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Gravity
October 12, 2013 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki's 22 year collaboration continues to break new ground with the release of Gravity. Whether you enjoy Gravity or not, you may want to take a moment and consider the lengths to which Cuarón and Lubezki went to make Gravity a fully immersed cinematic experience.

Here is a 30 minutes interview with Cuarón discussing the concept, writing and execution of Gravity.

Since it is almost all CGI at one point early on Cuarón gave Emmanuel Lubezki the opportunity to back out of the job, "Chivo, (Emmanuel Lubezki's nickname) I’ll understand if you don’t want to do this. It’ll probably be horribly boring for you to deal with all the green screen. But I really don’t want anybody else but you to light it, and I think this could be something unique."

Emmanuel Lubezki is considered one of the greatest living cinematographers. His attention to the emotional content of the scene, his own operating on projects like Y Tu Mamá También are widely revered in cinematic circles. His technical prowess on projects like Cuarón's "Children of Men" have quickly entered the lexicon of professional cameramen.

One of the Greatest Cinematographers Ever: Gravity‘s Emmanuel Lubezki


Gravity is Cuarón/Lubezki's first digital film, since they were conceiving the film in 3D, The "grain" layer in film poses particular difficulties in the 3D as it actually "lives" on a certain depth of the film emulsion. The digital workflow used in Gravity is state of the art. here is a good piece from the International Cinematographers local on digital workflow of Gravity which includes the best photos of the LED lighting box called "The Box" that I could find thus far. But it is not 100% film as the final sequence was shot on 65mm.

The Light Box stood over 20-feet tall and 10-feet across, with a sliding door on one side that allowed access to the interior, and a gantry hanging overhead that tethered the box to a team of VFX technicians at a computer control center. The interior of the box was comprised of 196 panels, each measuring approximately two feet by two feet, and fitted with 4,096 LED bulbs that could cast whatever light or colors were needed and alter them at any speed. Images could also be projected onto the walls, including the planet Earth, the International Space Station (ISS), or the distant stars “giving the actor the perspective of what their character was seeing,” Webber says “It was primarily so we could reflect the appropriate light on them, but it had the double benefit of being a visual reference for them, too.” 

The soundtrack designed by Skip Lievsay is also a sound tour de force as well.
posted by silsurf (155 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of the things that drove me nuts during Gravity was the shots where water was floating around in zero gravity. When the water was coming toward the audience, I expected it to just fly by and disappear off screen, but it hit the camera and stayed there, essentially saying "there is a camera or window or something physical separating her and the audience." IIRC, this happened more than once. I'm not sure what was supposed to be communicated here. Were we voyeuristically watching her trough the cameras on the space station? How does that square with us also being able to watch her floating around outside of the station? I guess it's a really minor point, but it really pulled me out of the movie when it happened.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 3:39 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I thought that was interesting as well. This is a manipulation of the fourth wall, something that is rarely handled appropriately in film, not sure what Cuarón and Lubezki's goal was, but they did it in Children of Men as well when a little blood splattered on the front of the lens, then it disappears on a cut.

For a very entertaining piece on fourth wall, see Breaking The Fourth Wall Supercut
posted by silsurf at 3:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


The blood spatter in COM was an accident, but it was on the second take of an incredibly difficult very long take and Cuarez decided to run with it instead of resetting and trying the take again. I thought the droplets in Gravity might have been self-shoutouts to that.
posted by localroger at 4:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just saw Gravity this morning, actually. In 3D. It was astounding.

The 3D is used in the most immersive, artful way possible. This isn't a gimmick, it's truly a part of the storytelling. This includes amazing moments of refocusing, where something floating out of the picture toward your face is out of focus and then is pulled into focus and turns into a beautiful moment in the picture. The sense of depth, of the vastness of space, and the moments when things come out of the screen at you, these are all very carefully planned and are not used for meaningless startle moments.

The sound is also amazing. Voices don't all come from the center channel, but emerge from different places in the theater. The score actually swirls around you, doesn't sound like there's an orchestra playing in the room while you watch the movie, but rather than there are musical sounds which exist within the environment that move when the camera moves. Apparently when viewed in the new Dolby sound system which allows for pinpoint sound location in the theater, the immersive nature of the aural track is well beyond anything ever produced until now.

Across 90 minutes of movie, there are only 200 cuts. The first 12.5 minutes of the film is a single continuous take. Cuarón is known for his lengthy shots (the one in Children Of Men being especially amazing), but he's really gone for the gold with lengthy shots in this film, and it truly adds to the depth of this movie.

All its flaws aside, it feels like a call to action and a stepping up of the game of film making for the 21st Century.

It's a beautiful, atmospheric, tense, adult movie with good literal and allegorical content which is expertly crafted. I haven't seen anything like it before, and I hope to see more like it in the future.
posted by hippybear at 4:02 PM on October 12, 2013 [77 favorites]


From your mouth to God's ear, hippybear.
posted by localroger at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not actually one take, I assume, just a seamlessly edited series of takes.
posted by Justinian at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2013


It's not actually one take, I assume, just a seamlessly edited series of takes.

It's actually all CGI with footage of actors faces added into the spacesuit helmets in post. But it is 12.5 minutes viewed from a single camera shot perspective. No trickery like what Hitchcock was doing in Rope.

The single take shot in Children Of Men is, I gather, an actual single take.
posted by hippybear at 4:07 PM on October 12, 2013


ok im going to watch gravity and 12.5 minutes will be for you hippybear
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:09 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


No trickery like what Hitchcock was doing in Rope.

I'd say it's the modern version of the trickery used in Rope. To say "no trickery" about a CG shot with actors' faces comped in is kinda silly.
posted by dogwalker at 4:18 PM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I haven't seen anything like it before, and I hope to see more like it in the future.

I'm actually a little sad that I can't ever see it for the first time again.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:18 PM on October 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


I went and saw it in the theaters and felt the positive reaction is fairly overblown.

I would say without a doubt the cinematography is quite amazing and that alone carries the movie a significant distance. Without question, I enjoyed that part to a significant degree and I would probably recommend seeing it in a theater for that alone.

However, I felt Sandra Bullock and George Clooney's performances were very weak and their characters were extremely one dimensional. I honestly think the movie would have had greater effect with unknown actors.

I disagree on the use of 3D in the movie. In particular, I felt it was inconsistently applied. The first fifteen minutes of the movie are extremely good as a whole and demonstrate a strong usage of the 3D effect. However, past this point the usage of 3D effects was not nearly as focused and I felt made it hard to figure out what portion of the screen to focus on.
posted by graxe at 4:31 PM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Apparently when viewed in the new Dolby sound system which allows for pinpoint sound location in the theater, the immersive nature of the aural track is well beyond anything ever produced until now."

Here's a list of theaters with Dolby Atmos. If you're near one, please see the movie in Atmos. Also, the biggest screen you can find; although if it comes down to an Imax screen without Atmos or a huge normal screen with Atmos, pick the Atmos. It really is incredible.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:36 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, since most IMAX screens these days aren't actually 5-story-tall actual IMAX theaters but instead are FauxMAX, I'd suggest foregoing that premium on your ticket price altogether.

If this ever comes to the actual IMAX theater in Spokane I will see it again.
posted by hippybear at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2013


Well, since most IMAX screens these days aren't actually 5-story-tall actual IMAX theaters but instead are FauxMAX, I'd suggest foregoing that premium on your ticket price altogether.

In addition to the general silliness of "digital IMAX" at multiplexes, Gravity was shot in an extremely wide aspect ratio. Having seen it that way, I can't imagine watching it with the sides cut off. Yes, I realize that this is one of those cases of the filmmakers at least designing the IMAX "experience" of their movie instead of a random stranger doing the cropping, but still, you're missing a significant percentage of every shot. Why? Just why? I'll never understand.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:52 PM on October 12, 2013


Looking forward to reading these stories after I see the movie later this week.

RE the blood spatter, I believe Cuaron actually wanted to do it again, but Lubezki convinced him to keep it - or at least that's the version of the story I heard.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:57 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with localroger that the water drop splash on the camera was a reference to Children of Men. This article has it that Chivo himself convinced Cuaron that leaving the blood splash on the camera was a good thing.
posted by mictlanian at 4:59 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize that this is one of those cases of the filmmakers at least designing the IMAX "experience" of their movie instead of a random stranger doing the cropping, but still, you're missing a significant percentage of every shot. Why? Just why? I'll never understand.

I can't speak for Gravity specifically, but the features that I've worked on that had an IMAX release were not cropped on the sides. I don't know what you're talking about here.
posted by dogwalker at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not to hijack the post away from Lubezki (who I firmly believe is the greatest working cinematographer and it's not even remotely close), but the sound in Gravity, as hippybear said, is truly extraordinary. Both the score, and the panning dialog but also the way they handle the "no sound in space" aspect of it. The audience "hears" any sound that the characters "feel" through vibration. But they recorded the foley with microphones that pick up not vibrations in air, but vibrations in solids. So if a character is holding a wrench and torquing a bolt, we can hear that, but it's this deep muffled sound that you really feel more than hear, just like the character. It's the absolute first thing I noticed about the movie that really blew me away. The way Cuaron handles sound is just head and shoulders above pretty much anyone working, maybe with the exception of David Lynch.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:03 PM on October 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I honestly think the movie would have had greater effect with unknown actors.

Sure, but he couldn't get the movie funded with unknown actors. That's why he tested so many big names throughout the long development process the film was in. People don't give you $100 million to make a movie with 2 actors in it, both of whom are complete unknowns.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:07 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


localroger

"The blood spatter in COM was an accident, but it was on the second take of an incredibly difficult very long take and Cuarez decided to run with it instead of resetting and trying the take again. I thought the droplets in Gravity might have been self-shoutouts to that."

