Genre: Thriller
Premise: An astronaut finds herself fighting for her life when the space shuttle is destroyed during a space walk.
About: Alfonso Cuaron is paving his way towards becoming the best director in the world. The Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director is known for his long takes that leave fellow industry folks shaking their heads in awe. But he’s gone to a new level with his new film, setting up dozens of never-ending shots in space, with the camera often drifting instead of cutting, leaving you wondering, “How the heck did he do that?” Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and came out this weekend. It WAY over-performed, grossing 55 million dollars.
Writers: Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron (his brother)
Details: 90 minutes

GRAVITY

Oh Gravity.

Why do you make it so difficult for me?

You have one of the greatest directors in the world directing your film. You have cutting edge special effects. You invented new equipment to make your movie (who does that besides James Cameron??). You’re one of the only films in existence that can claim its use of 3-D actually made the movie better. From a macro sense, you’re everything movies should be. You’re new. You’re different. You’re taking chances. You’re showing the audience something they’ve never seen before. In short, you’ve made going to the movies exciting.

But mannnnn….

Why?

Why does it feel like you missed the mark?

Missed the mark??? Carson, are you crazy? This movie was a tour de force, a cinematic opus, a cumberbatch of movement, frenzy, and Clooney. It was a pan fried chocolate peanut butter cup dipped in caramel and served on top of free-range ice cream. It was freaking awesome!

Yeah, but, but, but the script! The script I say! I loved watching Gravity. But I never CONNECTED to Gravity. I was always spinning just out of its orbit, desperately trying, just like Sandra Bullock, to feel something. Yet I couldn’t. Why? Why couldn’t I love this???

In order to explain this, you have to understand what we’re dealing with. And since I pretty awesomely summarized the plot of Gravity in my script review, I’m going to re-post it here:

Ryan Stone is a young medical engineer who never planned on becoming an astronaut. In fact, she had a job as a regular engineer down on earth as little as eight months ago. But now – right now – she’s up on the space shuttle, fixing one of the many “panels” that always seem to need fixing up in space. There are a few other astronauts drifting nearby as she does this, the most important of whom is Matt Kowalski, as veteran an astronaut as Ryan is a newbie. He’s bummed out because this might be his last mission.

I got news for you Matt. Ain’t no “might be” here. It *is* your last mission.

That’s because the next most abundant thing in space besides panels are satellites, and those wascally Russians just blew up one of theirs. The aftermath creates a chain reaction of spraying debris that hits multiple satellites, which also end up exploding, and all of a sudden thousands of pieces of debris are heading straight towards the space shuttle.

(lots of spoilers follow) Before the group can react, the debris destroys the shuttle and everyone on it except for Ryan and Matt. The two must then make their way down to the International Space Station – in their space suits only – before they run out of air and before this debris field destroys the space station as well. Along the way, poor Matt has to sacrifice himself to keep Ryan alive and the next thing you know, this girl who didn’t know the first thing about space eight months ago is drifting through it with no communication and next-to-no experience, desperately trying to find a way to survive this.

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong as the movie becomes a series of near death experiences. Ryan must jump from point to point – whether it be to a vessel, a station, or an oxygen tank – and survive long enough to make the journey to the next point after that (and so on). Each destination is accompanied by dangerous debris, dropping oxygen, and the likely chance that wherever she’s trying to go might not be there. Think Apollo 13, but with the odds stacked 1 million times higher against you, if that’s possible.

Gravity-Image-2

Okay, I don’t mean to keep bringing up the power of GSU, I really don’t. But this script has it in spades. Goal – GET TO SAFETY. Stakes – If you don’t, you die. Urgency – Always running out of oxygen, always running out of time. This kept Gravity moving at a brisk pace. And really, when you think about it, it wouldn’t have worked any other way. This movie took place in real time. No time cuts allowed. Under those circumstnaces, if you don’t have goals, stakes, and urgency, your script is going to taste like one drawn out piece of boring meat. So kudos for the strong use of GSU.

But where I really thought Cuaron excelled was in the obstacles category. When you send your main character after a goal, your job is to place lots of obstacles in front of that goal. You gotta make it hard for them or else it’ll be boring. I mean, what if, after the space shuttle blew up, a Russian shuttle flew by, snatched up Ryan, and brought her back to earth? Would that have been an interesting movie? My guess is no. Unless Ryan and the strapping Russian cosmonaut got into a steamy BDSM affair on the way back to earth a la 50 Shades Of Grey. But I’m thinking that movie MAY have been attacked for a shift in tone.

Instead, Cuaron provides a TON of obstacles. And not just any obstacles. Really freaking difficult obstacles. Ryan and Matt have to steer themselves to the Russian space station with 5 ounces of thrust left. Ryan must get there with only 3% oxygen left. Once she gets inside of the station, there’s a fire. Once in the escape vessel, she doesn’t have any fuel. Once she gets to the Chinese vessel, she must pilot the ship with everything labeled in Chinese. (SUPER MAJOR SPOILERS) Even when she finally gets to earth and lands in the water, the module sinks and she’s going to drown. Even when she GETS OUT of the module. Her suit weighs her down so she can’t swim to the surface.

So it’s not just placing the obstacles in front of your protagonist. It’s making them REALLY DIFFICULT obstacles. That’s why Gravity is so intense. Nothing was easy for our heroine. And it’s a great thing to remember when you write your own script.

But the same problem I had with the Gravity script doomed the Gravity film. Well, I shouldn’t say “doomed.” But kept it from becoming great.

Ryan, our protagonist, wasn’t very interesting.

And they tried. They really tried. She had a kid who died. You can’t say characters with dead children don’t have depth. But man, it just felt… I don’t know, false. I never really believed that her kid died. It felt like a band-aid, one of those things we writers add because we THINK it makes our characters deep, but it actually backfires because it feels so cliché and easy.

That’s not to say Cuaron’s job was easy. I always say that every script has its own challenges, its own unique issues that no writer has had to deal with before. And Gravity had some tough things to maneuver around. It was in space the whole time and our main character is in a space suit floating around for most of the movie. Besides her conversations with Matt, there isn’t really an opportunity to develop her. You can’t cut away because we’re not dealing with other characters. You can’t time jump because we’re telling this in real time. You can’t do flashbacks because that would defeat the whole purpose of us feeling like we were stuck in space.

So the only way to develop the character is through her conversations with Matt and the choices she makes. Trying to develop a character via dialogue is really hard. Someone can talk about the pain they feel cause their kid died, but without us ever knowing that kid or seeing that kid, it’s kinda hard to care, as terrible as that sounds.

I mean imagine in Castaway (another one-man show) if we would’ve started the movie on the airplane. We never would’ve met Chuck’s girlfriend. And then, once on the island, we would’ve shown him looking at the picture of her to develop some depth to him, and it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well because we never actually MET his girlfriend. That made her a real person that we really cared about. With Gravity, you don’t get that. And so I never really believed it or cared about it.

