Sunday 8 March 2015


“Good science fiction is intelligent. It asks big questions that are on people's minds. It's not impossible. It has some sort of root in the abstract.” - Nicolas Cage

We watched Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 movie “Gravity” at the weekend. It starred Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris (voice only). I had been looking forward to seeing this film after hearing all the hype about it and also seeing it received a rating of 7.9/10 in IMDB. Well, unfortunately it proved to be a case of “when you hear there are lots of cherries for the picking at some place, be prepared by taking with you only a small basket…”, as my grandfather used to say. This was a woeful movie, full of clichés and almost no plot, no character development, overlong (even at 91 minutes!), and frankly, boring.

In a nutshell this is what happens: Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) is in charge of the Shuttle Explorer mission to repair the Hubble Telescope by the rookie specialist Ryan Stone (Bullock). Suddenly Houston control advises them to abort the mission with a warning that a Russian missile hit a satellite, causing a chain reaction of destruction, with large clusters of debris coming upon them. Soon the astronauts lose communication with Mission Control in Houston. The debris strikes the Explorer and Ryan is cut loose from the shuttle while Kowalski is forced to bring her back. However, the Explorer is completely damaged and now their only chance to return to Earth is to reach a space station. But being short of oxygen and fuel is the least of their problems...

I love good science fiction and I am prepared to allow Sci-Fi to bend the rules of physics, for a good reason, and also I put up with a director using some clichés, provided he/she is packing some punch with plot, good characters or being innovative in dealing with some social, political or interpersonal issues, as all good science fiction does. “Gravity” fails in this respect. From start to finish there were blatant factual errors in everything from the laws of physics, engineering and orbital mechanics, right down to the unidentifiable views of the earth from space (yes, I saw the Nile and Arabia, as well as Florida, but nothing else recognisable). There is no intelligent plot, no world-shaking challenges, no engagement of the viewer.

Ryan Stone who was meant to be an astronaut behaved like a small child when trying to fly spacecraft, even resorting to “eenie-meenie-miney-moe” when trying to find the right button to press for some critical and essential function. Matt Kowalski was a pain to listen to and came across as complete idiot bordering on dementia, repeating trite stories about his life to Mission Control while offering motherhood statements and inane advice to Ryan.

The film is a special effects extravaganza, with CGI and special attention to 3D gimmicky. It’s meant to “wow” people with its depiction of how it would be to float up in space with the earth above/below/beside you as you spin all around. Yes, that’s OK for 5 minutes… What happens if there is no story and no good characters to make your film a memorable, engaging experience? Viewers lose interest and become bored.

I must say that I am becoming very wary of George Clooney films. They have disappointed me in the past (I shudder when I remember the bathos of “The Men Who Stare at Goats” or the muddled and pretentious “Syriana” or the disappointing “The American” – ugh!). It’ll have to be on the recommendation of someone I trust very much that I will now go and watch another Clooney film…

“Gravity” was a waste of my time. I’d rather watch a good old-fashioned sci-fi movie like one of the “Star Trek” series or one of the “Star Wars” ones! Better stories, better actors, great humour and special effects galore as well. If it’s drama, character development and tension you want instead, then watch a standard earthbound film, no need to go out in space or watch pretend science fiction!

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