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Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian
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lil_shepherd
I finally saw 'Gravity' several years after everyone else. I regret not seeing it on the big screen, but no regrets at all for missing the 3D version. If a film can't hold up on the TV screen in 2D then it is not worth seeing in the first place.

However, 'Gravity' held up very well indeed. Superb SFX, fine acting, beautifully paced and excellently directed, it's real fault was what Ina refers to as "that bloody awful intrusive music." (Which won what I, personally, consider one of the most misplaced Oscars of all time!)

It was one of the (surprisingly) many things this movie has in common with 'Interstellar' - so why did I love this movie (though not as much as I loved 'The Martian) and hate 'Interstellar'?

Ina's comment this morning when I voiced this question was, "It's a bloody sight shorter."

And that, indeed, is one of the reasons. 'Gravity' is a short film by modern blockbuster standards and feels even shorter, because it's a rollercoaster ride. 'Interstellar' is much longer, has less action and less plot, though lots more cod philosophy. Nolan just will not kill his babies. Whereas, in 'Gravity' there is no wasted action, no wasted words, 'Interstellar' just rambled on and on to very little purpose.

Before I started watching 'Gravity' I was already well briefed on some of its scientific and engineering problems, much better briefed than I had been on 'Interstellar's but it didn't bother me during or after the movie. (In fact, some of those were what made it SF rather than a straightforward drama.) There was no moment when you asked 'Why are these characters fuckin' doing that (stupid) thing?" because each action was as clear as day. What's more, the characters in 'Gravity' actually talked like, you know, people. Likeable people.

It took me a few minutes to work out why I much preferred the effects in 'Gravity' to those in 'Interstellar' and my first thought was that the latter were, well, dull. And why were they dull? I've come to the conclusion it was the colour palette and the colour grading. Though set in space, 'Gravity' was bright and beautful, it had the backdrop of space, and of Earth. It had the golden glitter of the solar arrays. It looked real because it was based on the familiar shapes of Earth built craft. And, God, it was lovely. 'Interstellar' was all greys and browns, and not bright ones at that. All the worlds were miserable - even Earth. ('The Martian' also had the glorious colours of the Martian landscape, probably exaggerated, but I do not, honestly, care. They were beautiful. I think the lack of beauty in 'Interstellar' may have been a choice, but it did mean that the interminable dialogue silences were made worse by there being little of interest for the eyes.

Then there was the acting. All three movies had genuine stars in the leads, but, let us be honest, Bullock and Clooney in 'Gravity' and Damon in 'The Martian' generated interest and sympathy in the way truly great movie stars do when given decent material - they all knocked Matthew McConaughey out of sight. Did anyone care about him? I certainly didn't.

Oh, and all that ridiculous business with the singularity and the bookshelves (which was deliberately obscure - probably because if it hadn't been it would have been laughable) wasn't, thank Ghu, present in 'Gravity' - even the one strange scene plainly an hallucination, right from the start. Everything in 'Gravity' was believable while you were viewing the film, while I spent most of the time watching 'Interstellar' going, "What???"

I note, with glee, that 'The Martian' has now passed 'Interstellar's total take in the US, and will probably surpass its total take when it opens in China and Japan. It's also got real legs. And cost a lot less. It won't, of course, surpass 'Gravity's take, or come near its Oscar haul but, you know, I am okay with that.

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Gravity has quite a few scientific errors, but most of them didn't occur to me till well after I'd seen the movie. Since I've taken physics through special relativity, that says it did a good job of feeling plausible. (The most obvious problem is that so many orbiting units were so conveniently close to each other.)

By the way, I've now read The Martian and thought it was even better than the movie.

The most obvious problem is that so many orbiting units were so conveniently close to each other.

Which they aren't, of course. Hubble is in an entirely different orbit from the International Space Station. (There was a fair amount of whinging about this from NASA.) However, this is rather like the storm on Mars - necessary for plot reasons.

I really must read 'The Martian'!

I absolutely loved Gravity. Haven't seen Interstellar and am unlikely to, unless it bumbles its way onto Netflix, and I'm still trying to work out when I can see The Martian before it's too late for the big screen. I love good science fiction.

And everything you say about Gravity is right.

Every SF fan on my flist here and Facebook adores 'The Martian.' Go see it.

Tesseract, don't run, to the nearest theatre to see The Martian before it is too late. If it is some sort of expanded screen theatre even better.

We re-watched Gravity the other evening and I felt the same way. I was afraid after my Interstellar experience I would find the scientific flaws intrusive, but I did not. I only actually noticed some orbital dynamics issues but everything else was still subsumed by the movie experience. It helps (for me) that the glossed over science is at least consistent through the movie and doesn't take a left turn into lala land.

and doesn't take a left turn into lala land.

Absolutely. Over on my Facebook, Mike (W) remarked that 'Interstellar''s problem is that it is trying to be an SF movie and a movie about the American Great Depression ...

He's spot on.

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