And this affected everything! Because her entire character was built off of her finally being able to let go of the past, represented by not giving up. That’s why character development is so important. It affects your screenplay in ways you don’t even think about. You’re thinking, “Okay, this scene where she’s trying to decide if she wants to keep fighting or not is going to be so compelling!” But it isn’t, because we’re not affected by the reason she’s thinking about giving up. We never got on board with that thirty pages ago.

But an even bigger problem, for me at least, was the TONE of Ryan’s character. She was just so down. She didn’t have any personality. She was flat. And it’s hard to get excited by that kind of character, to care about that kind of character. I felt this way in the script and I felt it here. Ryan was just not a very interesting character. And I’m finally understanding why so many actresses publicly passed over this part. There’s nothing here. I mean look at her opening scene. She’s changing panels! We learn nothing about the woman other than that she really wants to change panels.  And that’s about as much character development as we get for another 30 minutes.

I think Cauron would argue that that’s who she is. She probably became an astronaut to escape the pain of her real life, to be out in the middle of nowhere where she can only worry about mundane things like changing panels. And that’s fine. But I just thought it made the character boring. And the thing is, when you strip away all that craziness that happens to Ryan, what you have is a character piece. This has to be a character journey if we’re going to care about her making it through. And the overly vague backstory of a dead daughter just didn’t do it for me.

The thing is, this movie is such a f*cking amazing piece of cinema and Cuaron is such an amazing filmmaker that he’s able to overcome this issue and still make this movie worth watching. If you like movies, you have no reason not to see Gravity. But being the perfectionist I am, I wanted more. I didn’t want to just be moved technically, I wanted to be moved emotionally. And it didn’t happen.

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the price of admission (3-D if you can afford it)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Sometimes we pick flaws for our characters without thinking about WHAT KIND OF PERSON that flaw makes our character. We’re so excited to give our character a flaw (screenwriting books say this is good so YAY that we succeeded!) that we’re not aware it’s bullying our character into a certain personality. So say you decide, “I want to make my character unable to connect with people. That’s going to be his flaw.” Not a bad flaw to explore. But you realize, then, that your character will likely be quiet, stand-offish and introverted. Those are not qualities that make a character fun to watch. So are you really okay with that? By giving Ryan the character flaw that she can’t move past her child’s death, you’re also making her sad and depressing most of the time. Is that really the kind of character you want to write? Just make sure that when you’re coming up with your protagonist’s flaw, the resulting personality is something you like.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Jonas Cuaron is the SON of Alfonso Cuaron.

  • Film_Shark

    ‘Gravity’ is a cinematic masterpiece. The minimalist dialogue works well. At times, you only hear radio communication from mission control or the heavy breathing in Sandra Bullock’s helmet as she desperately gasps for oxygen. Maybe what’s missing in the script is catchy movie quotes to remember.

    I thought the banter between Clooney and Houston (Ed Harris, never seen) was excellent right before tragedy strikes. Maybe the script isn’t as snappy as a Tarantino screenplay but you can tell Alfonso Cuaron did his homework on NASA and space travel. The scenes where Bullock leapfrog from one space station to the next is brilliant. As she struggles to read the Chinese manual, a ping pong paddle floats by her. That’s amazing detail. Another scene where she sheds a fearful tear and the droplet floats off into zero gravity is touching.

    It’s the most entertaining film of the year and will be a strong Oscar contender.

    • K.B. Houston

      I actually thought the silences hurt the film a bit, at least in a theatrical sense. When you’re in a theater, you’re often accompanied by several morons and morons don’t know how to handle silences. I can’t tell you how many times I could hear people talking or stating clear observations during the long silences. It was pretty annoying after a while. If you saw this alone at a time when the theater is pretty empty, it would probably be a lot better.

      • Film_Shark

        That’s a shame that so many were talking during the film. That’s inconsiderate and hurts the overall movie experience for you. Since I write a movie blog, I try to get my review posted online as quickly as possible, I saw the film Thursday night Oct. 3rd and the theater was only about a quarter full. The film’s official release was Oct. 4th.

  • Citizen M

    Big question: does she save the frog?

    Having a kid who died wasn’t in the original script. She had a small dog. It’s not really even a character flaw. It’s more a bit of backstory intended to create instant sympathy and provide motivation for the character.

    I don’t know why Hollywood considers it essential to provide a psychological justification. Edmund Hillary felt “Because it is there” was enough motivation for climbing Mount Everest. Karen Nyberg, an actual astronaut orbiting in the ISS as we speak, left a husband and three-year-old son behind. I suppose Hollywood would consider her a bad mother therefore a villain, and him emotionless therefore a psycho.

    A character flaw should have bearing on the theme. The theme of Gravity is something like “No matter what happens, don’t give up.” So Ryan’s character flaw should be a tendency to give up when the going gets tough. She has to overcome her flaw to survive.

    I raved about Rear Window the other day. There is a lot of banter and character exposition before the story kicks in, but it’s setting up a very important story point that comes into play later. We learn during the banter phase that what stops James Stewart from committing to Grace Kelly is he considers her a wealthy bimbo whose idea of trouble is deciding which restaurant to go to, whereas he parachutes into dangerous situations to get the story. They are just too different. This acts as a challenge to her. She needs to show him that she can do something courageous to earn his respect.

    SPOILER

    And so later she goes completely against character and slips across to the apartment opposite to gather evidence, which leads to the tensest scene in the movie. Because it has been set up in the beginning, in a subtle way, when it happens we are surprised but we accept that under the circumstances she would do a thing like that.

    • Alan Burnett

      Really? A …. dog? After the movie ended, I was interested in why the Cuarons picked a daughter, specifically. I thought they might have considered a male partner (a husband, probably, because a boyfriend might have sounded too casual and a fiancé would have been too clichéd) and then considered either a son or a daughter. They probably picked the daughter because it might have made the relationship felt closer and intimate because of the intense mother-daughter bond some mothers have before the child reaches adolescence. But, no: I never thought that the filmmakers would have picked a dog.

      Carson is right: the child’s death creates the illusion of character depth and sympathy and is too obvious a connection to the theme. Carson brought up ‘Cast Away’, but I would also cite ‘127 Hours’ as a much better character piece because Aaron has a much more complicated relationship to the figure he longs for back home. We not only got to know that ex-girlfriend a little bit, we also saw why they were attracted to one another, their strengths as a couple and his flaw as a human being. This fleshes out his character a great deal more than a sentimental longing for a dead child, which feels like an overly manipulative choice to engender sympathy (which worked for me emotionally, primarily because of Bullock’s quite moving performance, but I was still annoyed by the film’s choice).

      • drifting in space

        I think he picked a daughter because he almost lost his daughter.