I am afraid nothing is left by chance in cinema anymore. The blood splatter that was indeed a mistake was still left there on purpose. It was a choice. They were dealing with some of the best CGI wizards at that time and removing the blood would have been a very small effort indeed. At least this is my experience on a daily basis making films these days. We add and remove a LOT of subtle and not so subtle things on a daily basis these days using CG.
posted by silsurf at 5:10 PM on October 12, 2013


I really want to see this in IMAX 3D but having just finally recovered from 2.5 weeks of intense vertigo I can see how it might perhaps not be the best idea.

sob
posted by elizardbits at 5:12 PM on October 12, 2013


The first fifteen minutes of the movie are extremely good as a whole and demonstrate a strong usage of the 3D effect. However, past this point the usage of 3D effects was not nearly as focused and I felt made it hard to figure out what portion of the screen to focus on.

Oh jeeze, thank you for helping me pinpoint that. I really feel like the movie never quite recovers from that initial really long take 12 minute first shot. This is something i've seen in a lot of movies, but i couldn't escape thinking that the whole movie was kinda built around that shot and that scene.

It's like decorating an entire room around a really awesome couch, or something. As i said, gravity isn't a sole offender in this at all... but yea.

It's not that the 3d is bad after that, it's just not as good. Despite that, this is still one of the few 3d movies i've ever seen where it didn't feel like a tiresome worthless gimmick thrown in for its own sake. If nothing else, i'm happy to have seen that it is something which can be used to enhance the experience and add to the artistic merit of the film.

I think concentrating on that alone though, is underselling the whole package. What nathancaswell said above about the sound design is a very good point. The audio in this movie made my jaw drop repeatedly throughout it.

It's a good movie, and one of my favorite ones of the past 5 or 10 years. But i also think the fact that it's such standing ovation holy shit material speaks to how there really haven't been many truly good films in the past few years... at all. Like probably no more than i could count on one hand.

What i do wonder is how untampered with the creative process was though. There's a few elements in it(like the stupid fucking air meter WAIT YOU'RE NOT OUT OF AIR thing) that seem like they were shoehorned in by the studio since they're just such standard movie-in-space or even movie in general tropes. There's some bits of it that just felt incongruent, and i almost want to go watch it again so i could make a concise list. Some things just really didn't fit, and really feel like some "ok, we like it, but maybe you could tone down this part or add in a little of this to make it more relatable?" studio exec business-speak bullshit decisions.
posted by emptythought at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


They were dealing with some of the best CGI wizards at that time and removing the blood would have been a very small effort indeed.

I agree that hardly anything makes it into a feature by chance anymore, but with the amount of blood on the lens, the duration of the shot, and the constantly changing background, I completely disagree with calling the effort required to remove that blood as "very small."
posted by dogwalker at 5:19 PM on October 12, 2013


The only gimmicky use of the 3D was *SPOILERS* the shot of the dead crewmember floating into the frame when they return to the shuttle. Maybe it was a Jaws homage, but it was pretty horror movie cheesy.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


this is still one of the few 3d movies i've ever seen where it didn't feel like a tiresome worthless gimmick thrown in for its own sake. If nothing else, i'm happy to have seen that it is something which can be used to enhance the experience and add to the artistic merit of the film.

Pina.
posted by mykescipark at 5:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only gimmicky use of the 3D was *SPOILERS* the shot of the dead crewmember floating into the frame when they return to the shuttle. Maybe it was a Jaws homage, but it was pretty horror movie cheesy.

Seriously? Was I the only one who thought the "let's stop the whole movie so we can watch the loose bolt rotate out towards the cheap seats" was horrible on the level of like...oh any 3D children's film not made by Pixar? That beat was long enough to roll your eyes because you'd been rolling your eyes for so long.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:27 PM on October 12, 2013


Saw it last night and was totally blown away. I don't think that I've left a theater that happy since I saw the Matrix for the first time.
posted by octothorpe at 5:33 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's basically The Poseidon Adventure in space.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't mean that disparagingly btw.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


...the movie would have had greater effect with unknown actors.

I disagree. In addition to the point made above that the movie couldn't get financing with unknown actors, the familiarity of the actors enhanced the movie for me, especially Clooney.

There was just so much unfamiliar territory in the movie, without much to keep me, as a viewer, "grounded." And a lot of time is spent in nail-biting whiz-bang suspense-action-asplosions, which doesn't leave a lot of time for character development. Which is fine. If I want a lot of character development, I'm not going to the 3D Space Asplosions movie, any more than I'm going to the Giant Robots vs. Giant Monsters movie for character development. So character development may have been sacrificed for Aiiiii-Spinning-Out-of-Control-In-SPAAAAACE. I'll take it.

The soothing, familiar presence of Clooney playing his umpteenth Charming Good Guy character was crucial. There is a scene fairly late in the movie where Bullock and Clooney interact, and a big part of my sigh of relief when he appeared was, "Ahhh. Clooney the Charming Nice Guy is here to help out. It's gonna be OK." After lots of edge-of-my-seat white-knuckling it was such of a relief.

And I'm not a huge fan of George Clooney, but I like him. He does Affable, Competent, Charming, Nice Guy as well as anyone in Hollywood. I can't imagine an unfamiliar actor having the same effect. It was an excellent casting choice.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [24 favorites]


Maybe it was a Jaws homage

If that wasn't, the scene near the end where *SPOILER* we see Stone treading water and looking around certainly was--it was an exact dupe of Chrissy's moonlight swim just as things started to go very badly for her.
posted by Camofrog at 5:45 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pina, definitely, and that U2 concert film from a few years back. Whatever you think of U2, the film looked great. A band on stage is an ideal setting for 3D, as were the dance performances in Pina.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cave of Forgotten Dreams as well
posted by nathancaswell at 5:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


i am concerned that people enjoyed this movie too much
posted by The White Hat at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wife, who enjoyed the film despite a general fear of outer space, told me afterward that she half-expected Bullock to get attacked by a crocodile or something as she swam away from the escape pod.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:51 PM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


The bit from the ICG article about deliberately skewing the 3d for effect during a late sequence was pretty neat.
posted by xiw at 5:51 PM on October 12, 2013


While watching it, at times I caught myself holding my breath, or wanting to yell at Sandra to MOVE, KEEP MOVING!!! And at other times I was awestruck with the silent beauty of the earth in the background. And then there were the moments when my husband was holding my hand and had it gripped to his chest. Yeah, it was that intense! A couple of the 3D effects came across as gratuitous, but I didn't mind.

A friend of mine is a real live astronaut, getting ready to go up to the ISS next year. He went and saw it and had this to say (and I don't think he'll mind me reposting it here):

"(watching) Gravity in Moscow with the next two Soyuz crews to launch. Overall, incredibly accurate visuals - the Soyuz was practically 100% perfect inside and out. But of course, astonishingly horrendous physics."

Anyways... I may not have the most refined tastes or be a great critic, but Gravity is solidly in my 'Top 5' list of movies, sitting right alongside Aliens, The Color Purple, and Forrest Gump.
posted by matty at 5:53 PM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


now I'm dying to know what the fifth is.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:55 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It better be 2001.
posted by sammyo at 6:00 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


(It's always a swap out between 'Siege of Firebase Gloria' and 'Jumpers', but they're both such bad movies I subconsciously forgot to include one or the other... just my dirty little secret)
posted by matty at 6:00 PM on October 12, 2013


Spoiler rant below...

Count me in the minority of underwhelmed viewers...

First, the positives: as a cinematic experience, it was very impressive. The harrowing agony of Bullock's character floating off into free space at the beginning felt very visceral. It made me consider how deep future technology (and through which medium) we will be treated as an audience to the extremes of jubilation and torture, and whether such things will be permitted (triggers for post-trauma, anxiety or depression induction, etc.).

There was some pretty cool symbolism. The fetal rebirth / mud flipper / circle of life thing was done pretty artistically (if a little overt). I also enjoyed the mental exercise of considering that the third act was merely a dream sequence.

Now, my frustrations: this "movie" was more about making a compelling cinematic experience than telling a story. It took five minutes to introduce the plot of the movie and boil down the next 90 minutes into a series of conflict-resolutions. And maybe she'll survive at the end, or she won't. Flying debris? Let's spend 10 minutes watching her shelter the storm. Fire in the hole? Let's spend 10 minutes watching her find an escape hatch. Running out of oxygen? Let's spend 10 minutes watching her push buttons and replenish the pod. Burning in on reentry? Let's spend 10 minutes watching her push buttons and pray. There was no real suspense in any scene because you knew there was always going to be some kind of resolution, simply punctuated by a lot of noise of floating 3D space debris.

I'm also somewhat of a science nerd, and I don't need to echo Neil deGrasse Tyson's nitpicks, but if you want me to accept the boundaries of the world you've created, they need to be consistent with my reality. It just manages to take me out of the story, as in: well, I guess anything goes. If the laws of physics aren't observed in this scene, why am I expected to feel any tension for the rest of the movie when the solution can be written outside the bounds of reality?

Character depth. Despite whatever well-meaning dia/monologues present, there was nothing to connect. The acting was great considering what they had to work with, but it felt like there was no real substance. First crew member dead? He's got a photo of family in his space wallet; cool, he's a family guy, don't we feel sad, audience? lol don't you remember how funny he was dancing in space at the beginning? Oh, look, a riveting tale of her lost child -- wait, is that a 3D floating tear I just want to reach out and pop? A fourth space screw is floating at me! A helmet! Gimmick over narrative is my point here...

"What's your favorite part of being out here?"
"The silence."
*pan over earth and cue ethereal music intended to convey silence*

Hey, it's Russian Jesus. And Chinese Buddha! We're all not so different after all!
But here we are, floating in space, at the apex of human endeavor, but you still gotta have...FAITH! Let me beat the humanity into you, audience!

