Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Understanding The Gravity Of Gravity

Gravity is one of the most thrilling movies ever made. Unlike any other film, it is more reminiscent of a roller coaster, or a really intense video game. From start to finish it pulls the viewer in and relentlessly tugs at their sanity. After all, what would you do if put in that same situation? With this one question, the video game metaphor comes to life in a completely metaphysical way.
Of course I can only speak from my own experience, but the most shocking element of the film for me wasn't the utter chaos and destruction taking place on screen, it was the emotional turmoil taking place within my head. Wanting to reach out and help her. When in first person, I felt like I was becoming her and all I wanted to do was just... reach... down... and grab... that... handle. Of course I'm referring to that near orgasmic climax when she reaches the Chinese station and is truly out there without a tether, no communication, no ship, no one else to help her out. It's just her and that fire extinguisher which is without a doubt almost out of spray. And she lets it go and reaches and reaches and the station is just beneath her head and just centimeters from her fingertips and all I want in the world in that moment is for her to GRAB THAT GODDAMN HANDLE AND GET THE HELL INSIDE!!

It's truly an impressive feat to get everyone in the audience's teeth chattering like that.

So by now you're asking, "why is he writing another post about this movie?" Well this one isn't so much about the movie its self as it is about what comes next.

It's no secret that the film industry has been floundering of late. Ever-growing budgets, and a decrease in audience attendance (really an increase in other options besides going to the local cinema) creates this odd market flip wherein a single motion picture can essentially bankrupt a studio. Video games are a part of the problem as is television (but these days to a much lesser extent), the internet, and Netflix. Actually the most difficult issue the film industry has to deal with today is surprisingly the reason film became so popular in the early twentieth century to begin with.

That is, keeping audiences interested.

In today's world, I find myself constantly over-sated. I can watch videos on my phone, my ipad, my laptop, my home computer, my 42" television. I can read books on a device that mimics the exact look of ink on paper and I get the scores of all the football games with a little buzz from my pocket. And it's only getting crazier. With the advent of Google Glass and iWatch and whatever else they think up next (a car that actually drives its self allowing me to do whatever I want on my way to work perhaps) it is becoming more and more difficult to separate from the rest of humanity... or rather to simply focus on one task, one individual moment. There's just too much going on in the world.
Like with the initial coming of television (and later the VCR), film once again has to find a way in a market that is ever flooding. It has to prove that it is THE place you can go to have nothing pulling you in another direction. Because it's dark in there and the screen is so big, there is an unwritten rule (and more increasingly a written one) of no cellphones, no talking, no ruining it for anybody else. There is a sort of psychology to it. And people want to comply. But they're having a harder and harder time of actually paying attention. Some movies are too big and loud and many people just want to stay home and watch the next episode of Breaking Bad. After all it has the same quality of drama but from the comfort of the couch. And I know this is nothing new. It's been happening for years. What the film industry has been searching for with those big "blockbusters" with the constant noise, the explosions, and the third act that decides it's just gonna repeat those two things until it feels like it's done it enough and it should probably stop, is create


that can't be had on the couch at home.
Enter Gravity. With Gravity's video game makeup and roller coaster feeling on that same massive film screen (and even bigger with IMAX), the audience has been afforded an experience they don't want to turn away from, because they feel a part of it. It's a step. And it may be the next step of "blockbuster" filmmaking. So what does this mean?

It means a slew of copycat films. Perhaps a new genre, the "experience film". When Avatar came to theaters it was a sign of the changing foundation. Whatever we may think of it, Avatar proved that good 3D could be a reason for audiences to sit down in a dark theater... they came in droves. So the industry bit. They bit too hard. 3D once again had a backlash. But, unlike in the 80s, they invested too heavily and have kept it going this time. It seems these days every big movie is in 3D. And that includes Gravity. But unlike all of those other copycat movies, Gravity's 3D is pretty much a necessity. It brings you further into the world of the film and helps to make you feel like a part of it.

Now I have a few worries here. The first being Alfonso Cuarón's career. Cuarón is one of my most favorite directors. I just wonder what could be next for the man. Does he fall into the trap and try to make another "experience" movie like Gravity? Or does he move on knowing he's already mastered that style? It took him seven years after Children Of Men to make Gravity. Is there a chance he stops there? Is there a chance he never makes another motion picture? The second worry is, when the copycat flicks come along (and I'm pretty confident they will) who's gonna be in charge of them? If it's a studio trying to force it and they hire just any director, just any writer, just anybody we could be in for a long drought of quality filmmaking. This style of movie requires absolute precision. And I don't know how many directors could manage to hit all of the marks. Beyond that, what would another movie in this style even look like? Where would it take place? Space is so hard to do and Gravity managed it with an exceptional element of realism. Does it work underwater? Or in a war zone? Does it work with anything other than space?

So that's where I'm at right now. I am currently obsessed with Gravity. I've seen it twice and I want to see it again in IMAX. But (and here's the over-satiation kicking in) what's next?

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