    • Fiona Fire

      Oh, man. There’s nothing that annoys me more than using a dog or cat to make a character “sympathetic.”

  • jlugozjr

    Saw the movie yesterday and loved it. I knew it was going to be amazing visually, but I was surprised how much emotion it delivered. I think it was the tears floating toward me, that was cool. 98% on rotten tomatoes. Some reviewers are commenting that it’s arguably Sandra Bullock’s best work.

    Interesting that the review I read from The Atlantic called Ryan’s backstory “unnecessary”.

    So let’s say as an amateur writer I gave Gravity to Carson for notes and he felt like he couldn’t connect with Ryan’s character. Or that she wasn’t very interesting. Would I change the script? I probably would. But the Cuaron brothers are pros and their movie’s killing it.

    • EriJest

      “Some reviewers are commenting that it’s arguably Sandra Bullock’s best work.”

      It’s not arguable. It IS her best work. I’ve never rated her as a real actor until this movie. Not even the Oscar for that Blind Side shit or even Miss Congeniality. But i admit she’s funny in that one.

  • fragglewriter

    Great review of the film. I think because the movie was 90mins, it was able to move at a quick pace. I think to overcome what has been done before, not showing Ryan’s backstory and telling it was to keep the story in one place. I think if just adding one scene with her on the way up and maybe incorporating a quick flashback to her child’s death as the rocket propels into space, might of given the character depth, but then again, I’m not sure if the director or write wanted to go that sappy route which has been done in films before.

    Good tip on flaws that we give our character. I’m thinking of giving my character an antisocial flaw but now I know that to prevent a reader from becoming bored, I must also give the character a causal affect of his/her actions to keep him/her aware that revenge can happen at any time.

  • martin_basrawy

    I loved this film. Although I agree with Carson’s analysis of Ryan, I (like him) enjoyed the film regardless. It had me on the edge of my seat.
    Really fantastic “What I learned” tip too. A lot of writers don’t think that kind of thing through.

  • leitskev

    Excellent observations, and pretty much sums up why I have no interest in seeing this film, despite the many glowing reviews. And I can really respect the challenge this must have been for the screenwriter. I’m sure it’s a great film, it just doesn’t grab my interest. If the entire film is 2 people in space suits, that limits the character development about as much as it can be limited. I’m sure the tension is non-stop, but I prefer a little more than that.

  • http://www.jorgeosvaldo.com/ Jorge Osvaldo

    Sometimes it’s okay to have a surly protagonist. Cuaron knew that in order to tie the theme to the story, and to create a real sense that Dr. Ryan Stone may not make it out alive–even if she’s being played by Sandra Bullock–he had to make her into an introverted, bad-tempered loner.

    Cuaron also knew that audiences like to see upbeat, competent individuals performing admirably during stressful situations, so he also gave us Lt. Matt Kowalski. Clooney’s character had an interesting backstory (cuckold astronaut with a knack for telling good stories), and a compelling personal goal (break the record for the longest spacewalk).

    Had Cuaron made Kowalski the protagonist, the film would have lost some of its tension and suspense because the audience would expect someone like him to survive this ordeal; whereas the audience expects someone like Stone to give up. By upending our expectations, Cuaron gave us a gripping story with a truly unpredictable final act.

    I would argue that he could have gone one step further and stripped away even those little bits of backstory that he gave to Stone, and the narrative would have not lost any of its power. The starkness of this script is what makes it powerful.

    • BSBurton

      Good points on the difference of characters Jorge! I think Carson got it wrong when he said all Dr. Stone cared about was the panels. I mean, they’re in space on a delicate mission! She’s not gonna be relaxing and letting her guard down, she’s focused on a difficult mission and she’s new. For god’s sake, she lost a screw in the opening and then almost lost her drill at the ISS. Only a vet like Matt K. would be loose enough to show personality.

      And the film didn’t go in realtime, i don’t know why Carson kept saying that. It was a 90 minute film and the debris passed twice. Twice! That’s 180 minutes according to Matt K.’s calculations, plus the opening 10 minutes.

      I really enjoyed the film and I felt like male or female, anyone who is a rookie would pretty much behave like Sandra’s character (besides the daughter part).

      I really enjoyed when Clooney reappeared, but how they did it was the right way to do it. I wonder how people would’ve reacted if he really had survived and made his way back. Can you imagine how the movie’s ended would’ve changed lol? I can sense a less artistic and more Michael Bay ending.

      Good stuff.

  • ChadStuart

    Well, where I understand there’s not a whole lot there about Dr. Stone’s life, why do we have to feel pity for her to care if she lives or dies? Shouldn’t we root for her to live simply because she’s a human being and we cherish all life, even those of others? In an extreme situation like this, I shouldn’t have to know her backstory to care about her fate. In a simpler story, like a love story, I need to like the person to feel that they are worthy of love. But simple life and death? I will always choose life.

    • JW

      I think there’s a very easy response to this, Chad and while I applaud where you’re coming from it just isn’t for the cinematic landscape. You have two people in front of you and you can save only one. One person you’ve known for the past year and the other person you just met. Assuming you like the person you already know, who do you save? The person you know or the person you just met? The person you know, and that is why backstory / relatability matters. If we all just walked around rooting for life for the sake of human beings we wouldn’t have story because most of the time it’s the character that creates the dimension of the story. Think Gladiator without Crowe’s family. The level that that detail bleeds into the story sets up impact of the ending.

      • ChadStuart

        But “Gladiator” isn’t a survival tale, it’s a revenge story. So, we want him to enact revenge because we met his family and understand why he wants his revenge. But “Gravity” is not that story. It’s a survival story. Does she deserve to survive this more because her child died at a painfully young age? Why should we be more emotionally connected to her just because she experienced a tragedy?

        The same goes for your scenario. Why does that other person deserve to die more than the other just because they happened to never meet me before? That doesn’t apply at all to this story scenario. It’s about rooting for someone to live, not choosing who dies.

        I do agree that given the type of story that’s being told, backstory and development are necessary. But in this particular one? Not at all.

        • JW

          I’ll agree to disagree there, but the very essence of every story wouldn’t work if we were just sympathetic to a person because they were born. It’s just not natural. The characterization of this character was all over the map. Of course, this is an ‘imagery’ film and not necessarily the greatest story presented, but I think in terms of where the conversation began and what we were originally speaking about, it revolved around how this could have been a slightly better story to connect to.

          • ChadStuart

            Yes, we should be sympathetic to a person’s survival because they were born. They are fellow human beings. It’s what separates us from other animals on the planet. That’s my point. We can’t get so wrapped up in screenwriting rules that we respect those rules, i.e. characters must have sympathetic backstory, over our simple instincts as human beings. Some stories can absolutely affect us emotionally simply because we are emotional creatures and we respect life. Had I seen a sequence of Stone with her child before it died would not have made me more tense as she fought for survival. I wanted her to survive this ordeal simply because I don’t want anyone to die.

