Screenwriting Thoughts on ‘Gravity’

gravity-hi-res-image-sandra-bullock-george-clooney

First off, I will admit that while I used to transport myself to the movie theater at least once a week in the past – life, kids, work responsibilities have dismally reduced this extravagance to once a couple of months… which is why, when I post these, you will get a sense that I covet this experience like the Cookie Monster covets his cookies (which in fact is true. Not that I don’t love my cookies…).

A few MINOR SPOILERS ahead – I hate it when other people spoil it for me, so I will do my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. First, the basic premise, courtesy of IMDB:

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.

Were you one of those kids who thought you wanted to be an astronaut when you grew up? While there are a few space films that have been done before (Apollo 13, anyone?), I have to say this is the first one that will not only let you experience that deep subject of space, but transport you there…. or atleast put yourself in the shoes of protagonist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). While at first glance, she wouldn’t immediately come across as the protagonist – she is hurled, whipped, projected,  into the role — an underdog whose cold, broken-hearted negativity and despair is well contrasted with Matt Kowalski (co-star George Clooney), the other more charismatic, charming lead in the story.  Fear is something we can all relate to, as is the case here – she may not have much to live for, but as we discover, there are fates worse than death that can propel one to reconsider life as a better alternative, even in the worst cases.

While the story, the situation itself is a straightforward one, a space mission malfunctioning leaving astronauts stranded and forced to find a way home, the visual execution of this film is in a word: mind-blowing (especially in 3D). Stone herself, as we discover is a fairly complex character – and that’s the beauty of this film: space being a subject that’s vast, complex, ever-evolving, director and writer Alfonso Cuaron still manages to keep it simple as a contained thriller –  a vista explored and unexplored, beyond our wildest imagination. Diverging from the hollywood casts of thousands, endless blockbuster sets, here we have two major characters representing various character archetypes in a single location with the only nemesis being nature itself.

Who said movies only imitate reality? Cuaron, through ‘Gravity’ is a proven radicalist who changes this by making us abandon our theater seats to go into space, somehow juxtaposing us there and yet managing to keep us in the present without giving us a chance to relax.  Stone is alone but so are we… and while there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a script it seems (since much of it is an experience and improvised), Cuaron offers us some great lines as well (case-in-point, when Stone the seasoned astronaut says: “I hate space.”)  Everything is real time, saturating our senses- we are not only watching her, we are hearing her, feeling her – experiencing every jolt, every turn that by the time we get to the end, the whole movie has just speeded by.

To conclude, ‘Gravity’ is a testament to the ongoing saga of movies and oscar-contenders each year – that despite the marketing norm, the ‘tried, tested and true’ theory, doing something that no one has ever done before can still work when combined with brilliant execution  and in Cuaron’s case, an understanding of his audience, physically as well as emotionally.

So – what did you think of ‘Gravity?’ Feel free to post in comments.

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3 thoughts on “Screenwriting Thoughts on ‘Gravity’

  1. I love that you reference the line, “I hate space.” I read an unfavorable review on another blog that used that as an example of BAD writing, but I thought it was cute in the context of the movie.

    Many people are divided on the strength of the script. I personally liked the functional, minimalist dialogue. And there’s so much conflict (courtesy of the writing), it kept me riveted til the end.

    At least we can all agree that it’s visually ridiculous. Seriously. Wow.

    • Ha, Spencer, thanks for the comments. That’s intriguing about the line (all the people in the theatre I was in actually really appreciated that one particularly)… I think ultimately it boils down to what the purpose of a film is – and in my opinion, not every story has to be the same lay, also considering that movies are primarily visual. I think for what ‘Gravity’ was, though, the functional minimalism made a lot of sense. And like you said, the non-stop conflict – all worthy, making you care for the story and characters more – you just can’t go wrong with that. I really find it hard to pinpoint something wrong with the movie in general – it may not be the best film I have ever seen but one thing it does do and do well is exploit the visual medium… as you said ridiculously and astoundingly.

  2. Pingback: Science, Symbolism and Spirituality: A Gravity Movie Analysis (SPOILERS) | MovieMelt.com

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