Courtesy Warner Bros

I finally got around to seeing Gravity, one of the most lauded films of last year. In fact, I’ve seen it twice. The first time I saw it was at a friend’s who has a 3-D television, and I have to say I’m a little sorry I missed seeing the film in IMAX. I don’t miss the fact that I saved on the IMAX markup, to be sure, but the visuals in Gravity are absolutely breathtaking, even in 2-D.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know what a stickler I am for story and character. I do make some exceptions for guilty pleasures (Flash Gordon for example), but for the most part, a cinematic storyline usually has no excuse for skimping on these important elements. Pacific Rim has a somewhat simple story and some of the characters are a bit arch, but their presentation and informing the audience through action and emotion rather than wordy exposition overshadows those aforementioned potential drawbacks.

Gravity isn’t quite that lucky. As good as the performances are, our two leads are barely more than sketches of characters. And the story, despite taking place in the unique arena of outer space (we’ll get to that), couldn’t be more watered down. Gravity is a survival film. It’s the last half of Titanic, or the entirety of The Poseidon Adventure or The Grey, just in space. It shatters a seemingly peaceful scene with a disaster and narrows the field of players to one, who must survive and evade an oncoming calamity – water in the boat movies, wolves in The Grey, space in general in Gravity. As tense as Gravity is, in the back of my mind my inner critic was saying, “Space is still trying to kill Sandra Bullock. Somehow, all of space is still trying to murder Sandra Bullock.”

Okay, enough belly-aching, let’s get to the good stuff. This is one of the hardest sci-fi movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s up there with Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of its depictions of outer space. Instead of classical music, exterior shots are accompanied by a haunting and driving soundtrack. Some of these shots are utterly amazing in their length and composition. The silence adds to the tension and pulls us into the plight of the survivors. It’s paced very well, and arch as the characters are, they’re likable enough that we don’t want to see bad things happen to them. This film somehow accomplishes the feat of invoking both agoraphobia and claustrophobia at the same time. Space can be a scary place, and Gravity drives that home without a single laser blast or monster.

All in all, I really enjoy Gravity, and while its narrative and characters are not as strong as Moon and its impact won’t match that of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I would still recommend it for any sci-fi fan or folks interested in tales of the human spirit triumphant.

I need to see The Grey.