          • jamesbushill

            I understand your point Chad but I don’t agree. Yes, as humans we have an innate empathy for another human being fighting for survival in an oppressive environment like space. However this isn’t real life. It’s drama. There’s an additional challenge in drama. The audience needs to be able to suspend their disbelief, to truly believe for ninety minutes that Ryan Stone is a real human being.
            The contrived backstory and inconsistent characterization meant that whilst I was intellectually curious to see whether Ryan survived, I didn’t have an emotional connection to her fate.
            In contrast, in Apollo 13, I really cared about these characters, I was willing them to survive. The difference? Well thought out backstory and characterization.

    • Paul Clarke

      Agreed. I think they made a (wise) choice to keep the story minimal.

      I don’t want to sound like one of those artsy people who like movies with no story, but I think this is a case where the cinematic experience (especially in 3D) exceeds anything the script/story can show. Too much plotting, backstory, flashbacks, etc would have ruined the atmosphere created. It was minimalistic. It was 2 people in space. It was about survival. The more reasons you give her to live, the less it becomes about her primitive survival instinct. Too much info about the daughter would be an example of over-motivation, something Hollywood has a real problem with. No one can do something just because, there must be kidnapped daughters, wives, etc.

      A character who strives to live without external motivation is a more heroic character in my eyes.

      • BSBurton

        Good stuff Mr. Clarke. I have to ask, who is in your profile picture? It appears to be a dangerous mix or Guy Pearce and Christian Bale. High praise if it is you lol.

        What did you think of the clooney hallucination and the dog barking?

        I’ve notices that you really put a lot of thought into reading and giving notes to each script in the Amateur Offerings. Do you have a particular genre you like best?

        • Paul Clarke

          Neither – It’s Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Ironically a good example of a character with a clear goal but no specific motivation.

          I like any genre that isn’t a Rom-com. (call my cynical)

          And I didn’t mind the hallucination. Normally overly spiritual moments bug me (I did think the budda close-up was on the nose) – but I took it as a cinematic way of showing her internal psychological battle, mixed with a lack of oxygen. So it worked for me. Would have been more campy if he was really there.

          • BSBurton

            The budda was a bit much. I kept waiting for John Murphy’s “Sunshine” theme to kick in, they used it in the TV trailers. Have you seen Sunshine?

    • Mike.H

      I noticed Alfonso Curon never showed any flashback of homelife of Ryan Stone. If he did, it’d certainly be reminiscent of LOST — the TV show per Damon Lindeof.

  • JW

    C, I had the same reaction, as did my wife. One of the most brilliantly shot films and some of the most stunning imagery (hats off to the Cuaron), but what I couldn’t establish was her arc. The over-abundance of ending metaphorical imagery of her being “re-born” really didn’t sit as worthy of what we saw before it either.
    And, I don’t want her to give up, then have George come in for a nice hallucination shot to save the day. I want something to happen within her that says “I can’t give up.” And, Cuaron had it. It was at the point where she hears the baby. That was a perfect moment, a poignant, symbolic way of saying, “I’ll get through this. I need to get through this.” If her “Darkest Before the Dawn” happens prior to that moment and she wants the noise to fall asleep to, but then she hears that baby and she finally breaks down, it sets up a perfect transition into act 3 and now we want her to succeed (because let’s be honest, and this is a problem with a lot of Hollywood films, we already know she’s going to succeed, it’s just a matter of how).
    Her character was never someone who gave up in the first place. As she states, after she lost her daughter she did nothing but work, which means she’s technically the opposite of someone who gives up. She powers through, even if it’s in denial. Which, then makes the real through-line her ability to move on and I did feel that could have definitely been stronger. It’s a rarity that most characters could be fully developed and hashed out with a solid arc in a simple 90 minutes and I would argue that this film could use an additional 5-10 for a better setup.
    The other element that I thought could be improved was the length of the disasters. Something bad would happen, it would be shot brilliantly, but I wanted to be more on the edge of my seat. Something would happen and a resolution would present itself quite quickly. The fire is a perfect example. Just as quickly as it erupts, she finds the escape pod to get out of it. Given this is basically a one location shoot, I think the life and death issues could have been more drawn out.
    But, a $50m opening weekend is pretty awesome and the imagery alone is what carries this film (2nd place to the stars).

    • EriJest

      I agree with JW about Stone’s character’s strength, which makes it even more puzzling to think back.If Carson had a bone to pick with Stone character it shouldn’t be the cliché of a dead daughter it should be WHAT THE HELL WAS A REGULAR DOCTOR ON EARTH DOING UP THERE IN SPACE FIXING COMMUNICATION PANELS FOR NASA!!!?? And she kept calling herself a specialist!!?? ( i didn’t read the script and knew nothing about this movie prior to viewing) And for a regular doctor even qualify to be a NASA astronaut !!?? Can we even calculate the odds?, 1 in 10million?No, less. 1 in 100 million more likely. (how many women NASA astronauts are on space mission out of 300 million+ population??) So clearly, she has superhuman will, possibly type A personality as all astronauts, doctors, lawyers and judges are. And like JW said the fact that she powered through after her kid die, from regular doctor to be NASA astronaut. That was a huge jump and required tremendous strength and courage in herself. I didn’t mind the Kowalski hallucination but i agree that the sound of the human baby voice could have re-ignited her fire/desire/passion to live and survive again just the same too. To survive just for herself, to make her daughter proud in some way too that Mommy didn’t give up.

      All that being said. I liked Gravity very much. I usually tried to avoid 3D coz they mostly disappoint but I watched Gravity in IMAX 3D two screenings in a row. And i think i’m going to see it again before it leaves IMAX programming.

  • drifting in space

    I have been itching to see Gravity since I first heard about it (the movie, not the screenplay). I was AMPED up going to the theater with my wife. The glorious reviews. The breathtaking scenes in space, the first movie to make 3D truly worth it, etc.

    I left the theater disappointed. Yes, it was beautifully shot. That’s about all the positive accolades I can dote upon this movie. My favorite parts were:

    1. Seeing the dude’s face that had the space debris blast through it. The sick side of me was hoping to see it and they showed it. Awesome.

    2. The shots of Earth. We are so lucky to have such an amazing place to live.

    3. Sandra Bullock looks great for 49.

    Then I started nitpicking. Ryan was boring. I didn’t care if she lived or not. I was actually rooting for Matt to survive. When he sacrificed himself I honestly leaned over to my wife and said “That’s some bullshit.”

    She had no depth. The dead child felt so forced. She drives because she got the call her daughter died when she was driving? That is stupid. That makes no sense. All they would have had to do to make me sympathize with her more is just SHOW US A FUCKING PICTURE OF THE KID. Instead we get some inane story how she hit her head and died. IOYHYD*(AYS*(YHD*SPYF*(SYF*(SYF*(YFY*SFKDN:SDNJ UGH!

