Review Roundup - Lost in space

GRAVITY (2013)

Finally, a new space movie. They don't come around that often so besides a level of hype the size of the known universe, a big draw for me was seeing someone put a level of effort and expertise into making a film with astronauts in it. And it's pretty amazing to sit through in places, the technical aspects are pretty mind boggling and the line between real sets and visual effects are almost indistinguishable. Using from what are as far as I can tell is a lot of new toys, they've created some great set pieces and managed to include some dizzying camera work. As far as action packed adventure material goes, this is visually amazing, well paced and meticulously put together. I'm not sure if tracking shots count if they are animated on a computer, it's impressive nonetheless. But how does the rest fare, in particular the parts that didn't soak up millions of dollars from the budget or require any graphics to be rendered?

First things first, the casting and characterisation. For all the advances in effects the real meat of any story is well, storytelling after all. As I said it's perfectly made which can be said for the way events come together on screen - a plot that unfolds without words is one of my favourite things in cinema; show don't tell. Thankfully there are no dry expository narrations, no on screen text or prologue moments. This is 90 minutes of film, it's the essentials. The blend of images and music excellent too, keeping the sound in space minimal while keeping things interesting. But for all the quality in it's execution I did feel that the writing lacked a lot of real personality. I couldn't get invested outside a couple of scenes. Now I quite liked Sandra Bullock here, it's a good central perfomance. But the dialogue wasn't up to scratch for me, it was very thin and had too much in the way of clunky hero banter instead of playing on the darker elements of death in space and providing real insight into the level of fear involved. George Clooney didn't help - whether it's intentional or not he was far too robotic and overconfident. Now I appreciate that veterans in space exploration are likely to have a lot of the right stuff but it never felt like he was a real person. Comparisons to Buzz Lightyear may be unwarranted but I can see their point. I imagine star power was what provided some of the money from the studio but maybe someone else would have been a better choice.

That's not to say that they don't try and do more than just have spectacular disaster sequences of course. There is a strong visual and literal narrative about isolation, being lost and finding reasons to live. A little to on the nose in a few places but ultimately suitable for the tone which is consistently popcorn movie. Maybe the wow of an IMAX presentation has been lost on me, but it's no excuse when stories like Moon have more humanity and no money to create entire space stations and weightlessness simulations. After all these kinds of plots are never about space and technology itself, but using those elements to build something interesting. Perhaps it should have pushed harder on the space madness themes but I'm not sure if it's appropriate. Maybe it just needed more real human angst and made better use of the few backstory elements that are presented. There are a few good moments of real movie magic here - none of which include explosions or speeding objects I have to say - but I would have appreciated a stronger script in a few key places to seal the deal. It left me entertained but a little cold, much like the view - dazzling but too much of a vacuum in a few places.