Friday, October 25, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

We all missed out when the makers of Europa Report decided to rip the accessibility to this great movie away from us this summer.  The movie is now available both on DVD and Net Streaming, and better late than never, but damn, what a missed opportunity those filmmakers had.  They could have made millions, and completely dropped the ball.

Fortunately, for those of us who live for true hard sci-fi movies, there is now one which has made up for this tragic loss. Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who share a close working relationship in outer space.  This movie has finally given Hollywood the wake-up call it so richly deserves, sending it the message that science fiction doesn't have to be done like Men In Black in order to be successful. There are now three great cinema works of hard sci-fi: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, and Gravity.

I have no intention of revealing the whole plot of the film, nor will I spoil it for you by giving away the ending, but I will give you the synopsis to whet your appetite, because it truly is an excellent story.  It begins with a space shuttle mission, which is a somewhat dated idea since all our space shuttles have now been retired. The shuttle is doing yet another repair on the Hubble Space Telescope, which again is a bit dated as the HST has now officially been de-funded by NASA.  But if you can get past this, the stage becomes set for a truly massive outer-space adventure. Many satellites operate in close-circuit with each other, sitting in the Clarke orbit, allowing our telecommunications companies to give us everything from full-coverage sports to GPS location. But in this movie, a chance meteor happens to hit one of the nearby satellites. The result is entirely plausible, and quite disastrous. An eruption of bullet-speed shrapnel gets blasted away from the hit satellite, which hits another satellite, which makes more shrapnel, which hits another satellite, which makes more shrapnel to hit another satellite, and so forth in a chain reaction which renders much of the world telecom-blind. Or, as George Clooney's character quips afterward, "Half of North America just lost their Facebook!"

After this, the plot of the film is simple: Survival! The HST and the space shuttle are hit, and destroyed. The astronauts who avoid being killed find themselves stranded and locked in a desperate chase to find any way home, going first to the International Space Station (which abandoned ship at the first sign of trouble), and then to a Chinese satellite as a last-resort. What happens after that, you'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

This is a true science adventure, where all the realities of being in outer space are accurately depicted. Explosions are not heard, merely seen. Sounds of tools being used are not really heard at all, but come across as the muffled residual sounds that travel up the space suit and into the ears of the astronauts inside their helmets. And when an astronaut goes spinning off out of control, he keeps spinning and spinning at the same rate, never slowing down, completely unable to stop the dizzying, stomach-churning terror of the experience. This might not be a movie for the faint of heart, or for those who get sick easily. This is also not a movie for those who want ray-guns, lightsabres, ships which bank as they turn, and all the other unforgivable scientific inaccuracies normally found in movies.

But for those who love space adventures for the science, you're in for a real treat!