    She was a medical engineer but was somehow fixing the Hubble? Okay. They could have picked almost anything else for her occupation to make more sense there. Then Russians blew up a spy satellite and here comes the GSU.

    Oh ya, then Matt conveniently pops back in while she’s trying to kill herself and basically just tells us how all of this is going to end. You can use convenience to get characters INTO situations but not OUT of situations. She magically wakes up (while still difficult, yes), figures everything out, and gets home safely.

    I could go on and on but I think everyone gets it. While he may be a fantastic director, the writing here sucked. It’s basically GSU and then everything else is wrong.

    And let me get this straight. The Russians had Jesus. The Chinese had Buddha. And we have…. We have Marvin the Martian. Then a ping pong paddle floats across in the Chinese station. That’s not detail. That’s borderline racist. I could already tell we were in the Chinese station because THEY TOLD US OUTRIGHT, EVERYTHING WAS IN CHINESE, AND THERE WAS A BUDDHA. I didn’t need a ping pong paddle to float across. A lot of countries play ping pong.

    Don’t even get me started on the physics of this movie. You could hear the drill whirring. IT’S SPACE = NO SOUND. There were so many forced effects trying to make us feel like we were in space. The fireballs, the tear drops, things magically “floating away” from them. Then they completely overlook some MAJOR issues. Whatever. It’s a movie and it looked cool.

    I can’t wait to see one of those NASA documentaries where they rip it apart.

    Overall, I felt the use of 3D and the shots were great. I avoided trailers like the plague so I wouldn’t ruin anything. Didn’t matter. I was disappointed anyway.

    Also, they ruined the fuck out of Walter Mitty by showing THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THE MOVIE IN THE TRAILER. GAH! I fucking hate trailers.

    Sorry for the rant, y’all, and for the cursing. Totally not like me. This was the one movie I was jazzed out of my mind for and, just like the Conjuring, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    If you want to see a bad ass space movie in 3D that was beautifully crafted, watch Hubble (IMAX 3D). It’s even got Leonardo DiCaprio narrating it. Way better than Gravity.

    • klmn

      I haven’t seen the movie yet, but a ping pong paddle? How would ping pong work in zero gravity? You hit the ball and it never comes down to the table? How would it (the ball) know what direction down is?

      • drifting in space

        Maybe they just hit it back and forth at each other. Fun.

    • fragglewriter

      Great analysis. When I read the floating ping pong paddle in Carson’s review, the first thought that came to my mind was racist. If this was a comedy, I would of laughed it off because with most comedies, you can get away with racism if done in a pointing out the racist kind of way, but that paddle floating in space was not good to represent Chinese people was just lam for a drama/thriller movie.

      And then the Russians blowing up something SMH Are we running out of creativity that we have to use the same stereotypical scapegoats for the US to come out as the victor. If there was a human error caused by Americans, I’m sure that would be relatable to the audience because we can relate to making errors as everyone is not perfect.

      • Citizen M

        Ironically, the Russians have never blown up a satellite in real life. Only the Americans and the Chinese have.

        Wikileaked documents Thursday revealed the US and China both used missiles to blow up their own satellites in a mutual show of military strength. The White House was shocked in February 2007 when China demonstrated its ability to strike in space by blowing up a weather satellite. The US responded by blowing up its own malfunctioning satellite. The US insisted it did so to prevent the satellite returning to Earth with a toxic fuel tank that would pose a health hazard. However, a 2008 cable from Beijing quoted a Chinese military official saying “the shoot-down was unnecessary and simply an opportunity to test the US missile defense system,”

        http://www.innworldreport.net/inn/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3783:not-to-be-outdone-by-china-us-blows-up-own-satellite-&catid=36:international&Itemid=57

        • fragglewriter

          Thank you for sharing that information.

          To me, that makes a better story as the US is basically singing “Anything you can do, I can do better” song from the movie “Annie Get Your Gun.” If “Gravity” would of replaced that inciting incident with the one above, then maybe I can see working.

          *I just reread the line, “The Russians blew up one of theirs”, meaning that the Russians blew up on of their own satellites which caused the chain reaction in space, even though done unintentionally causes a detrimental effect. Even though not the enemy, I still think straying away from the Russians would of been better.

    • Honest Rob

      you hear the drill THROUGH her spacesuit. Vibrations are carried through your suit.
      That’s why it’s so muffled and distorted. that’s how sounds carry in space – through you and your suit if you are attached to the drill causing vibrations.

  • Brian

    Agree about Ryan’s dead daughter back story feeling thin and contrived. My other big issue was the moment Clooney’s character unhooked his strap from Stone and “let go”. Reminded me of the end of Titanic. Being a seasoned astronaut and professional problem solver, Clooney’s character succumbed to defeat all too readily. Yes, he was pulling on Ryan, which in turn was pulling apart the straps wrapped around her foot. But the circumstances weren’t convincing to me that they couldn’t have made a last ditch effort to save Clooney’s character. C’mon, he’s a pro, and when you’re fighting for your live, for survival, you TRY!! Clooney was just like, oh well, time to go die. They could have found another way. Just like Leo could have climbed on that floating board thingy with Rose. If she weren’t such a selfish bitch and made room for him Jack would still be alive. Hang on Jack, hang on!!! But yeah, other than that, Gravity was a 3D spectacular!!

    • ChadStuart

      In “Titanic”, Cameron makes a point to show Leo try to climb on and almost sink it. The two weights were too much. In “Gravity” his jet pack was dry. If he didn’t let go, they both would have died. Getting into that space station was their only hope.

      • Brian

        yes, I get that. I just don’t think it was shown convincingly enough.

        • ChadStuart

          Okay, but what more do you think he could have done?

          • Brian

            I woulda liked to have seen Clooney’s character TRY a little harder to save himself. When it’s life or death, you would be a little more desperate to try and save yourself. And yes, he’s a hero and is brave for sacrificing himself for a 1st time astronaut who probably shouldn’t have survived, given her experience and the circumstances she faced (although I realize this is a movie). I just think the director could have made the imminent consequences of him hanging on to her a little more apparent. Those strappy things wrapped around Sandra’s feet were slipping or breaking or whatever…it just didn’t seem like they definitely would have been screwed had he hung on. Maybe I’m wrong.

            And don’t give me that bullshit about the board sinking if Leo climbed on. He coulda gotten up there. Or they coulda taken turns. If she really loved him, she woulda sacrificed for him too. But no, Rose was the same spoiled bitch she was from the start.

          • drifting in space

            You mean the straps that were “breaking” because of his pull but withstood the thrust from Ryan trying to break free from the station in the escape pod?

