First off, if you have an IMAX 3D option in town where Gravity is playing, then that’s how you should see it. After walking out of the IMAX theatre, it struck me that watching Gravity in any other format, even in regular movie widescreen 3D, would border on the pointless.
It was obviously filmed with the immersive IMAX 3D experience in mind, and that’s certainly how it makes its biggest impact. All the wide-open space scenes are extraordinary in such a huge format, and every tug of tether, spin of body and hurtle of debris is amplified in its intensity.
While there were certainly aspects to the movie I didn’t like at all (e.g., the main character’s tragic backstory accomplished nothing beyond the film grinding to a halt at regular intervals so that Sandra Bullock could perform her best Oscar nomination tap-dance routine), it redeemed itself the rest of the time by successfully stirring disaster, horror and action ingredients into a lovely, simmering stewpot of entertainment.
As debris fields whizzed past, or fierce fires broke out, or oxygen ran low and the threat of death loomed, I realised that I was watching a modified horror/slasher film where the insanely relentless and unstoppable killing machine was the ruthless intractability of outer space itself — there were no bargains that could be made, no mercy to be found, nowhere to secure relief.
And with misfortune multiplying and characters attempting to flee to any point that even hinted of safety (no matter how impossible the odds), it also felt a bit like a 70s disaster flick — as if The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno hooked up for a night of thrills and gave birth to a survivalist-tinged space-fiction movie forty years later.
The cinematography, visual effects and sound work were all excellent and you can almost feel like you’re adrift in cold space yourself at times, so it was a shame that the writer/director chose to undercut the hyper-realist horror of the lost-in-space scenario with buckets of gooey, made-on-Earth sentimentality.
But I’m not entirely unreasonable and can concede that the heavy dosage of sentimentality was likely a necessary sop to financial reality — by ratcheting up the tear-jerking quotient, they put more ticket-buyers in the seats than they would have if they’d stuck to the less heart-tugging disaster/horror/action mix. Yet while the ooey-gooeyness didn’t ruin the experience for me, it did yank the movie out of an orbit of possible greatness and down into merely decent cruising altitude.
So Gravity is certainly watchable — and best watchable in IMAX 3D — but the “transcendent” hype is pretty out of control at this point, much like you noted with Pacific Rim and your rapturous fanboi/fangirl Twitterfeed. Granted, Gravity exhibits more overt fun and joy than Pacific Rim, but while the movie leaps out of the gate with a genuine, adrenalin-pounding bang, the emotional ride begin to feel more than a tad manipulative and forced by the end (the tears-in-zero-gravity scene, especially).
*RELEVANT ASIDE: Frankly, if movie studios want to keep bringing audiences to the theatres, this is the way to do it. The 3D aspect to Gravity felt necessary for a more engaging and immersive experience rather than gimmicky or tacked on just for “We’re doing it, too!” kicks. I’ve never seen such urgent, gorgeous destruction, and the 3D visuals added a sense of depth to what might otherwise have felt like flat, cramped pods and capsules.
*NOTE 1: A real astronaut weighs in: Astronaut’s worst fear: ‘floating off into space’
*NOTE 2: I kept wondering as I watched, will this movie spark the interest of a new generation of young people in space exploration, or will it scare everyone so sh*tless that no one will want to leave planet Earth again?
*NOTE 3: A real scientist takes to Twitter for an anti-Gravity fact check: Astrophysicist Questions Science of New Movie ‘Gravity’