“Gravity” a review by Alan Farrell


Gravity: Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón (who also wrote the screenplay with someone suspiciously also named Cuaron, no relation since the acute accent on the ultima of Curarón reveals the one as obviously from Argentina while the want of an accent on the other name changes the whole picture and brands the guy—oddly enough named Jonás—as Ecuadoran. Sooooo…). Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney… and that’s it. And if you believe, as do I, that the two of them can sustain an hour and half of flick all by themselves and therefore cough up thirteen bucks for the ticket and three-D goggles, you may discover yourself halfway cheated somewhere around the middle of the flick but you didn’t hear it from me.

The vasty emptiness of soulless vacuity. The inchoate void destitute of passion or purpose. Mechanical randomness without human value or spirit. That’s the script. Turns out the movie is set in blackest space on top of it. Where there is no gravity. Which make you wonder just how Cuarón and Cuaron (no relation) lit upon the title… unless they had gravitas in mind and they might be on track there on account of ain’t not nothing funny in this one. That want of gravity, though, end up being the spur to whatever action we can find in this epic, since per Newton’s Second (or one of them) anything set in motion threatens to remain in motion until it careen off an I-beam or a gantry leg or an articulated arm or a space whoozis and then shoosh off in another direction until the next slam into some kind of extra-orbital debris whereupon it the carom away into the next mechanical doohickey and on and on for as long as it hold our attention (through those three-D glasses)… and then just thaaaaaaaaat much longer.

The danger here is the CGI stuff, as if us heavy-duty cineemah critics have not with sufficiency inveighed against the substitution of stuff for story. Recent spate of flicks to include the Ring Endless-ology, the Marvel superhero stuff, sequels to Mummy and others have permitted themselves to slip the surly bonds of art for the doubtless artful but ultimately stultifying ersatz of craft. The saddest dimension of this electronically-forged alloy is that alls a feller gots to do is push send a second time and you can have the same stuff again, slo-mo this time, different angle this time, closer-up this time and on and on. That, the manna of technicians, is just vulgar, sad; to have enlisted and squandered George Clooney (whose noble chin and manly baritone could be the avatar… no the attar… no the atavism… no the atabr… no, well, hell… the very model of American virilism) and Sandra Bullock (she of whom the cleft chin and spunky femality wander fruitlessly in ether—if a chin may wander though in defense of that image I have seen fruitless femality—after a script worthy where she can maybe scrap the spunky but remain American beauty) is plain ol’ vanilla criminal.

Story? Oh, you wanted a story for thirteen bucks? Want my advice? Keep those flockin’ three-D glasses on account of that’s all you’re getting, buddy. Critics—the real ones, the big-timers—mooing about this one for its sumptuous production values and marvelous reconstructions (pre-constructions, maybe) of space-dreck. I dunno. Seem to me that Disney did all this stuff way back in the sixties: suit-swaddled guys slowly, voluptuously tumbling through tenebrous silence; sleeky space vehicles glumly and remorsely orbiting; planetary orbs rising, then falling into the plane of vision. Actual artists with brushes and quills did that. Anyway. Story: Ryan Stone, Professor of Physics (or something) has contrived a device (program… like there’s a difference) that evidently only she, novice astro-person, can repair and which has gone kerflooey, hence her projection into space. This mission, in tandem with space veteran Matt Kowalski (Clooney… anybody notice that Kowalski is the go-to name for ethnic down-to-earthitude: Stanley in Desire, Walt in Torino), is to unflummox the continuum transfunctioner. As Stone executes space-looking technical stuff with a spac- impactwrench to loosen space-bolts and other space-doodahs, Kowlaski floats benignly about, manly clucking up and bucking up the distraught professor who’s ill at ease in extra-vehicular activity. All of a sudden, whoa, buddy… here come a batch of space-flotsam from those flockin’ Rooshans whose space-something-or-other has just exploded. A flying field of shrapnel whizzes through and beyond the American craft, severing the tethers that link Kowalski and Stone to air, warmth, safety… each other. Whoa, buddy!

How to regain paradise, so to speak, to reenter the world of life and energy from out this trackless desert of nothing? Here’s your ninety (less ten) minutes of drama. Think she’ll make it? What resources does a fee-male professor have in a world of desolation and mechanical—and Rooshan and Chinese—indifference? As one door—make that hatch—after another shuts and our air supply (along with our attention span) dwindles and space-fragments shoot by every 27 minutes in relentless orbitude, chances for survival grow slimmer and slimmer. And speaking of slim, it’s almost worth thirteen bucks when Dr. Stone, temporarily refuging in a capsule of some kind, sheds her suit-chrysalis in slow motion to reveal a lithe, blithe silhouette that ought to net her personal trainer an Oscar ™ nod. She’s what? …forty-something? In the restricted space of the airlock, her body describes a languorous arc that the big-timers are already labeling “fetal,” shades of that final scene from 2001, either derivative or homage, can never get those straight, like there’s a difference anyhow.

