy this; I've been waiting for this movie ever since I read this story like forty years ago (sorry about the shitty site, but it's the only place on the web it exists).
posted by Camofrog at 1:31 PM on October 10, 2013


If anyone is still reading this thread you might also enjoy this

That reminded me of this.
posted by odinsdream at 1:39 PM on October 10, 2013


TBH I think it's a mark of the success of the thing that the "fact checking" is on the level it is - with most other movies set in space there'd simply be no place to begin.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


IIRC, Ryan was there to install/calibrate an experimental system onto Hubble that was based on medical imaging tech she'd worked on.


Also, I love the subtle optimism of the STS-157 mission designation (the last shuttle flight was STS-135).

That and the WALL-E reference!
posted by Rhaomi at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2013


I love the subtle optimism of the STS-157 mission designation

Pfft. How about STS-200?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:57 PM on October 10, 2013


Finally got a chance to see it last night and wow. Whatever the failings of the script (which are pretty minor for a blockbuster), I really felt like I was seeing a new kind of filmmaking. The "camera" work is just astounding and breathtaking.
posted by octothorpe at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2013


Gravity only dropped about 20% in its second weekend box office. That's an absolutely stunning result, particularly for an October release! October is usually box office death for everything but horror films.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where are the horror films? Did the peak in summer this year?
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on October 13, 2013


The horror films start coming next week, closer to Halloween. Carrie, for instance, starring Chloe Moretz.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2013


What makes something a horror movie as opposed to a thriller, action, suspense, or some of the other things I've heard Gravity called? Gravity meets a lot of what I think of as generic requirements of 'horror,' no?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:09 PM on October 24, 2013


« Older The thing about being an unstoppable force is that...  |  Chandra Sky Map... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments