“Gravity” and Bravery

“Gravity” is gonna win a lot of Oscars, in categories like sound, effects, and cinematography. The cinematography is amazing, and my second favorite shot . . .

Spoiler alert.

. . . comes at the end, after the whole ordeal in space is finally over. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) has swam onto the beach. She puts her face to the mud and says “Thank you.” She stands on wobbly legs and starts to walk. The camera stays at ground-level, shooting her from below. Directors do this to make their characters look huge, and in that moment Stone looks like a god.

She’s just survived a horrifying adventure alone, where the stakes were that the slightest screw-up meant death. She thought hard about giving up, speaking out loud of how afraid she was. There was even the call of her dead daughter to contend with. Instead, she willed herself to survival. After getting back to Earth, she’s totally reborn for having faced down fear and death. This is why she’s filmed like a god.

This is a great movie.

Let’s go back to “Man of Steel.” The best part of that movie is its opening, when Russell Crowe races across the exploding planet Krypton with the help of a pet dragon who sacrifices itself. The scene’s premise is pretty basic: He has to get from point A on the planet (the stupid council) to point B (the precious codex) to point C (his family and their phallic spaceship). The survival of his baby and species are at stake. Given the tight time frame, it’s very exciting.

“Gravity” is the same play executed better. A scared newbie astronaut gets stranded alone in space and has to get from point A (her battered ship) to point B (the International Space Station) to point C (a Chinese space station) to point D (Earth). She is not a good astronaut, and she knows it. If she takes a wrong angle, or her grip slips, she will float away to die in space. She can’t even breathe too hard, either, because her suit’s running low on oxygen.

The ending is my second-favorite shot. My first-favorite is the destruction of the ISS by satellite shrapnel on its second pass. It looks like this:

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There isn’t any sound when these insane explosions and crashes are occurring, because there’s no air to carry vibrations. It makes it scarier. For as insane as this movie gets, action-wise, it feels incredibly realistic. It’s a unique viewing experience—I can’t recall the last time I cared so much whether an action-movie character survived.

Stephen King just wrote a book called “Joyland.” He did not release it for e-books or in hardback. “Joyland” came out in paperback only, because King thought the pulpy nature of his carny murder mystery was best experienced as a tactile novel like he bought as a kid for a dime. The story fits a particular media best.

This is why you should see “Gravity” in the theater, in 3-D. Stone’s death-defying journey miles above Earth is meant to be projected huge in front of your eyes, with depth that makes it more stunning and scary. This is the third movie I’ve seen in theaters that was enhanced by 3-D, after “Avatar” and “Prometheus.” (“Tron: Legacy” sucked.)

It also deploys a perfect Clooney.

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