03 September 2013
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity – a ‘fall’ blockbuster as they say – is a post-human film. Its two stars – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – could have been played by robots. Clooney plays a standard non-threatening alpha male with a gruff manner and one minor character quirk – an urge to tell stories. Bullock plays her usual sweaty, scared but, when the chips are down, brave and competent woman in a life-threatening crisis. Algorithms for either performance would taken an averagely gifted geek no more than a couple of hours of programming. The plot algorithm would have taken him five minutes and, being a geek, he would have taken special pride in his specification of tight shorts for Bullock.
The story is an accident on a space shuttle which they must somehow survive and return to earth. ‘Gravity’ is a rather arbitrary title and, in fact, ‘stars’ is a misleading term for Clooney and Bullock. The real star is the kit – shuttles. space stations, re-entry capsules and so on. Finally, ‘director’ is an altogether absurd description of Cuaron’s role in this fiasco, unless directing entails the same shots endlessly repeated and the systematic elimination of all credibility and dramatic interest.
I can see the attraction of all the kit stuff and I can imagine being gripped by the film at the age of, say nine, but certainly not at the age of twelve. Still, lots of people seem to like it. Why? Because, I suppose, audiences are becoming more interested in machines than people. These two very good actors just phoned in two routine performances. We know, from the first minute, that one character/algorithm will survive and one won’t and, soon afterwards, we know which one it must be. What keeps us going (not me, I actually rose to walk out at one point but then felt an anthropological urge to stay) is the machinery, how it works, how it stops working and how it falls apart. Even I felt a more intimate contact with the Chinese version of Soyuz than I did with Bullock, shorts or no shorts.
Gravity, like so many things I have encountered, may represent the end of civilisation as we know it, but more likely it’s just a stupid movie. Don’t go and see it, you will only be encouraging them.