            ;)

          • ChadStuart

            They weren’t breaking, they were slipping off of her foot.

          • drifting in space

            I recall it being a combo of both but I’m not sure so I’ll defer to your statement. Either way, the physics are sketchy.

          • ChadStuart

            Not really. In space there is no friction so inertia is free to to exert itself. His inertia in that moment was greater than the small amount of friction of those straps loosely wrapped around her foot.

          • drifting in space
          • BSBurton

            Oh shit! Nice D I Space. I guess your name makes you perfectly adept to criticize the movie lol

          • ChadStuart

            But at that moment, Stone was freaking out. Kowalski was trained incredibly well to handle stressful situations, and she was not. Had he freaked out even a little, it would have freaked her out more and her foot would have slipped loose and they both would have died. He absolutely HAD to react the way he did. There really was no other way out of that situation as presented in the movie. If she tugged too hard, she would have slipped off the ropes. That was the only solution. They were in Zero G. He had no leverage what so ever. So, I think it was played believably and wonderfully.

            And they could not have taken turns in that water. Rose was much thinner and wouldn’t have lasted half as long as he did in that cold. Not to mention, in that time period women were very accustomed to men deferring to them (women and children first). Jack hoped he would be rescued before he froze, but he wanted to make damn sure she lived.

          • Citizen M

            Actually, if he didn’t immediately get out of the freezing water, he soon would have been unable to climb on the raft. After an hour in the water he would definitely be dead of hypothermia.

            “After ten minutes immersion in very cold water, your arms and legs
            will no longer respond to your will.”
            and other cheerful facts, see http://www.shipwrite.bc.ca/Chilling_truth.htm

          • charliesb

            “But no, Rose was the same spoiled bitch she was from the start.”
            That made my night. I’ll be laughing about that for days.

    • K.B. Houston

      I agree, but Clooney seemed like the type of character who was just ready for death. From the very first scene he came off as a guy who lived. People who truly live aren’t afraid of death. That’s how I saw it.

      I think the bigger travesty — as someone has mentioned above — was how little emotion Ryan showed after Clooney died. There was definitely a connection between those two yet there was absolutely ZERO bereavement once she saved herself and got inside the space shuttle.

      If we’re talking about improvements to this script, I think some kind of a romance between the two would have upped the stakes to a whole new level. It would allow us to connect with the characters on an emotional level and give us even more of a reason to root for Ryan, being that she would have lost her child and her lover.

      • EriJest

        Uh-uh, disagree. That would have made it even more contrived and cliché. Kowalski was a colleague and mentor. She was in a survival mode trying to make it back to earth alive in real time. Bereavement usually happened way after, when you’re alone in safe yet lonely place. Reflection kicks in. You get sad, you cry, you grief as a posteriori. Not when you’re trying to survive alone in Space with no Houston help.

  • Brainiac138

    When the craft crashes into the water, my wife whispered to me, “Now here come the sharks.”

    • drifting in space

      I thought she was going to get tangled in the seaweed for another dramatic twist.

      • Paul Clarke

        The seaweed caused raucous laughter in the screening I attended.

  • klmn

    Good review, Carson. But where is the taco review?

  • drifting in space

    Right? Well, you have no family and hate your life. You get to live! Meanwhile, Matt is a veteran trying to break a record and he goes. Boo.

  • ChadStuart

    You’re spot on about “Aliens”, but “Gravity” is more about choosing to live and coming out stronger. The final shot is particularly powerful in that regard.

  • JakeMLB

    To be honest, I think this is one of those films that is better left seen on a blank slate, with no former knowledge of the script or story. I avoided reading the script for a reason and feel better off for it.

    It was a beautiful film, and while Ryan’s backstory felt a touch contrived, I think Carson hit the nail on the head when he discussed how limiting the environment was in terms of developing character and backstory. Practically any other form of exposition would have harmed the experience. The idea was to feel the isolation of space and the overwhelming odds stacked against Ryan and in that respect, this film was brilliant and incredibly intelligent. Honestly, this film was as close to perfect as you can get given the scope of the story. Every piece of exposition was well-delivered and woven expertly into the fabric of the story.

    I’d add Buried to the list of films like Cast Away and 127 Hours that managed to build a more complicated and believable character in a similar situation. Buried is even more of an apt comparison because unlike Cast Away and 127 Hours the timeline is similarly condensed. But in all of those films you have options for exposition that simply aren’t available here: a cell phone, a video camera, a longer in-story timeline, and so on.

    And as far as Ryan’s character being “boring”, I think it was a brilliant choice. It made her more relatable, more human and thus it made her perseverance in the face of impossible odds all the more triumphant. To watch her succeed and live while the better-equipped Kowalski fails speaks to me of the randomness of death and the sanctity of life. We’d all need help and luck to survive an ordeal like that, not just the strength of our spirit, and I thought the film did an amazing job of making us aware that Ryan is not only deserving to be alive, but also lucky.

    If you haven’t already, see the film and for your own sake, avoid reading anything more about it.

  • Citizen M

    They put Ripley’s daughter back. I saw it recently.

    The “special edition” includes extra scenes: …, scenes of Ripley discussing her daughter, … — IMDb

    • ChadStuart

      Yes, Cameron put her back in the late 80s for a special edition LaserDisc release (Yes, I got that and yes, I am that old). But it wasn’t needed to effectively tell the story since the film was a huge hit before that addition.

    • NajlaAnn

      Agreed.

  • kenglo

    I think you nailed it with “…If her problem is she’s chosen this life to be away from people…” Maybe that was the underlying theme and it’s just not obvious, (from a writing or a viewing experience), and then she is thrust into a situation where she has to struggle to live. I haven’t seen it yet either, but I do have the script to peruse.

  • Jake Gott

    I thought Gravity was a FUN RIDE. Very stunning to look at. But I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it at home because there’s not much going on with the script, I don’t think. After leaving the theater, my thought was “Get this director a well written script and we’ll see something pretty amazing.”

  • J. Lawrence Head

    Are you the Grendl in disguise?

    PS: Blind side was brilliant.

  • andyjaxfl

    Gravity skipped the first act and went right into the second act. I think a solid first act of 15-20 minutes that gave us a reason to care beyond the fact that she is a person faced with death and we (hopefully) want her to survive. Whatever you do with that first act – set it on earth or maintain the angle/selling point that the entire movie save for the last 60 seconds takes place in space/orbit – but give us a reason to like her!

    The movie was 90 minutes long. Another 15-20 wouldn’t hurt.

    [xx] worth the price of admission

  • NajlaAnn

    It’s on our “to watch” list.