^which all the above is a collection of thoughts that revolves back around my original point...

This was a dandy cinematic experience, but a boring, crappy movie. I felt forced to look for some kind of deep meaning, but that's because I'm hard to please and I can't shut off the critical part of my brain.

I feel that Gravity essentially amounted to an Open Water/Black Hawk Down space opera. Minus the opera.

I'm a hit at cocktail parties.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 6:00 PM on October 12, 2013 [25 favorites]


Why was a medical doctor repairing something on the Hubble Space Telescope? And why did Clooney's character need to instruct the doctor about the effects of oxygen deprivation? More than anything else, those two details distracted from the movie.
posted by emelenjr at 6:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why was a medical doctor repairing something on the Hubble Space Telescope?

Because the part she was working on was adapted from medical equipment--this is explained.

And why did Clooney's character need to instruct the doctor about the effects of oxygen deprivation?

Because she was FREAKING OUT and not thinking clearly due to spinning untethered in space and a lack of oxygen.
posted by Camofrog at 6:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


I know this thread started out as a discussion of the incredible look and feel of this movie. But, honestly, without some content, who will really care a few years from now, when we've seen Bigger&Better? And we will. Asshole, you may be tedious at cocktail parties, but I've gotta agree with most of what you say. I didn't think any of those things while watching. I LOVED watching this movie. But a couple of hours later .... gack. (spoilers) I came out of the theater thinking "Strong Female Character. Hooray." And then I started actually thinking about it.

She's trying to fix the experiment and a man's voice says, "You were right. You said it wouldn't work and it didn't." WHAT? She has gone into space to run an experiment that she was sure wouldn't work, but the guys wouldn't listen to her? She says several times "I crashed the lander every time when I tried it on the simulator." WHAT? No matter how many times she had to try, I can't believe they would send someone up until they had passed. Unless, of course, if she was just a girl (blush, twirl hair, I guess I just can't do it). And of course, she's ready to give up, because women, well.... we just cave in. But wait, she imagines A MAN who gives her the will to live! Yes!

The small thing that bothered me the most was when she's back in the game again, and she's talking to dead Alex, telling him what she wants him to tell dead daughter. And yeah, I teared up big time during this scene. And then realized she was saying "Tell her Mommy's so proud of her. So proud, so proud..." on and on. Her daughter was four. Cute, lovable, but proud of her? She's four and she's dead. That's the place to have the Strong Female character say, "Tell her she can be proud of me. I'm going to do my best here, and she can be proud, proud, etc.."

Bad physics and all, I'd love to watch this movie again. As a lifelong sci fi geek, the sense of being up there, looking back at Earth, was so fantastic. But I honestly don't think I can stomach the story. Subtext is a very important thing in movies. If the movie is seductive -- and this one is -- the other ideas it conveys are swallowed whole, by men and women, boys and girls.

What a waste. Just a few changes and this would have been a magnificent movie through and through.
posted by kestralwing at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I caught it in IMAX 3D.

Holy fuck, space is beautiful. There were some moments when I almost felt a need to turn away simply because OMG TERROR THEY ARE WAY THE FUCK UP IN THE SKY.

There were one or two physics miscues I caught, in between peeks thru my fingers, although not really bad enough to ruin the movie for me. The most terrorizing part for me, personally, was realizing that Sandra Bullock, with that haircut, from some angles, looks exactly, precisely, like my second wife did when I met her. I kind of made this noise in the theater that was kind of an "Eeep" when I realized that. Trauma, indeed.

Derail aside, I think it's worth seeing, and yes, it's worth the premium to see it in IMAX 3D.
posted by pjern at 6:40 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat: "My wife, who enjoyed the film despite a general fear of outer space, told me afterward that she half-expected Bullock to get attacked by a crocodile or something as she swam away from the escape pod."

*potential spoilers ahead*

I just saw the film tonight. 2D. I kinda want to see it in 3d, but now that others say it doesn't live up to the first 15 minutes in 3d, maybe not necessary.

But yes, after everything, the person I saw it with made a joke "Oh she has to have a shark" (and I don't know if she intentionally meant that as a Jaws reference, but seeing the Jaws comments makes it that much more interesting).

Of course, I am partially of the opinion that she did die, while listening to the dogs barking or whatever.

Personally I'd give it an 87-90 rating. Very solid, great cinematography, the audio, while I guess I didn't pay too much attention (aside from that initial shock of absolute silence at first), I am sure was quite excellent. I got plenty of gripping moments. I was disappointed in some of the sappy hollywoodness of it, and in some ways I think I would have preferred she outright floated away right before plummeting to earth, or even perhaps, drowned when the water rushed in and they come just a little too late to save her.

I did like the touch where she collapsed when she tried to pick herself up once she was on land again, and instantly, even before thinking about the movie title, I said "Gravity..." HA! I get it!

And then of course you have "the gravity of the situation"...

But to me, while I like this sort of theme of rebirth, some of it was just a bit TOO in your face, none-too-subtle-symbolism. When she was kinda curling up I got a fetal position vibe, but then it's like BAM even with an umbelical cord in case you couldn't get subtlety, and a couple other things like that and that kinda let me down.

So I think I liked it pretty well for being a hollywood movie, but I kinda wish it were just a wee bit darker, I kept thinking how amazing it would have been if it were Russian and just bleak.

I can't complain, it was solid, I had some great intense feelings during it, I was happy and not particularly disappointed in anything in particular, and the frog at the end was kinda cool. I actually liked the "space horror" (half-chunk-face + frozen guy). In fact, the frozen dude almost seemed a bit like a foreshadowing when she took her suit off at first once inside and I'm like "DON'T DO THAT! DID YOU NOT SEE THE FROZEN DUDE? IDIOT!!!"

OK, so that's my thoughts.

Oh - so my sister died this week, and the reason my friend wanted me to see a movie was to go on a "date" to sort of just have an escape, and so I wanted to see this one (there wasn't much else on in the theaters anyways), and then it's all like "Death and Rebirth" as themes, and I'm like "man, this sure isn't a movie that's meant to distract you from the idea of death."
posted by symbioid at 6:48 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have described this movie to several friends as having a terrible screenplay but am anxious to get those same friends to go see it again with me. I felt the same way about Avatar.

It's like being obsessed with an abusive lover.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:55 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just returned from a showing. I was positive she died in the beginning when she was spinning in the dark, and the rest of the movie was An Occurrence at Owl Creek Space Station. I'm still not sure I'm wrong.
posted by mochapickle at 7:24 PM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just returned from a showing. I was positive she died in the beginning when she was spinning in the dark, and the rest of the movie was An Occurrence at Owl Creek Space Station. I'm still not sure I'm wrong.

You can interpret the film that way beginning at basically any point following the initial accident.
posted by Ndwright at 7:32 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw it in 2D opening night and saw it in IMAX 3D today. The 3D doesn't add much. It was nice in the tight shots in the space stations and capsules but wasn't really needed. I say that as someone who liked the 3D in Avatar.

And unrelated: I'm starting to think science nerds shouldn't go to movies. By the time the fire extinguisher was used as a rocket pack it should have been clear that this wasn't a faux-documentary. Stick with the NASA channel or something.
posted by MillMan at 7:36 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me, the growing isolation that settles to complete separation from Ryan's life, and her struggle to overcome her fear and her grief, these elements hit home for me. In my own life when I've felt intense grief it was very much like that cloud of debris - horrendously periodic (though unfortunately not as predictable), unstoppable, piercing. And then back to isolation, trying to do what needs to be done, just getting on with life (for most of her journey). Within the first 10 minutes I was totally taken in by this film. Even enough to look past the whole ISS rope scene debacle, and whatever role prayer played in the plot. I was very much rooting for her to come out of the otherside of this ordeal.

Though I've never experienced any particular thing that she goes through, I felt like I've been there before, and I very much wanted the character to get through it.

And yet several of my friends said they didn't connect to the characters at all, and by the end of the film "[they] were like, 'this is it?'". I couldn't relate - it felt so important to me. But to others it is flat. So you know, try it out, know your mileage may vary.
posted by ehassler at 7:40 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I saw it in IMAX 3D yesterday it was mad good. I interpreted the entire post-Clooney's return part of the movie (where the bad physics gets truly egregious) as a dream, which was enough to placate my inner fun-spoiling science nerd.

Crap character development but who cares? The actual "characters" that matter in this film are heaven and earth, against which any individual human characters are nothing anyway - in fact, I liked that the movie barely bothers with them.

It had it's Hollywoodish moments but that was unavoidable and I still left the cinema feeling more blown-away giddy than I can remember. Recommend.
posted by moorooka at 7:48 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why was a medical doctor repairing something on the Hubble Space Telescope?

1. The character was a biomedical engineer.
2. In reality, physicians have done spacewalk repairs on the Hubble telescope.

If the laws of physics aren't observed in this scene, why am I expected to feel any tension for the rest of the movie when the solution can be written outside the bounds of reality?

This is an odd complaint, as the movie clearly follows the laws of the physics most of the time.

Character depth. Despite whatever well-meaning dia/monologues present, there was nothing to connect.

A person still grieving over the death of their child is stuck in a lonely and isolated situation and has to come to terms with that grief.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just saw it. I thought it was really, really good. I was annoyed that it was too damsel-in-distress at first but was okay with it by the end. I also get very anxious during random movies ( ... Little Miss Sunshine ...) and this made me feel anxious but it wasn't unbearable. I was concerned that Clooney/Bullock would be annoying and distracting but they weren't.

