Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 18, 2014

‘Gravity’ a volley ball free ‘Cast-Away’

DVD Review

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — As I navigate my way further along the adulthood highway, it seems increasingly likely the closest I’ll get to outer space is watching the year’s latest Hollywood entry. Today’s topic of discussion is both such an opportunity and a way to catch up on the Oscar party I was unprepared for this time around.

I’ll admit I was pretty excited to hear such good things about a space movie and at least partly regretted missing this one in theater. In fact, one major thing that stuck out to me right away is that it seemed to be reduced too much scale-wise on a personal TV screen, something I have no doubt was epic in a big screen setting. However, while a bit of amazement was lost in transition with “Gravity,” it’s easy to see why so many people were hooked and rooting for an outcome that at least imitated a happy ending.

To put it in perspective for those who have not yet seen this flick, I would describe it as “Apollo 13” meets “Castaway,” but with only one really powerful performance and no heart wrenching volleyball dialogue (the closest object we see any emotion in losing is a floating wrench thingy). The story focuses on a NASA medical officer, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on her first space shuttle mission that teams her up with those like long time veteran and mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney).

Their mission is cut short when it is learned that the Russians might be cluster ruining everything electronic orbiting earth by missile launching an old satellite of theirs (which brings to mind Space Cowboys, now that I think about it), and means they must skedaddle back to earth early. Of course that plan goes up in thin atmosphere and instead they are all but screwed when an orbiting debris field forces our two surviving astronauts to either hyperventilate or in Clooney’s case talk about how awesomely handsome he is. What follows is a race to survive, though at times you might wonder if that’s even being taken seriously for artistic sake with some admittedly cool stuff getting shredded shots.

While the film certainly earned the wow factor for breathtaking visuals, the one area where I did not see award winning quality was the soundtrack. When it wasn’t lost completely in the moment, it seemed more like extra noise than something that actually enhanced anything musically (even after listening to it separately).

It certainly makes me wonder if it was just the Academy’s latest attempt to screw John Williams out of another win (why not he’s had plenty ignored through about 50 nominations), the latest being a pretty cool set of songs for “The Book Thief.” One amusing tidbit that in some ways broke from the otherwise serious drama of it all was a stolen moment from Wall-E (think fire extinguisher), which in the end kind of helped separate what was at times a bit too depressing. I doubt I will make much effort to see it again and feel satisfied having seen it the one time.

I have yet to see the others nominated for a lot of the major award categories, but this seemed like another carried more by hype than anything else. A last thought I will add however, is that the best thing that could happen to this film is if it stimulates a few minds to look toward the stars and one day inspire them to reach them.  You know, insead of being scared crapless by the scenes where our hero faces nothing, but clouds of non headbang worthy death metal. It earns “Gravity” two and three fourths out of five malfunctions.

DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.