  • Christian Zilko

    I don’t believe that every script does not need to be traditionally structured. I think Gravity was brilliant. It was in real time and featured a huge goal. I don’t even think we needed the backstory about the daughter. It was her first time in space, and she was scared. Therefore we had to root for Ryan. We developed an incredible connection with her as the film progressed, but we didn’t need one at first. This film also broke the 5th wall like you talked about with Prisoners. We all found ourselves wondering what we would do if we were stranded in space. We wondered what it would feel like, and were scared because of how real the movie was. It was a space thriller without aliens. Any of this, to the untrained person, could have happened. We don’t need backstory and character flaws when we have all of that. {X} Genius

  • davetherave

    kowalski’s death was filmed but cut. DVD extra?

  • Honest Rob

    you are kidding, right?

  • brenkilco

    Personalities have flaws. Flaws don’t create personalities. Or believable, sympathetic characters either. I don’t think great writers ask themselves what their character’s flaw is. What is Blanche Dubois’s flaw or Stanley Kowalski’s? They have scads of character defects but the point is that we think of them as real people, not as stock figures with tacked on flaws. And they reveal themselves moment by moment by what they do and say, how they behave. An audience can be made to care about a character if the character seems real enough to be worth caring about. Blunt back story and exposition won’t necessarily accomplish this.

  • Illimani Ferreira

    Some movies are story-driven, others are character-driven. None is the case of Gravity. In terms of story it’s not much more than an average disaster movie. In terms of character, everything you stressed is accurate. So what do we get? A Special Effects-driven movie? No. It’s a subtext-driven movie, and that’s new. I mean, even the heroine is a subtext: she’s a woman with a male name, and all her journey is about this somewhat abstract human thriving to survive. She reaches ISS: long shot of her as a fetus. She reaches Soyuz: she loses her humanity as she becomes Laika. Then, mentor’s ghost reappear and she recovers her humanity. And so she does, in the Chinese space station in a mix of luck and persistence as she lands in the water (from where life originated) and thrived again to emerge and swim to earth, in a metaphor of the evolutionary process. That’s pure poetry, and knowing more about this character would make her too particular for Cuarón’s pretension to make her a universal human unbiased by her gender that reflects our biological quest to survive. And that made me relate to her as I was watching. I’m a guy, never had kids. Still, could be me.

    • drifting in space

      This is beautiful.

  • Christian Zilko

    Maybe see the movie before ranting about how bad it is?

  • carters

    To me, the film was really about WONDER. Not simply the wonder of space, et al but the wonder of LIFE. There were so many attempts by Clooney’s character to point out, to draw Ryan’s attention to the WONDER. First of SPACE. Then of EARTH. Then of LIFE.

    Seen in this way, her disconnect from pretty much everything, her lack of backstory, is to me a much deeper choice – because it carries the core of the film. It’s not until she makes it back that she truly comes alive – and sees the wonder in life. The moment she has gripping the earth, the sense of miracle in it? I felt so much for her character, even with these choices Cuaron (who I have a massive talent crush on) made.

  • Billie

    I think you’re missing the point with her flaw. It wasn’t that she couldn’t ‘move past her daughter’s death’, it was more that her daughter’s death had her living in fear. Fear of death and the not knowing when one’s time is up, and therefore the inability to live life fully. Yes, she was a shell of a woman because of this. But that didn’t make her boring, to me, that just made it all the more rewarding when, after her ‘death moment’, she had the apiphany to let go of fear, LIVE with passion, determination, and for the moment, no matter what the outcome, because we all die eventually.
    It emotionally moved me to see her find that passion and determination to live and had me rooting for her in tears to the end. Clooney encompassed the ‘fully live every moment’ theme, as beautifully shown with his final line about the ‘beauty of the sun on the Ganges…’ loved loved loved this movie.

  • Paul Clarke

    I thought it was great. I’ve never been to space, and probably never will, but I felt like I was there. I don’t normally like 3D, in fact I avoid it. But in this case it was amazing.

    It was a rare example where the cinematic experience transcended the script. There’s no way you could get the same atmosphere from reading it on the page.

    Also, no one has mentioned they ripped off Wall-E with the fire extinguisher!

    • filmklassik

      Ha! Haven’t seen WALL-E yet but my single favorite moment in GRAVITY (which I enjoyed, btw) was the ingenuity of Sandra using the fire extinguisher as a propulsion device to get herself over to the space station. Brilliant! I love clever “Holy crap, that could really work!” ideas like that and movies don’t supply enough of them, and I’m kinda disappointed that this notion wasn’t original to this film.

  • jridge32

    Couldn’t agree more about the Ryan character. She simply wasn’t that interesting. I remembered thinking how fabulous a lot of the sequences were, but that Ryan (or, maybe this was more of an acting issue) didn’t seem terribly enthralled by her surroundings. A little on edge, maybe, yes — though not nearly as much so as John Lithgow in “2010” during his space walk — but not… I don’t know. Appreciative?

    No real sense of wonder from her, or Matt for that matter. It took me out of the experience.

    Even though the special effects were very, very good.

  • Paul Clarke

    It’s not deus ex machina because it’s not Clooney helping her. I think a lot of people are misinterpreting that scene. She’s low on oxygen, hallucinating, the director uses this as a visual cinematic way to show the internal psychological battle between the part of her that wants to live and the part of her that wants to give up and just die out here alone. It’s a total cheat, but it works for me.

    Clooney didn’t save her, she saved herself. It was her mind giving her the answer that she knew deep down but refused to accept.

    I do agree with your idea about Kowalski’s death, she seems to forget about him straight away. That was a gold mine of emotion that needed to be used for all its worth.

  • Paul Clarke

    But that would have taken away from her big choice. Does she want to live?

    It would be a classic case of over-motivation. There’s no hesitation if she has a daughter to return to. This was a pure survival story. Showing the strength of a human’s natural desire to live.

  • K.B. Houston

    Totally agree Carson. I felt the exact same way leaving the theater. That is absolutely a MUST-SEE film, but only for it’s visual elements and for the experience. The script left a lot to be desired.

    Ryan was so flat. Flat, flat, flat. There was nothing there. The second she went into her monologue about her kid dying I just thought, WELP, there it is! There’s the token “flaw.” But it really wasn’t though. Her kid dies, yes, but it didn’t relate to her overcoming anything. It was like after she admitted that we were supposed to feel something for her, but I never did. Now, did I want her to escape and get back down to Earth? You bet your ass I did! But that was a testament to just how real that film felt visually. I wanted her to get back to Earth because I’m a human being and I have empathy and it all looked so damn real — NOT because there was character depth and I wanted her to overcome something inside of her.

    Like you say Carson, in perfectionist terms, this fell short. It could have gone down as an all-time great. It could have been a classic. But like most films, it had its downfalls and character development certainly was on here.

  • blueiis0112

    This description you give makes me think of “Raiders of The Lost Ark:”. At the point where Indiana escaped the ship and ended up on the sub, I sat there and thought, “aw come on, you have got to be kidding me”. I was done at that point. But, if something happens to the protagonist, what do you do with the rest of the story. There really isn’t any.

