Gravity was sold as many things. It was sold as top notch science fiction, though it has nothing to say. It was sold as visually stunning, i.e. the very purpose CGI was created, as if that alone can anchor a film. It was sold as a vehicle for George Clooney, who isn’t in this all that much. Finally, it was sold as an event. And like all events, it pulled in people who praised it to high Heaven, but who won’t remember it after the next event.
Bullock must now go from point A to point B to point C, while solving crises A, B and C, all the while trying not to go all weepy. If she succeeds, then she will have found a way to return to the Earth safely. If she fails... well, no sequel for her.
Nothing else happens.
This Film SucksThat last line is kind of a give away, don’t you think? This film suffers from the problem that its screenplay is inherently boring... dullsville with a side of inertia. Yes, the scenes where the shuttle, the space station, and the Russian space station get torn to shreds are nicely done with some wonderful CGI near misses – sadly, they are also so complex that you can’t really feel any tension, all you can do is wait to see what happens because you have no way to track what poses a threat and what doesn’t. But beyond that, nothing happens in this script. Indeed, the entire script turns on whether or not Bullock can reach certain handles and think about certain solutions to various problems.
What draws people to disaster films? For one thing, seeing the destruction allows people to experience things they fear (e.g. a building fire, a meteor strike, a nuclear war, a sinking ship) and wonder how they would handle them. But what really keeps people interested in these films is not the few moments of the disaster, it is the characters you follow who try to escape their fates. Now, I know that sadist Roland Emmerich thinks we see disaster movies so we can see millions of CGI people get killed, but he’s wrong. We see these films for the survivors, not the victims.
And in that regard, we need to like the survivors. Yes, they need to sell us on the reality of the danger and, yes, they need to sell us on the reality of their escape, but their greatest duty in the film is to win us over so that we actively pull for them to survive.
In Gravity, that duty falls entirely on the shoulders of Sandra Bullock. Unfortunately, she’s not up to the task. She’s monotone and depressed throughout and impossible to relate to. Moreover, they cut her off from everyone almost immediately. We lose touch with the Earth the moment the disaster strikes. The rest of the crew is killed at the same time. Clooney lasts longer, but not much – not that it mattered because she and Clooney had zero chemistry. So what you are left with is a woman with little charisma who has no one to talk to, no foil to work against, no one she needs to talk up or fight, and no one who can try to bring her out of her shell for us. You might as well have replaced her with a chimpanzee.
You have none of that here.
All you have here is Bullock running a gerbil maze in space hoping to find the door to safety. There’s nothing heroic or inspirational. There’s nothing to fear either, as her death never resonates with us as any kind of a loss. Even worse, the destruction of the various space vehicles is so thorough and so instant that her survival feels like it was purely a fluke. Since she’s living on borrowed time, it doesn’t bother us as much if she finally succumbs to reality and dies.
So why did critics praise it? Likely because the visuals were impressive, though they grow old fast. It probably didn’t hurt that director Alfonso Cuaron is a leftist turd who always gets praise from critics, but rare connects with the public. Clooney too seems to be drawing more and more critical praise as the public slowly turns their back on him. Finally, I think the biggest reason is simply groupthink. Every couple years, a film comes along that all the critics praise because they know they need to maintain their herd credibility. This was one of those.
In the end, I can’t recommend this film. The visuals are no better than something about space from the Discovery Channel. The plot and characters are nonexistent. The film is an emotionless experience. I’d pass on this one.