I was impressed by the economy of the movie. It was 90 minutes. There were a handful of characters. People I saw it with wanted it to be longer but I liked that it was tight. It felt like it was the right length. I also thought, this is going to make tons of money overseas.
posted by kat518 at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2013


Just saw it this afternoon, in 3D. It is certainly a gorgeous movie, and a joy to watch in the most literal sense, but I was just let down by the plot/screenplay, which didn't at all live up to the technical masterpiece they were delivered in. Seriously, "clear skies, with a chance of satellite debris"? Ugh
posted by Hargrimm at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2013


Overall I was really impressed. Not often we get to see something new under the sun.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would just like to take a moment to note that I was pleased to see that Chekhov's fire extinguisher did in fact go off.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I saw this on opening weekend. My opinion of the movie will probably drop as I think more about the coincidence-laden plot and flimsy dialog but for now ....

Holy F that was a ridiculous ride. My adrenalin levels were redlining so much after the closing credits that I could barely stand up. I felt like I was going to burst out crying or punch a hole in the theatre drywall. I felt like my aorta was 2 ticks from bursting open. I'm glad I wasn't driving home is what I'm saying.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:19 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen it yet but people here are really upset about the "bad physics." Are they noticeably bad, or do I have to have a Neil DeGrasse Tyson intellect to notice?
posted by gucci mane at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2013


By the time the fire extinguisher was used as a rocket pack it should have been clear that this wasn't a faux-documentary.

What was wrong with that? I liked the extra touch when she used the spent canister itself as a last-ditch course corrector by flinging it away . . . she'd become a real rocket scientist inside of eighty minutes.
posted by Camofrog at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it Gravity is kind of a 90-minute version of the skydiving scene from Point Break.
posted by Camofrog at 8:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen it yet but people here are really upset about the "bad physics." Are they noticeably bad, or do I have to have a Neil DeGrasse Tyson intellect to notice?

They are generally good and internally consistent. There are some deeper problems with the physics, like how you don't just journey in orbit from vehicle X to vehicle Y for various reasons... but there is nothing which is glaringly "that is impossible in real life" for the layman that makes it all too stupid.

In other words, it's not Armageddon.
posted by hippybear at 8:28 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saw it twice this week (with Dad and wife), 3D both times, but not IMAX. I have to say it does hold up to a second viewing, unlike Avatar. It's not just technically amazing--if it doesn't win an Oscar for sound then there's no justice in the world--but it's also streamlined in ways movies seldom are any more.

Characters, running time, plot twists: it's just economical, almost without filler, like a quality sports car or a perfect meal, unlike most of the bloated monstrosities that fill the theaters these days (I'm looking at you, Jackson and Verbinski).

Just because you spent $100 million to make your movie doesn't mean it has to be 3 hours long.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:28 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


To me there was a Ripley thing going on.
posted by wrapper at 8:29 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seriously? Was I the only one who thought the "let's stop the whole movie so we can watch the loose bolt rotate out towards the cheap seats" was horrible on the level of like...oh any 3D children's film not made by Pixar? That beat was long enough to roll your eyes because you'd been rolling your eyes for so long.

To be fair, (minor spoilers follow)...




The movie actually does this TWICE (at least). The first one, I think, is the one everyone notices, with Ryan losing the bolt and Matt grabbing it for her. And I feel like the reason that's in there, besides being a little playful with "hey we're in zero gravity neato!," is to set up the second instance, where Ryan almost loses her wrench while trying to detach the Soyuz capsule from its chute. That instance is a lot more tense because now it matters if she gets that wrench back or not. I don't know if that callback was intentional or not, but the shots are framed almost identically.

What was wrong with that? I liked the extra touch when she used the spent canister itself as a last-ditch course corrector by flinging it away . . . she'd become a real rocket scientist inside of eighty minutes.

I think the general consensus is that there's no way Ryan could possibly have even the minimal level of control she did over her course. The propulsion from the extinguisher would have to act exactly on her center of gravity to avoid spinning her like a top. But it works for movie physics.
posted by chrominance at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a question about the references to other movies. Sandra Bullock as the Starchild from 2001 is obvious, as are the floating pens (but then again there were so many floating pens that I had to second guess myself). Ed Harris as mission control has been pointed out in all the reviews as a call-back to Apollo 13 and the Right Stuff. Did Mefites catch any other shout-outs?
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:36 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neil deGrasse Tyson saw Gravity and tweeted about the problems with the physics. But he also tweeted that he really enjoyed it.
posted by kat518 at 8:37 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did Mefites catch any other shout-outs?

I think the fire extinguisher bit is a reference to WALL-E. And Bullock in a tank and short shorts in the ISS is a reference to Alien. And as previously mentioned, the water drops on the camera lens are a reference to Children Of Men.

There is nothing in this movie which was not planned out in advance. I'm sure I am missing a few tribute moments, but Cuarón was definitely building them into the movie.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


A couple of comments about Children of Men: 1) the long takes were NOT actually long takes, they were made seamless through CG. And 2) the blood spatter was definitely kept intentionally. If you go back and look at the battle scene, you'll notice that the blood drops hit the camera, and then sloooowly evaporate as the scene continues. So even if the initial blood spatter was accidental (not necessarily!) the way Cuarón disguised it within this long take is one of my favorite tricks ever in cinema.

Just watched Gravity myself. Yes, it's not a movie with deep character development, but so what? If you ask me, Bullock had TOO MANY lines - she should have said less! Sometimes movies should just exist as experiences foremost, and this was one of those movies. To paraphrase the AV Club review of "Enter the Void", how often is it that movies try to express the ineffable? And we should applaud them when they do.
posted by fungible at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only plot point that seemed manufactured to me is losing the communications with Houston. If there was a plausible explanation for that, I missed it.

Yes, it's not a movie with deep character development, but so what?

Exactly. And so what if it takes a few liberties with physics and actual orbital altitudes and distances? It does 98 percent of its job perfectly. In that it bored me for exactly zero seconds, and I was holding my breath and hardly able to watch a dozen times at least. If this movie bores you, you have serious hipsteritis.
posted by Camofrog at 9:12 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


They explained that: The communications satellites were taken out by debris. From http://science.howstuffworks.com/space-shuttle5.htm:
NASA's Mission Control in Houston will send signals to a 60 ft radio antenna at White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. White Sands will relay the signals to a pair of Tracking and Data Relay satellites in orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites will relay the signals to the space shuttle.
(Yes, it's been noted that 22,300 miles is way higher than the collisions & debris in the film. Whatever.)
posted by jjwiseman at 9:29 PM on October 12, 2013


I remember when the trailer came through MeFi and I saw it and was like "this looks like it will suck. What?!"

Gravity was carrying 8.8 when my friends suggested we check it out, so we did singlets in the IMAX matinee this morning.

HOLY MOTHER OF MERCY THIS FILM IS AMAZING.

For serious, Cuarón and Lubezki have created a gripping emotional (and vertiginous) study of the anguish of survivorship and I was not disappointed.

Reading Christ, what an asshole's comments I realize I am much more forgiving of staged conflict-resolution when I believe in the fear and extremity of the agonist's plight, which I did in the case of Bullock's character.

The references to religious prophets and spiritual signifiers were, for me, were less about the certainty that the mystery of existence can be explained/sanctified by religion and more about how the need to connect to other humans is, near the point of death, as much the domain of the spiritual as it is the physical.

Wrapper calls out one of the things I find fascinating about Gravity, which is the film extends the range of space narratives which address maternal anxieties and questions regarding human reproduction in the figure of the Final Girl, albeit one not ensnared in a horror narrative (i.e. The Alien quadrilogy).

This thematics also can be usefully employed to understand many of the prominent features of Children of Men, another outstanding film by Cuarón.

So much to think about (including complaints about shallow characterization and mechanical plot progression), but I definitely put this film among the best I’ve ever seen (somewhere in the top 30).
posted by mistersquid at 9:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


"This is not a documentary," the director said in a recent interview with collectSPACE.com. "It is a piece of fiction."

...from Coleman's point of view, "Only about 25 percent of the movie is really about being [trapped alone] in space. It's a human drama that takes place on a really bad day in space. A fairly sensational day."
posted by matty at 9:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The communications satellites were taken out by debris.

Yeah, that much I got, but can't NASA radio to LEO from the ground worldwide? The guy with the dogs and baby was able to talk.
posted by Camofrog at 9:47 PM on October 12, 2013


My wife, who enjoyed the film despite a general fear of outer space, told me afterward that she half-expected Bullock to get attacked by a crocodile or something as she swam away from the escape pod.

That is exactly what I said to my friend: oh look, she's going to land in water.

And it's filled with crocodiles.
posted by zippy at 9:58 PM on October 12, 2013


They are generally good and internally consistent. ... there is nothing which is glaringly "that is impossible in real life" for the layman that makes it all too stupid.

See, you say that, but the entire second half of the movie revolves around Bullock having to figure out how to get back to earth on her own, because she had to let Clooney go. And the only reason that happened was because he detached the tether in order to keep from pulling her into space. What was pulling him? They're both weightless, it's not like he's going to fall off the space station. The movie never gives even the flimsiest attempt at an explanation for this, and yet the rest of the plot depends critically on it.

I found it to be just as jarring as if the disaster had been caused by the outside of the shuttle catching fire, and the crew had to go on an EVA to put the flames out by spraying them with a garden hose.
posted by teraflop at 10:03 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did anyone else feel these was some attempted symbolism when she first got into the space station and there were chess prices floating right after she lost him? Most of the pieces seen were castles and I felt like "okay, I get it, he did a castle maneuver to save the king."
posted by C'est la D.C. at 10:08 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry, MillMan, but you are wrong. Classical physics is well understood. The only thing between this being a science-groaner (which it is) and a tour-de-force is a lack of creativity. Fire extinguisher? Really? I think a more powerful cinematic experience could have been conjured with some attention to detail and small shifts in the narrative.

