The Oscars are Sunday, March 2, and one of the leading films is none other than Alfonso Cuaron’s cinematic marvel, Gravity. This film was the highest rated film of 2013 on sites like Rottentomatoes and Metacritic, and is tied for the most Oscar nominations with American Hustle. Despite its praise, there have been plenty of people online calling it the most overrated film of the year. Does Gravity deserve the praise and award nominations it’s received, or should this final frontier be Cuaron’s final film?
Sandra Bullock plays a medical engineer astronaut named Dr. Ryan Stone, who is in space for the first time. With her is a veteran astronaut played by George Clooney. Due to a Russian missile strike on dysfunctional satellite, a chain reaction of space debris is created, and the crew finds themselves in serious danger. The inexperienced Stone comes to be alone and must desperately try to reach other space stations to survive. Unfortunately, this is a fictional film where Murphy’s Law is all over the place, and in space, no one can hear you repeatedly gasp for oxygen.
The film’s plot is simplistic and not overly complicated. It’s also not too long, clocking in at an hour and a half. Stone does have a tragic backstory, but it doesn’t take over the plot and adds to her character. Bullock was rightfully nominated for her acting in this movie. She had a lot of camera time and balanced her character’s fear with her professionalism from her training. If Bullock had performed only adequately or worse, I don’t think this film would have gotten the amount of attention it did. If you’re going to focus on a character for an entire movie, it’s important to have the right talent. The film was originally going to star Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey Jr, but Bullock’s performance makes it impossible to imagine the film with any other actors.
The film heavily relies on its special effects to tell the story, and with a year of cities blowing up, treasure hoarding dragons, and more Iron Man suits than you can count, this movie completely blew me away with its graphics. If you ever have the opportunity to see this movie in Imax, I highly recommend it. There are fantastic shots of the earth and space that are truly breathtaking.
The film also does a great job making the audience experience the terror Stone is going through and gives them a feeling of helplessness with shots of Stone spinning out of control and drifting off into space. There are also nods to acclaimed space films of the past like Apollo 13, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even WALL-E.
The film makes use of symbolic and artistic visuals. I won’t spoil any symbolic shots, but let’s just say fans of classes like film adaptation are going to have a field day with this one. The music is also glorious and atmospheric. It is intense, then calm at the right times, and allows you to take the scene in.
If there’s anything bad I have to say about this film, it’s that some of the dialogue is too stilted, particularly in the scene where Stone talks to a fisherman on Earth, though it’s saved by Bullock’s acting. Some scenes can be a little dizzying at times, too. I’ve also heard there are some scientific inaccuracies, but these issues aren’t big enough to take away from the film’s charm.
What I like the most about Gravity is that I can call it more of an experience than a movie. Groundbreaking graphics, an atmospheric soundtrack, and top notch performances make this movie the marvel that everyone claims it to be. I didn’t think any space movie could be topped after Apollo 13 or WALL-E, and I didn’t think that any 3-D movie could be topped after Avatar, but Alfonso Cuaron has thankfully proved me wrong. Films like these make me excited for the future and how the world of cinema can continue to evolve and make the audience experience masterpieces like this.