Sooooo… You got George Clooney and Sandra Bullock lost in space and maybe implicit in the title is that gravity will ultimately bring them back down to Earth and shared adversity bring them at last together where they can… now what would you like to see George Clooney and Sandra Bullock do? …in slow motion? Oh, really. That’s what you’d do? You kiss your Mom with that mouth? Well, you’ll never guess in a million years what Cuatró and Cuatro do. And if you do guess, you’ll never figure out in a million years what it means. Craft without art. Inexplicable equals heavy. You’d think somebody out there in Left-Coast bazillion-dollar-budget-land would say, “Hey, squirrels! Got a story to go with that ‘concept’?” And dumping out of nowhere a dead daughter on Stone do not count as a story (backstory does not equal story).

I will admit this, howsomever, at one point Stone accepts that she’ll likely die in minutes with air pressure subsiding in her cabin and no rescue on the horizon… which is where, anyhow, since there’s no gravity and therefore no down?). As a tear forms in the corner of those immense, limpid (brown, I think) eyes (…and what the flockin’ hell was she doing with that dirtbag motorcycle guy anyhow? Those duck guys all spoken for? Sheesh! We all knew that was gonna end in tragedy and… uh, sorry…), then burbles into a pearlescent spheroid, tremulous and flawless and immobile for the briefest moment, then drifts ever so gently, ever so languidly out and out and out right off the screen and on through the interstice that has separated us from her and our humanity from hers. In that fleeting moment and for that fleeting moment, those guys got something right, aquiver right on the sill of… entertainment.

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9 Responses to “Gravity” a review by Alan Farrell

  1. Steve Colton says:

    When I read the first (rave) reviews, I thought, this sounds inanely absurd. After your wonderful (as always) dissection, I have even less incentive to see this. Why is it impossible to get decent science fiction on film (or whatever). Best I have seen in years is Firefly.

  2. Karim says:

    “have permitted themselves to slip the surly bonds of art for the doubtless artful but ultimately stultifying ersatz of craft.”
    Well said. Thank you for the review.

  3. Fred says:

    Don’t they teach the uses of ‘duck’ tape in PHD programs any longer?

  4. Charles I says:

    Dammit, now I’ll have to watch just to get to the capsule scene . . .and yes, I would kiss my mother with this mouth, but not with your mind.

  5. DickT says:

    I haven’t been to a 3D movie since Abbatoir(sp?). The cool thing I found then is that if you turn the 3D glasses upside down you can see the way they composited the movie. One good example was the way the gauges on the instrument panel are shifted with respect to the console. There are lots of other really neat effects.

  6. JohnH says:

    IMHO Sandra Bullock is a mindless chatterbox whose primary acting asset is her endless prater that fills up the allotted two hours without much needed forethought or expense. Fate seems to have destined her to roles with trite, poorly planned plots. You couldn’t pay me to see one of her films.
    Having said that, my wife loved it. Special effects and 3-D. That judgement from her was unprecedented.

  7. elkern says:

    I enjoyed it; but I’m a true Sci-Fi geek, the kind who likes 2001, A Space Oddyssey. (TWIL didn’t like it).
    Sure, I’ve got plenty of serious quibbles (a Medical Doctor, sent to repair some electrical device? Guessing about which button to push in a Chinese spaceship, and guessing right?), but while watching it, I found it easy to suspend disbelief.
    This was the first Sci-Fi movie which I was able to look at as being NOT sci-fi – there was NO magic future-tech at all!
    BTW, I think it was named “Gravity” because of the very last scene, when it becomes a recognizable physiological problem, rather than an unbeatable, invisible strategic enemy. Looked at that way, it’s a great name for the flick.

  8. Medicine Man says:

    Thank you for the review, Mr. Farrell.
    This isn’t a film I’m really interested in seeing. It strikes me as main a “spectacle”-type film and I’m not all that interested in the premise. I shall take your review as confirmation that I was right to give it a swerve.
    Oddly, I’ve heard in other quarters that Bullock was actually not half bad in this one though. This is remarkable because she tends to suck in films that aren’t at least partly comedy.

  9. Medicine Man says:

    I want to add that I’m happy to see you mention the endless Ring-ology while talking about CGI overkill. While I’ve enjoyed most of them to some extent, I do feel that Peter Jackson has a certain lack of restraint, both with his “all in”-attitude towards big spectacles and his tendency to cudgel the audience across the face with sentimentality.
    My wife is going to insist we see the next one in the theatre and while I’m sure I won’t hate it, I’m confident that there are going to be one or two eye-roll worthy moments to sit through.

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