  • fragglewriter

    CNN has an article about the film Gravity “5 things that couldn’t happen in “Gravity.”

    Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter over the weekend to offer several “Mysteries of #Gravity,” including “The film #Gravity should be renamed ‘Angular Momentum.’ ” He points what the film got wrong, from the fact that Bullock’s hair didn’t free float to why she, as a medical doctor, was on the mission to start with.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/07/showbiz/movies/gravity-scientists/

    • EriJest

      yep, read it and shared it. Gravity was glorious but not without flaws. It’s as close to a perfect film as there are out there this year.

  • BSBurton

    One tiny issue for me was the wasting of jet fuel to retrieve a dead astronaut corpse. Like they had time to grab him and bring him home with the low fuel situation, Sandra’s oxygen level at 3%, and the second coming of shrapnel!!. Was it to show compassion and humanity or a cheap ploy to raise the stakes? Or just a strange choice by the writer?

  • Ambrose*

    I liked the screenplay better than you did, Carson, but I agree that the dead husband and child backstory for Ryan was a little cloying.

    One thing I didn’t like about the film – and it’s a minor quibble regarding an amazing visual experience – was the use of Ed Harris as the voice of Mission Control.
    Yeah, I get it: he was in Apollo 13.
    It was a little too over-the-top in a way for me, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of way.

    And by the way, Carson, have you registered the Trademark for “GSU” yet?

  • Mike.H

    From reading most of the 90+ reviews below, some lawnchair critics aka SS readers had become far too snooty within their overly critical remarks of Ryan Stone’s character not being likable enough… get over yourselves your majesties. :(

  • James Inez

    I don’t really have a very critical eye while watching movies, but I think the reason I didn’t have the problems with the movie that you did, was because I thought it felt so real. Like this really could have happened. Like it’s just a slice of life. For that hour and a half, the sequence of events could have unfolded exactly like that. And realizing that, was really scary and suspenseful.

  • Malibo Jackk

    You’re forgetting that Carson recently returned from Europe.

  • Brian

    Thank you, Drifting in Space, for sharing that link. I don’t claim to be an astrophysicist, but something about that scene didn’t feel kosher to me. Regardless, the movie was amazing.

    ChadStuart – nice double first name. And I was just joking around about the whole Titanic thing. I realize both of them couldn’t fit on the board. But still, Leo coulda tried a little harder. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    And can we just agree how ridiculous it is that we’re even discussing Titanic.

  • JWF

    Gravity doesn’t come out in the UK for another month…all these great reviews are raising my expectations dangerously!

  • Cfrancis1

    Good points, Carson. While I didn’t feel the dead child backstory rang false, I did feel that the later scene with George Clooney and her subsequent monologue felt a little forced and cliche. That’s a minor quibble, though, in a movie that was overall amazing. At the end of the day, it kind of didn’t matter what her backstory was. She’s an everywoman, trying to survive and impossible situation. Although a little depressed, she seemed like a nice enough person. And because of the situation she was thrust into, I instantly cared about her and wanted her to survive. I didn’t feel like I needed to know more about her. In fact, if the movie had gotten bogged down in backstory, it would have ruined it. Sandra Bullock did a great job and the movie was phenomenal.

  • Auckland Guy

    I agree Carson, the external story was great, always kept our characters in peril, right to the end. But the internal story could have been developed much more and would have made this film totally extraordinary. Kowalski seemed the more interesting character and he had a lot to give to Ryan, but he was cut adrift early and then the more bland character was left to carry the movie. I also was quite distracted throughout waiting perhaps for Ryan to somehow rescue or retrieve Kowalski and it never happened. And while I find that a bold and interesting choice, I do feel it was a wrong one, leaving Ryan no-one to interact with for most of it except talk to herself.

    Also, in terms of goal, Ryan had a strong external goal… survive somehow… but no internal one… i.e. at the the end she survives but we don’t get the sense she has anyone to go back to or that she’s somehow changed in some way and life will now be different… we just get a sense that she… survived. And for me this wasn’t enough to make it satisfying.

  • Victoria A

    I couldn’t agree more. I loved this movie and thought it was a masterpiece but the actual character development and dialogue was lacking. The visuals and anxiety it gave me however made it work enough for me.

  • Dale

    Someone that agrees with me, and I’m so glad that it’s one of your prestige. I’ve been lambasted by friends and family for thinking the film was boring, and my dad said I’m too spoiled by movies like Transformers to have appreciated the movie. On every level I think it’s a fantastic film, very unique survival flick that uses a rather clever antagonist; nothingness.

    However I just couldn’t cheer for Ryan. All the obstacles she went through, I never once felt that urgency to want to see her succeed through it all. And if there’s anything Breaking Bad has taught me, in particular with the character Max, if the writers are clever enough characters can be developed through dialogue.

    I wish Clooney didn’t leave so early, because the rest of the movie was Bullock panicking and breathing really hard.

  • Renee

    I finally let the rave reviews convince me to go see this in 3D. First time I did that since Avatar. Totally worth it. This is what movies are supposed to be like. I was completely mesmerized and captivated. The cinematography is stunning and then some.

    Only thing that bugged me was the dialogue, which felt very 101. And not knowing what was so special about her that she wound up in space in the first place. And the fact that after returning to earth, in spite of the title of the movie, gravity apparently did nothing to her. She was moving around like she was still completely weightless. That’s not the behavior of most astronauts/kosmonauts after landing. Other than that though, I gladly suspended all disbelief for this cinematic masterpiece.

  • Kay Bryen

    Ladies, gentlemen and trans: this is as close to perfection as a film can get. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. Now maybe at last I won’t have to listen to all that talk of 2001 as the definitive sci-fi masterpiece.

    I’ve always yearned for a movie that makes us patriotic to be human beings (preferably without an alien plot). Consider it done.

    It was a genius masterstroke to skip the first act and plunge straight into Act 2. The dead daughter backstory was absolutely the right decision. Without it, yeah I’d still have rooted for Ryan (simply because I’m a fellow human being), but it added a deeper emotional layer. In addition to the glut of technical Oscars this puppy will no doubt win, I really would want an Academy Award for Sandy. The harrowing soul-coaster she delivered is even more remarkable considering this is essentially a 21st century silent movie.

    Sure, I anticipate there will be those who cry “movie logic”, or question why Ryan was even qualified to be in space in the first place. But listen, we’ve sent a *teacher* into space (or attempted to anyway). I heard some movie-goers complain that the Kowalski re-appearance was a deux ex machina. How is that even possible, when it was a hallucination created by her own internal conflict, to force her to live even when she had nothing to live for?

    You can nitpick the physics, but if this movie is accurate enough for Buzz Aldrin, it’s accurate enough for me.

    [xxx] Genius