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Okay, let’s get it out of the way: Gravity is probably the greatest visual achievement in cinematic history. It’s 90 minutes of sumptuous cinematography and glorious visual effects, enhanced by Steven Price’s wonderful score. Frankly, it’s a sensory overload, packed with detail and as awe-inspiring as anything you will have ever seen before. It’s yet another step forward for feature film – the question is, where can we go from here?
The $100m budget is evident in every single shot, and the incredible visuals are worth the 3D ticket price alone. Ignore the supposed scientific errors (you could have fooled me) – just relax and enjoy the view. So, what else do you get from your money? Well, Gravity’s deep space setting means that our actors are very isolated- and with only 2 actors with their faces on screen across the whole movie, there was a tough task for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney to maintain our interest. I can’t speak for everyone but they succeeded in keeping my attention. Bullock, on screen for practically the entire film, is totally engaging, carrying the whole film upon her shoulders. Meanwhile, Clooney (a late replacement for Robert Downey Junior) turns in his usual laconic performance, just exuding charisma whilst also maintaining an unflappable air. The two totally justify their reputations, and carry a plot that could have done with a few more re-writes.
Gravity is almost exclusively Alfonso Cuaron’s vision. He directed, co-wrote, co-produced, and co-edited the movie, and his first directorial effort since 2006’s Children of Men highlights both progression and regression in his canon. Because, whilst the ambition and creativity shown in this project will undoubtedly enter cinematic folklore, his plot and script are actually fairly shoddy. Gravity is living proof (as was Avatar) that if you chuck enough money at the visual effects department, you’ll get a successful film. The simple fact of the matter, though, is that without the marvellous CGI, we’re left with a fairly mediocre space drama that is devoid of any major plot structure. Sure, with a film of this type, the plot was always going to service the effects (rather than the other way around) but a more engaging story may well have held our attention a little better.
It also takes a very long time to get going. Yes, it almost gets a pass because of those gorgeous shots, but nothing really happens for the first near-quarter of the film. There’s also a curiously unsatisfying denouement, far too predictable and lacking the emotional punch it was clearly supposed to have.
Overall, then, is Gravity a success? Commercially, the answer is yes. And it’s been a critical phenomenon as well. It’s visually stunning but hollow underneath – however much it attempts to deceive us otherwise, the fact is that Gravity exists primarily to show us what can be done with technology nowadays. But, yes, those visuals aren’t half bad.