For those not celebrating ignorance, the inaccuracies really prevent or break an immersive film-going experience.

That said, it really does up the game for 3D and the future of film narrative (a la hippybear).
posted by j_curiouser at 10:11 PM on October 12, 2013


What was pulling him?

You're right: this is easily the main annoying thing. If they had both obviously been revolving around something, so that Clooney had some centrifugal pull (which they could easily have worked in) that would have made way more sense.
posted by Camofrog at 10:12 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just saw it this afternoon, and I really enjoyed it. After many hours spent in Orbiter and Kerbal Space Program I saw right through a lot of physics problems though.

At the climatic scene towards the end I will admit I felt tempted to cry out, "GO JEBEDIAH GO!"
posted by smoothvirus at 10:13 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


My other pet peeve is how every time Bullock reaches a safe spot, the first thing she does is take off her spacesuit. I get that those things would probably get uncomfortable after a while, but when there's debris from an unknown number of satellites whizzing past and punching holes in things, wouldn't it be suicidally crazy not to be prepared for a decompression at any moment?
posted by teraflop at 10:18 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, the debris was coming every 90 minutes, so why not get out of the suit and into some nice gym clothes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, the original cloud of debris is coming every 90 minutes, but it would eventually hit other satellites and cause more shrapnel in an unknown orbit. Without comms from Mission Control, she has no early warning system. The fact that it didn't end up happening in the movie was, from the characters' perspective, pure luck.

I guess at this point I'm just nitpicking. But when I was watching the film, it really reminded me of all the "scientists" from Prometheus who had no sense of self-preservation.
posted by teraflop at 10:35 PM on October 12, 2013


Yes, you're nitpicking at this point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 PM on October 12, 2013


They're both weightless

but not massless. She's got her foot tangled in some cords, but she's still moving and they're slipping. And he's still moving. Not because of gravity, but because of their momentum.

In other words, they still have the v in m x v.

So they're drifting through space, slowly, and there's insufficient friction or elasticity/pull in the shroud cord to dissipate their combined kinetic energy of 1⁄2 x (mbullock + mclooney) x v 2, but maybe there's enough to halt a bit less than one half that, namely 1/2 x mbullock x v 2

What I didn't get in that scene is why, once he's detached, Clooney doesn't start throwing his wrenches and jet pack in the direction opposite the ISS, in order to propel himself backwards or at least slow his travel. He's in a frictionless environment and traveling at a low velocity, so it could work.
posted by zippy at 11:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The only thing between this being a science-groaner (which it is) and a tour-de-force is a lack of creativity. Fire extinguisher? Really? I think a more powerful cinematic experience could have been conjured with some attention to detail and small shifts in the narrative.

Maybe instead of a fire extinguisher she should have had a deck of tarot cards that she dealt violently away from her one by one.
posted by Camofrog at 11:05 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


For those not celebrating ignorance, the inaccuracies really prevent or break an immersive film-going experience.

I grant that MillMan struck first, with the "science nerds" crack, but not everyone who can enjoy a film like this is "celebrating ignorance". I was bothered by the Clooney momentum problem but I was also bothered by the moth in our theatre and I was sucked back into the movie every time. (I like zippy's explanation and will just assume that Kowalski was so focused on talking Stone down that it didn't occur to him. Also I decided to treat the moth like our own personal piece of space debris.)

Elizardbits, I saw it in 2D and found it totally gripping and beautiful.
posted by gingerest at 11:17 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Just discuss the topic, please; if you need to talk about what Metafilter is like, that would be a Metatalk thing.]
posted by taz at 12:31 AM on October 13, 2013


Hey, it's Russian Jesus. And Chinese Buddha! We're all not so different after all!
But here we are, floating in space, at the apex of human endeavor, but you still gotta have...FAITH! Let me beat the humanity into you, audience!


This bothered me a bit too, but then I thought about how I'd be feeling in such circumstances. I'd probably take comfort in anything that countless others have taken comfort in. Just seeing that touch-point of common humanity might help. It's not so much what the symbol represents, but that it's important to so many people. Knowing the latter helps them function as crucial tethers to the world below.
posted by treepour at 12:44 AM on October 13, 2013


RedBud and I saw this in 2D yesterday, and we both gave the movie two enthusiastic, quivering thumbs up for special effects, and a meh for plot and script. We both liked Bullock and Clooney. I'm not unwilling to suspend my own notions about physics in order to get on with the plot, so I let the deal about boogying over to the Chinese space station go in the same ear that Scottie's pronouncements about the warp drive go in, without worrying about it. She could have beamed over, for all I cared.

The deal where Clooney unhooked sort of made me wince, though. They could have had a piece of the Telstar snatch him away or something.

Also, cheap tears. For $100 million dollars, we get cheap tears? Crap on a stick. She's in a shitstorm in outer space and you have to do the cheap tears scenes to give she CGI guys something to do? Also, I guess digging foxholes for atheists to pray is in a good gimmick for weak writers, but it leaves scars in the script.

Also, RedBud, who got seasick when we saw the 3D version of The Life of Pi, said she was glad we hadn't seen the 3D version of Gravity. That was part of her thumbs up deal.

Also, yeah, at the end, we figured a shark would get her, but by then we didn't care. This is one of those movies I really liked seeing, but it's not good to talk about it too much on account of how, well, the sucky parts keep coming up.
posted by mule98J at 12:52 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I usually never do this, but I feel compelled to respond...

If the laws of physics aren't observed in this scene, why am I expected to feel any tension for the rest of the movie when the solution can be written outside the bounds of reality?

This is an odd complaint, as the movie clearly follows the laws of the physics most of the time.


"Why are you upset at the refs for blowing that call? Clearly they've been making sound judgment up until this point."

Character depth. Despite whatever well-meaning dia/monologues present, there was nothing to connect.

A person still grieving over the death of their child is stuck in a lonely and isolated situation and has to come to terms with that grief.


The point of the cherry-picked quote you chose to challenge came in the last sentence of the paragraph: gimmick over narrative. Because a real, HUMAN moment needs to be enhanced by use of CGI (zero-gravity tears). My argument was that such artificiality simply removed me from the character and scene.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:11 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked the cinematography, but the story was weak and the science sucked. I had the strong feeling that the movie was designed around the fact that (a) they had George Clooney and Sandra Bullock; and (b) only Sandra Bullock was willing to do the floaty bits. So George gets to literally sit in a chair, except for the scene where he climbs through a hatch (in order to sit in another chair), but he is conveniently gone for all the bits where an actor would need to be floating. And Mr Dancing Guy is killed off, because floaty bits are expensive and who cares about him anyway?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:13 AM on October 13, 2013


Just because you spent $100 million to make your movie doesn't mean it has to be 3 hours long.

Yes, this. I've gotten so sick of every blockbuster having to be a butt numbing three hour marathon.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chris Hadfield says tears don't actually float in space.
posted by Beardman at 7:09 AM on October 13, 2013


"Why are you upset at the refs for blowing that call? Clearly they've been making sound judgment up until this point."

More like, "It's a movie and they've clearly been playing fast and loose with reality since the first scene, so why get completely bent of shape now?"

The point of the cherry-picked quote you chose to challenge came in the last sentence of the paragraph: gimmick over narrative. Because a real, HUMAN moment needs to be enhanced by use of CGI (zero-gravity tears). My argument was that such artificiality simply removed me from the character and scene.

1. Well actually, it was the first sentence of the paragraph:)
2. I'm sorry that floating tears cause you to forget about the pain of person losing their child.

Chris Hadfield says tears don't actually float in space.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson says they do!

But they actually don't.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read a lot about how Children of Men was made when it came out, and although I have forgotten the details, the long shots are not single take. There are also at least three long shots and not one, depending on what you take "long" to be: the car chase, the birth, and the final battle. All are also heavily edited in post, and not just for putting them together seamlessly. The bike crashing into the car and flying off is entirely CGI, for example. They're not even all filmed in the same location.

And the blood was indeed accidental, from one of the extras.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saw this in 3D IMAX last week and was utterly blown away. It was as if I had been set down in Notre Dame, and watched as the entire cathedral fell apart and landed at my feet. Carping about physics bloopers seems to miss the point -- this is almost a ballet, with a narrative of spatial movement propelled by rhythms, timings, and the arc of emotion. My disbelief was fully suspended.
posted by ariel_caliban at 8:02 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Clooney detaching scene nearly ruined it for me, because they did not appear to be moving much at that point. I had to rationalize it as something that in reality would have happened much faster than we were shown; he saw the problem while still moving fast and instantly solved it the way a flyboy is trained to do. Which would also give him enough momentum to not be able to throw his MMU to reverse course.

The other orbital mechanics problems -- like you don't aim a spacecraft directly at its destination while manuevering long distances in orbit -- didn't bother me particularly. Niven's "east takes you out, out takes you west" manta from The Integral Trees did come to mind.

I've watched a lot of NASA TV from time to time, and the insides of the ISS sure looked right! Also know a guy who's flown Soyuz, and it certainly evoked the feeling his descriptions of landing in it gave me.

Best thing about the film to me is that you leave the overly-chilled, harshly illuminated theater to the green embrace of earth and can really appreciate being down here.
posted by joeyh at 8:13 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think, ya know, re-reading these comments, one thing that didn't really strike me about her child's death is that she could be grieving RIGHT NOW. Like, it just felt like this abstract thing that happened at some unknown point in the past. I just thought it was strange that she was acting like that, like jesus, get over it, I mean, I know it sucks, but really?

Then the point that, oh hey, she's grieving... Oh, like, maybe her child actually just died last week and she's still feeling lost and hopeless.

