Monday, November 18, 2013

Gravity: another plotless light show

I make a habit of avoiding movies, even on Senior Citizen day. Most are too expensive, too long, too visual, and too short of the one component that makes a good movie: a good story.

Let's be real about this. Space Odyssey, another sic-fi space adventure, at least offered a more interesting character than George Clooney in HAL, the computer. It also had a plot that, at various stages, suggested a creation story, an evolutionary theory, and a man vs. machine confrontation. The film does feature Sandra Bullock, though, who performance is the movie's only highlight.  Gravity is just another disaster film, piling one unlikely adversity upon another upon another: BUT they occur in zero gravity, with the Earth as its backdrop, and (drum roll) in 3-D!!!

Totally Awesome, Dude!!!

Screenwriter,  Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) adopted this story from a screenplay his son had written a number of years earlier. However, the script was hardly a script - it was more an outline of events (colossally tragic events) all to be shot (if possible) in lengthy"single takes." Which, more than anything else, explains the raves Bullock is receiving - she survived an endurance test and maintained her character - what little we know of that character.

As an early reviewer put It: "This character needs someone with some serious acting chops…This draft of Gravity – whichever draft it is – is pretty average. Despite that, I still think this is one of the microscopic sampling of subpar screenplays that can actually make a great film."

And: "While I know this is going to play out much more excitingly on screen, on paper it’s like watching Groundhog Day…" Another reviewer really nailed it: "The other criticism at this point, which goes along with the thin characterization of Ryan, is that the action is repetitive and unleavened by any humor. But if the technological ambition that is rumored for the film turns out to be true, this could still be a showstopper."

And so it has turned out to be: a real showstopper. But so, too, was Space Odyssey. While it also relied on some fairly advanced (for that time) special effects, the storyline came from Arthur Clarke, a very proficient creator of science fiction that featured plot, substance, and well-defined characters you cared about (or hated). Gravity, on the other hand, is a movie remarkable only for its technological achievements and selection of Sandra Bullock (rather than Scarlett Johansson). There are Oscars for those categories: "Special Effects" and Best Actress.

Best Movie? Hardly.