So of course, they hit you over the head with all this visual symbolism that's too overt, and then one very important fact they leave out, one point that could have made all the difference in how I empathize with her character...
posted by symbioid at 8:19 AM on October 13, 2013


Criticizing the film for character, thematic and story depth seems off base for me. It's simple and efficient and takes place in something close to real time. The themes and characters are painted with extremely broad strokes, and it partially relies on our preexisting feelings about the cast. And that's fine. Broad strokes are fine.

I think sometimes we (and I say "we" because I do this too) react to films with checklists of qualities like "round characters" and "thematic subtlety" that are required for a film to qualify as good. Those things can be valuable, but insisting on any single one of them unnecessarily narrows what movies can be. GRAVITY doesn't need complex characters because it's doing something different.

Clooney cutting himself loose bugged me a bit, but I love JURASSIC PARK too, despite the giant, naked velociraptors.
posted by brundlefly at 8:52 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, brundlefly has it exactly right. It doesn't need to hit every single quality of Great Films to be a great film.

It's an absolutely astounding visceral experience. It's 90 minutes of unparalleled beauty and technical mastery.

Honestly, more developed characters or deeper symbolism would have made it a worse film. Either by distracting viewers from the film's power or by stretching it out too long.

It was damn-near perfect in part because it embraced its imperfections and didn't try to smooth them over.
posted by graphnerd at 9:01 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw it yesterday and thought it was a solid hollywood movie. It was far more plot-driven and action-movie /tearjerker than I had expected from the way people talked about it. I had imagined something more in the realm of Tree of Life, with a lot of long shots and soaring vistas, or maybe Moon, or even Castaway, with just one person dealing with being alone, but this felt a lot more like a standard buddy-cop story at the start with jokey Clooney, and then an action movie with the problem, solution, problem, solution sequences from there.

What I found most interesting was the message I got from it, which was a sort of Icarus mythology. To me the whole thing was a reclaiming of mother earth as ultimate goal and the notion of "where no man has gone before" as senseless. "I hate space" was the most (only?) memorable line, and space was empty, brutal, and hopeless throughout the movie. Getting home was the important thing. The will to survive and religion as an external reflection of our need to survive were central themes that all tied back to her crawling out of the ocean like an amphibian at the end. It seemed like, we evolved on this planet, and life is hard, but let's stick around.
posted by mdn at 9:01 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ok, one more time...

"Why are you upset at the refs for blowing that call? Clearly they've been making sound judgment up until this point."

More like, "It's a movie and they've clearly been playing fast and loose with reality since the first scene, so why get completely bent of shape now?"


When you play fast and loose with reality, then there's no real consequences. It's apparent we have a different standard for suspension of disbelief. My brain focused on those details and distracted me from full immersion into the film. That's all.

The point of the cherry-picked quote you chose to challenge came in the last sentence of the paragraph: gimmick over narrative. Because a real, HUMAN moment needs to be enhanced by use of CGI (zero-gravity tears). My argument was that such artificiality simply removed me from the character and scene.

1. Well actually, it was the first sentence of the paragraph:)
2. I'm sorry that floating tears cause you to forget about the pain of person losing their child
an actor delivering a monologue

It's clear you're not reading what I wrote or being willfully obtuse.

Look, we disagree about the level of immersion we experienced in this film. Or am I still missing something?
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 9:20 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did I see the same movie you guys did? Man, I loved it. I had no issue with it. I walked out of the theater just blown away by everything I'd seen and experienced. I found it moving and fascinating... I loved the theme of rebirth. I actually really connected to Sandra Bullock and her character, her isolation, her grief. I'm thrilled it's doing well, and it's easily the best movie I've seen so far this year.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:31 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also saw it in 2D because 3D makes me nauseous, but it was still amazing.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:34 AM on October 13, 2013


Yeah, it is pretty disconcerting in 3D. I loved it, but I could see how it would be a negative if regular 3D movies make you ill.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on October 13, 2013


Yeah, brundlefly has it exactly right. It doesn't need to hit every single quality of Great Films to be a great film.

For me it's that it was just too actively heavy-handed and treacly. It's not that it was lacking another dimension, it's that it was actively wince-causing in a dimension it chose to have. If their development of Ryan was going to be so Readers Digesty and blah, they shouldn't have been hitting the audience over the head on that development as hard as fucking possible with the imagery and the score.
posted by bleep-blop at 9:41 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


We saw it in IMAX 3D, after active avoiding all 3D since Avatar. It was a fine spectacle and I'm glad we saw it, but I doubt I will ever rewatch it. There just wasn't much to it.
posted by smackfu at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2013


Some of the above critics would do well to refer to this.

Count me as among those who thought this was fantastically thrilling and terrifying. And I am not usually a fan of 3D movies.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw it in 2D and will go back tomorrow to see it in IMAX 3D.
My entire life revolves around trying to invent cool sounds for abstract visual concepts, making moving pictures feel more impactful. My mind is fucking. BLOWN.
For me this just edged out Wall-E and No Country for Old Men for "best sound design of all time". It makes me almost want to quit my job in games and work on feature film audio full-time, and almost no films do that to me.
posted by jake at 5:46 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like I really can't state this strongly enough, anyone with even a passing interest in sound design and music and how they work in movies needs to stop what they're doing and watch this film, whatever anyone thinks of the science realism or dialogue, it is a work of auditory genius.
posted by jake at 5:51 PM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


You might enjoy reading this, jake.
posted by hippybear at 7:00 PM on October 13, 2013


And also this.
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on October 13, 2013


It's kind of disappointing that Avatar managed to both have better characters than this and better-written dialogue. Because Avatar sucked.

In terms of technical virtuosity this was a masterpiece, in terms of acting quality it was an unusually good thriller. But Christ I could not tolerate that movie a second time. That may be one of the worst ending sequences I've ever seen in a movie.

Agreed with the person above who said this would have been better as a bleak, Russian film where everybody dies but not before despairing. I'd add that this film should've ended after the bit in the International Space Station. Everything else was unnecessary repetition.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:06 PM on October 13, 2013


Yeah, if it had been made in the 70s before Star Wars it would have ended with Sandra Bullock turning off the air in the Soyouz and just going to sleep. I was half expecting it to do that. Nihilism in SF was a big thing before 1977.
posted by hippybear at 7:14 PM on October 13, 2013


Saw it for a second time earlier tonight.

This time in 3-D.

My hair caught fire again.
posted by wrapper at 7:52 PM on October 13, 2013


So... How long before a big spate of magazine and website think pieces come out about post-recessionary America, survival of one solitary soul against all odds and the popularity of "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips?" I thought I could write one easily after watching the former last weekend, and the latter today. Throw in some gender role talk, a bit here and there about large military or giant-nation-state-oriented governmental organizations (NASA, the Navy) and voilà, you have a instant think piece.
posted by raysmj at 8:47 PM on October 13, 2013


Guys, if if makes you feel better, the movie DID end with Bullock dying in the Soyuz. The whole return to Earth was a dream sequence - there's no way in hell that the module could have landed without burning up on re-entry, let alone land conveniently in the water within swimming distance to the shore.

The whole water-to-land bit was pure symbolism (which I personally found extremely cool), with the added benefit of providing audiences with the requisite "happy ending" without which no Hollywood studio would have ever funded this type of massively massive blockbuster.
posted by moorooka at 12:32 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I'm presuming that anybody who has read this much of the thread without having seen the film is actively looking for spoilers.)
posted by moorooka at 12:34 AM on October 14, 2013


Why couldn't the module have landed? I found that bit of the movie confusing; I couldn't work out whether the lander was detached, and whether she was supposed to be doing anything with the buttons once it did detach.

Oh, one more scientific thing I found annoying:how did the parachute get tangled up in the first space station? OK, I suppose the drogue (?) could get ejected by some mechanical failure, but without air there'd be nothing to pull the main parachute out, and certainly nothing to get it to open up and twist around things.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:18 AM on October 14, 2013


it seemed to me like the module was detaching as the tiangong space station was itself starting to burn up, without time to start on any sort of proper reentry trajectory... I'm not a physicist but my understanding is that making it to earth in one piece would be pretty miraculous under such circumstances.

Then again, this comes after she's already manouvred around the outside of the space station using a fire extinguisher, so...
posted by moorooka at 3:55 AM on October 14, 2013


I can live with the fire-extinguisher bit because it's physically possible and this is a movie. We'll just stipulate that she was phenomenally lucky and happened to fire it in line with her center of mass each time. What I'm not clear on is whether the landers are designed to be operated by someone who doesn't know what they're doing: they're emergency vehicles, so that would make sense, but I have the impression that they do actually require some guidance.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:19 AM on October 14, 2013


The whole return to Earth was a dream sequence

I was fully expecting her to look up from her crawling position at the edge of the lake to see Clooney and her daughter standing there to greet her.
posted by octothorpe at 4:58 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The crew of Soyuz 11 were killed when a faulty valve depressurized their capsule at an altitude of 168 kilometers. The capsule landed on its own and the crew deaths were not discovered until the capsule was recovered and opened, so yes a Soyuz capsule can land without guidance.
posted by localroger at 5:35 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was fully expecting her to look up from her crawling position at the edge of the lake to see Clooney and her daughter standing there to greet her.

That would have a pretty great ending.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:43 AM on October 14, 2013


The crew of Soyuz 11 were killed when a faulty valve depressurized their capsule at an altitude of 168 kilometers. The capsule landed on its own and the crew deaths were not discovered until the capsule was recovered and opened, so yes a Soyuz capsule can land without guidance.

And they weren't burned-up horrors like Komarov or smashed into goo during the process; the bodies were intact. There's at least some thinking from bruising on his hand that Patsayev had been trying to close the valve.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:00 AM on October 14, 2013


It's clear you're not reading what I wrote or being willfully obtuse.

Look, we disagree about the level of immersion we experienced in this film who is being willfully obtuse.


It's fascinating that people pay money to enjoy things, then look for things to that destroy that enjoyment and later must rant about their non-enjoyment. It's an interesting form of criticism.

Honestly, what did you expect when you went to see this movie, that it would be 100% correct in its treatment of physics? Do scifi movies in general bother you because they don't adhere to physics?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm really surprised by how many people are criticizing the movie for having thin characters and plot. I felt like it had just enough of both to be a satisfying filmgoing experience, no more, no less. And while I enjoy films with rich characters and complex plots as much as any other nerd, I really appreciated that Cuaron kept both lean here - we're meant to focus on this very singular life vs. death struggle. I felt like he gave us just enough character to make us care.

Fortunately, I don't know enough about astrophysics to have caught any of the "problems" people had with the film, though, to be honest, I'm not sure how much I would have cared if I did.

Just out of curiosity, is it "known" where she landed at the end? I thought it was somewhere in China or Southeast Asia, but I've read that it was supposed to be the U.S.

I was fully expecting her to look up from her crawling position at the edge of the lake to see Clooney and her daughter standing there to greet her.

That would have a pretty great ending.


I don't know, I think the film would have had to be set up really differently for that to work. Not that movies like this can't have sad endings, but the way this one was proceeding, it was very much about triumphing over the elements (or are there even "elements" in space?) through sheer will and luck and ingenuity. To have that end with a such a "hey, siiiiiike" ending would have felt even cheaper to me than the ending we got.
posted by lunasol at 9:11 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, is it "known" where she landed at the end?

She landed in a lake, so why not her home, Lake Zurich? It doesn't seem so impossible after so many impossible things. (And why else would they use so much of the early, spare dialog emphasizing Lake Zurich?) I don't think that would be a bad thing.

I loved it and have been recommending it. It's the first movie that I've really enjoyed and identified with Sandra Bullock. Some say there wasn't much there in her performance, but I thought it was just enough and captivatingly so.
posted by mochapickle at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: "What I'm not clear on is whether the landers are designed to be operated by someone who doesn't know what they're doing: they're emergency vehicles, so that would make sense, but I have the impression that they do actually require some guidance."

Wasn't it established that she had some training with the Soyuz, even if she wasn't particularly good at it.* And the Shenzhou she actually ended up landing in was essentially the same thing?

* "It's not like it's rocket science or anything."
posted by brundlefly at 10:18 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, is it "known" where she landed at the end? I thought it was somewhere in China or Southeast Asia, but I've read that it was supposed to be the U.S.

The scene was filmed at Lake Powell, Arizona, so maybe there.

I think the film would have had to be set up really differently for that to work. Not that movies like this can't have sad endings, but the way this one was proceeding, it was very much about triumphing over the elements (or are there even "elements" in space?) through sheer will and luck and ingenuity. To have that end with a such a "hey, siiiiiike" ending would have felt even cheaper to me than the ending we got.

To me, it would have been a good blend of nihilism and a "happy" ending. She would have accomplished the most important thing, coming to terms with her child dying, while still not getting a "happily ever after" ending.

That said, I did like the ending we got, where she makes it back safely, but everything looks alien and different, though not in a dark way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:40 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


crocodiles, sharks, pfft. I was legitimately concerned that parasites would be her undoing.
posted by cendawanita at 10:52 AM on October 14, 2013


True, there is a dormant zombie virus in everyone's brain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:16 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


lunasol: "I'm really surprised by how many people are criticizing the movie for having thin characters and plot. I felt like it had just enough of both to be a satisfying filmgoing experience, no more, no less. And while I enjoy films with rich characters and complex plots as much as any other nerd, I really appreciated that Cuaron kept both lean here - we're meant to focus on this very singular life vs. death struggle. I felt like he gave us just enough character to make us care."

I think the reason people feel that way is because the film clearly has slots in the middle of the action where someone wrote "CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT SCENE" in the outline, but when it came time to write the whole thing they replaced those placeholders with prosaic, bathetic filler. If we have to have those scenes, I want them to be good, not just obligatory. The movie could also have gone a more minimalist route and given us even less on the character/dialog end and that would still be better than what we got on that front. The problem isn't in the misapplication of an absolute standard of what movies should provide, the problem is that the movie itself suggested a certain rubric and then underperformed in some of the areas that it itself suggested were of value.

Anyway, I've seen it twice, so I think it's pretty obvious just how much I think those scenes detracted from the experience as a whole, but they stood out to me as weak spots in what was otherwise a very tightly-constructed movie both times.
posted by invitapriore at 12:21 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a good (B+) movie - I was very entertained. However I was definitely somewhat disappointed in it.

When I heard about the movie it sounded like an intense roller-coaster ride the gives you a sense of the isolation and fear you can experience in space... but that is not what I got. I would still technically classify it as a 'thrill-ride,' and was certainly never bored, but overall I felt like I was on the scariest children's roller-coaster - moved but not rattled.
posted by rosswald at 2:01 PM on October 14, 2013


Brundlefly wrote: Wasn't it established that she had some training with the Soyuz, even if she wasn't particularly good at it. And the Shenzhou she actually ended up landing in was essentially the same thing?

Yes, but then we saw that everything in the Shenzhou is labelled in Chinese and she was basically stabbing buttons at random. Incidentally, the fact that the design is similar doesn't mean the buttons and menus would be the same, although the movie - confusingly - implies that they are. I really didn't get this bit at all; I couldn't decide whether I was supposed to feel that she was triumphantly recalling her training, or that she was totally screwed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:51 PM on October 14, 2013


My impression of the Shenzhou scene: We know from the example of Soyuz 11 that a Soyuz can re-enter and land on its own. While she "crashed the simulator every time" that would have been in manual override mode, which you're supposed to know before piloting one of those craft just in case you need it. But the process for starting automatic return, while it might not have been quite the same, might have been similar enough to the Russian version that she could find it with a little educated trial and error. (One reason for manual override is to not do something stupid like landing a craft intended to land on flat land on the side of a mountain, or on water. Oops.) Since the Soyuz is meant to be used as a lifeboat for ISS you would in fact want the auto return sequence to be easy to start, since it might be the last best chance for someone like Ryan who really shouldn't be flying it but who has no other choice.
posted by localroger at 5:09 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really didn't get this bit at all; I couldn't decide whether I was supposed to feel that she was triumphantly recalling her training, or that she was totally screwed.

You're supposed to be thrilled/happy/cheered that she's at least fighting to stay alive now, instead of just giving up.

While she "crashed the simulator every time" that would have been in manual override mode, which you're supposed to know before piloting one of those craft just in case you need it.

Not exactly. Ryan doing a spacewalk or working on the Hubble telescope would not have happened in real life. She had only been training for six months, so the most she would have done is run some experiments in a science lab, either Space Lab on the Shuttle or a module on the ISS. Training personnel wouldn't have let her simulate piloting anything, because A) there wouldn't have been time and B) Soyuz is a Russian module. Americans don't fly it.

At most, there are two astronauts aboard any Soyuz. The Russian does the piloting, the Americans act as either a flight engineer or monitor the radio and life support, that's it. Would a cosmonaut have been in the Commander or Pilot's seat on the Shuttle. Hell no. Same goes for the Russians, it's their spacecraft, they'll fly it.

The Shenzhou is clearly based on the Soyuz, but it's all new construction, so the important buttons wouldn't necessarily be in the same position as the Soyuz. But assuming they are is good enough for a movie. Besides, Ryan still has to hunt and peck a bit to find the right undocking button, so it works story wise.

Automatic landing systems are a no brainer. I think the Americans are the last country to incorporate that feature into their spacecraft. It was added to the Shuttle, but never used and its being built into the upcoming Orion spacecraft. Assuming it ever flies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:38 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


hippybear: INDEED I DID ENJOY THOSE. Thank you. Just saw it again in IMAX 3D and my mind was blown all over again, with the 33.12 speaker array and under-seat Terror Subs or whatever; the silence was even more deafening on a crazy huge sound system.
posted by jake at 5:43 PM on October 14, 2013


The small thing that bothered me the most was when she's back in the game again, and she's talking to dead Alex, telling him what she wants him to tell dead daughter. And yeah, I teared up big time during this scene. And then realized she was saying "Tell her Mommy's so proud of her. So proud, so proud..." on and on. Her daughter was four. Cute, lovable, but proud of her? She's four and she's dead. That's the place to have the Strong Female character say, "Tell her she can be proud of me. I'm going to do my best here, and she can be proud, proud, etc.."

I don't know, as the mom to a girl who is almost five that seemed unbearably realistic to me. If I wanted to make my daughter happy I'd focus on her and tell her how proud she had made me. Making it about me and how fucking fantastic I am in space seems like a weird, sort of selfish goodbye. I guess everyone comes at this from a different POV.

I saw it tonight and thought it was fantastic, and thought there was plenty of depth to the characters.

This is also another one of those times that I really miss coming home from seeing a great film and immediately looking up Roger Ebert's review. *sigh*
posted by onlyconnect at 10:23 PM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only physics thing that distracted me was her approach to the Tiangong. It is visibly juddering against the upper atmosphere. her trajectories are not visibly affected in a similar fashion. The juddering is clearly causing severe mechanical stress to the structure of the Tiangong, so it would seem likely to be a powerful enough force to affect a human body in motion. But I surely know nothing about the actual physics of that possibility.

However, it did distract me from the plot content of the scene and therefore counts as a directorial misstep.

I was totally distracted by pixelation jaggies at a couple of points due to seeing it in loMAX. Since at least once during the film, Cuaron has chosen to convey a plot point via literally no more than four pixels, this is a significant defect in the display technology when used to display this film.

The script is peppered with direct references to films, songs, and myths about space and the heavens.

Kowalski, in addition to becoming Major Tom, listens to a country song about angels.

Ryan, preparing to die, engages in a conversation with a ham radio operator, just as a ham radio operator claimed to have done with the (mythical) Lost Cosmonauts.

In that sequence, Ryan refers to red shoes, a reference both to the Wizard of Oz (and a strong hint regarding the possibility of how she managed to return to the surface of the Earth) and oddly but appropriately given the nature of Kowalski's character, a reference to the Elvis Costello song.

Ryan verbally echoes Ripley's "sole survivor" line.

I am gobsmacked by the "thin script" party. This script is densely packed and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

I certainly will see it again in at least one other 3D format, and possibly at true IMAX as well. However, it has proven impossible to determine if the screenings in true IMAX venues are at a higher base resolution than that shown at loMAX venues. As best I can determine, the standard 3D commercial resolution, including loMAX, is 2k, and and 3D screenings will only ever be digital copies. This implies that any screening of the film in 3D will originate at the same resolution as the loMAX screening I attended.

Finally, Ryan's conversation with Aningaaq was shot from the reverse. It will be on the DVD as a separate short, directed by Alfonso's son Jonas.
posted by mwhybark at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


However, it has proven impossible to determine if the screenings in true IMAX venues are at a higher base resolution than that shown at loMAX venues.

Last I heard, true IMAX theaters are all still using 70mm sideways-running film to display their movies, not digital projectors. This may have changed, as I haven't done any research on the topic in about two years. But when I was last reading up on it, they were all non-digital, actually running film through a projector, and it is a truly giant piece of film, too.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 AM on October 15, 2013


Doesn't 3D require two projectors? That seems like it would be a huge pain for film IMAX, since the film handling machinery takes up a lot of space. And would double the cost of the print.
posted by smackfu at 8:14 AM on October 15, 2013


There's a bit of a discussion for that in this article from about 18 months ago. The answer is, yes. True IMAX 3D requires two projectors.
posted by hippybear at 5:09 PM on October 15, 2013


Oh, I am mistaken. It's the Digital that requires two projectors. I have no idea how True IMAX 3D films are projected.
posted by hippybear at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2013


The film was finished at 2k. Even if you happened to find a theater that was projecting at a higher resolution than 2k nothing would be gained as the source material is 2k.
posted by matt_od at 9:09 PM on October 15, 2013


Bragging time... I was lucky enough to see this movie at the Paragon Cineplex AIS 4DX in Bangkok. I really didn't know what to expect, my guess was essentially a higher-quality theme park ride. But the theater seemed like an interesting diversion and this happened to be the movie playing while we were there.

People are lauding Gravity's excellent use of 3D, especially compared to the lazy and distracting 3D used by other films. Well, believe it or not, they managed to apply the same standards to the "4DX" experience.

When the camera turned away from the planet, your seat would tilt accordingly, giving you a sense that the world had actually moved relative to your view. That would be distracting in most films, where motion in POV shots usually just means the character is turning their head, not their entire body. Gravity pulls it off because of the spacesuits: moving your entire body is how you would be looking around.

When Sandra Bullock was slammed into a wall, the seat would jolt you in the correct direction as if you were the one who'd been hit. This was pretty well done, but often skirted the "theme park ride" feel. However, it was worth it for the times that her back would hit an uneven surface (which was fairly frequent, actually)... your seat would actually jab you in the back, not painfully but enough to trick you into feeling the character's pain. This is a little like how you'll sometimes say "ouch!" when you see something that you think will hurt you, even if it doesn't turn out to physically hurt at all. It really made the on-screen environment seem like it was made of solid objects.

The "4DX" gimmick I was least looking forward to was the smell-o-vision. Here again, Gravity turned out to be a perfect movie for this theater: space isn't exactly full of smells like "white gardenia" or "pacific breeze". So as far as I could tell, they didn't actually use the scents at all (not even things like "fire", which is thankful since it was a crowded theater). What they did use was the air blast. Picture an airlock in the movie. Now imagine feeling the air wash over your face when it opens. It didn't get to happen often, but when it did I swear to god my brain felt for all the world like it had been asphyxiating until that moment (I'm presuming "asphyxiation" isn't one of the theater's features).

Couple that with the excellent 3D offered by the film, and it was really a remarkable experience. Not perfect, but better than it had any right to be given that these features were only developed for a handful of theaters in the world and wouldn't have been a filmmaking priority. It's telling that the Thai subtitles were the most distracting part of the film, rather than the moving chairs or blasts of air.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:48 AM on October 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just adding in my chime here -

Saw it last night, and definitely agree with the critics of the human element. The coming-to-terms and redemption portions seemed overdone, and honestly I would have been happier not knowing her at all, since her grief and humanity have little to do with my identification with her as the protagonist. I just want to see her get through space and do all this stuff because it's exciting and she is a person who does those things. Panicking, hysteria, crying, hallucinating, all good - except trying to tie in the whole daughter and Clooney "spirit animal" (as my friend admirably put it) just made it seem melodramatic. That and the final triumphant crotch shot. And I say this as a MASSIVE fan of Children of Men, Cuaron, and Lubezki.

With those out the way, it was definitely one of the most tense and visually powerful movies I've ever seen, and I thought the 3D and everything was great.

but i'm also on team "how did clooney float away"
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just back from seeing this. I thought it was terrific. There is a lot to love about this movie, and any quibbles I have are sort of sublimated to that. (Tho I agree the physics of Clooney-floating-away was the only one of the physics things that made me go "wait, why..?")

I took it the presence of all the little religious icons in the various space capsules was meant to signify "others have passed this way before, and they have all been scared as hell at times too".
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:56 PM on October 23, 2013


but i'm also on team "how did clooney float away"

He didn't float away, he simply never stopped moving, though Stone did slow him down a bit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 AM on October 24, 2013


About Sandra Bullock's sometimes-sorta-inane dialogue - early on she says she just wants silence, but then by the end she is talking to calm herself down, relishing the sound of the guy's voice on earth, talking to encourage herself, etc. Anybody remember if there is a clear turning point on this, where she starts talking more, or is it just gradual throughout?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2013


Also I kept thinking - holy grip strength, Batman. Is there something in astronaut gloves like a lock-closed mechanism or something, so that when you grab a handhold and you go from flying right to snapped all the way around left, you don't just lose your grip? Or is this my earth-physics intuitions getting in the way, and it really would be easier than I think to hold on?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anybody remember if there is a clear turning point on this

That is such an interesting observation, I really hadn't thought of that. I'm not positive which of these happened first, but I remember (1) the first time she floats away she keeps talking to try to reestablish contact so someone can help her, and (2) when she and Clooney have regrouped and he is reporting damage/bodies etc. although the satellites are all down, she asks Clooney why he keeps reporting and he tells her something like, you keep talking because you hope someone is listening and eventually someone is. Then later when he is gone she starts reporting everything, too, when she gets into the ship by herself and is looking for him and reporting him lost, then trying to fly the ship. I noticed her doing this reporting and thought she was just taking Clooney's helm as the astronaut in charge here and doing what Clooney had taught her, but you are right that wanting silence, no contact/communication is sort of a theme throughout the movie.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:18 AM on October 24, 2013


Also I kept thinking - holy grip strength, Batman. Is there something in astronaut gloves like a lock-closed mechanism or something, so that when you grab a handhold and you go from flying right to snapped all the way around left, you don't just lose your grip? Or is this my earth-physics intuitions getting in the way, and it really would be easier than I think to hold on?

It's my understanding that the astronauts have at least two tethers, so they're never actually separated from the ship or station and they spend years training on how to move in space. It's all slow movements and constant communication with Mission control about their current and next movements.

Otherwise, there's no lock mechanism. It's hard to for them to move their hands, because the suit is pressurized. I've heard it's similar to having to squeeze a tennis ball for anything they want to do. Plus their tactile sense isn't very good with the thick loves and pressure suit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on October 24, 2013


Reading up on all the Gravity articles, this one from Ars Technica (which is an astronaut-trainer discussing just the trailer) addresses the grip strength shots:
At about 3:25 in the video, Clooney masterfully sticks a hand-hold and stops himself. This seemed implausible to me—after all, on top of Clooney's own mass, the EMU weighs more than a hundred pounds. Then there's the weight of his faux-MMU. Could he really grab and hold that much mass, or would he just pull his shoulder out of socket?

"What hurts me the most about that shot—and it's a cool shot!—is less his ability to grab the handrail and more the impact that happens on his life support backpack and his visor," commented Scoville. "I mean, he swings around and his visor goes SMASH into that metal structure, which, I mean, would probably have shattered his visor. There's a lot of severe impact to the suit that it just wouldn't be able to take."

I hadn't noticed, because I'd been watching Clooney grab for the rail. But we replayed the scene, and sure enough, Clooney thuds right into the ISS truss and smashes his helmet after he grabs the rail. "Would his hand be able to grab like that?" continued Scoville as we watched. "Sure. You can get a pretty good grip on those rails—they're sort of designed to be the perfect size to get a good grip on. You probably wouldn't have your shoulder coming out of socket in this case—there's lots of axial restraints in the suit fabric, and a lot of load would be transferred along the suit itself."

This sounded a lot more preferable to having your shoulder wrenched, but then Scoville finished: "So, the suit arm might get ripped off, probably before your shoulder would."

"In the grand scheme of things, that actually sounds like the worse of the two options," I opined. A wrenched shoulder would almost certainly be preferable to, say, being subject to near-immediate decompression as your suit's arm is torn away.

He laughed again. "Yeah, right! But to grab with your hands, it wouldn't be any harder than if you were falling at that speed. They look like they're moving maybe, five or eight feet per second."
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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