‘Gravity’ Early Reviews: Is Alfonso Cuarón’s Space Thriller a 3D Masterpiece?

Published 11 months ago by , Updated February 16th, 2014 at 9:25 am,

gravity sandra bullock Gravity Early Reviews: Is Alfonso Cuaróns Space Thriller a 3D Masterpiece?

Seven years have passed since director Alfonso Cuarón’s critically-acclaimed sci-fi film Children of Men released in theaters. However, the wait has only heightened interest in his upcoming space thriller, Gravity, starring the Oscar-winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a pair of astronauts who end up stranded in space after satellite debris cripples their shuttle and docking station.

Film buffs have spent the last couple years looking forward to another master class in technical wizardry from Cuarón, following the announcement that his 3D project contains an elaborate 15-20 minute opening shot; not to mention, even more of the director’s signature extended tracking shots and uninterrupted takes than have been featured in his previous films (including, Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). More recently, the larger moviegoing public has become aware of Cuarón’s shenanigans, thanks to the terrifying scenarios and horrors glimpsed throughout the Gravity trailers and TV spots released to date.

Question is, does Gravity likewise boast emotional depth and thematic substance, to go along with the enthralling 3D spectacle and camerawork used to recreate the sensation of being in space (for people in the audience)? After all, last year’s Academy Award-winning Life of Pi adaptation was seen as a breakthrough for 3D filmmaking, by marrying together masterful use of the stereoscopic format with a more thoughtful and unconventional narrative than was featured in past 3D breakthrough movies (sorry Avatar). That is to say, the bar has been raised for 3D entertainment, in the time since Cuarón began production on Gravity.

Gravity Still 2 570x243 Gravity Early Reviews: Is Alfonso Cuaróns Space Thriller a 3D Masterpiece?

Gravity was selected the opening night feature for the 2013 Venice Film Festival, which accounts for why a handful of professional movie critics and journalists in attendance have posted their reviews online just over a month ahead of the film’s theatrical premiere. So far, there appears to be universal agreement about one thing: Cuarón’s project is just as harrowing and technically-impressive a viewing experience as the trailers have indicated:

Variety:

Not unlike earlier triumphs of 3D and vfx innovation such as “Avatar” and “Life of Pi,” though conceived along less fantastical, more grimly realistic lines, “Gravity” is at once classical and cutting-edge in its showmanship, placing the most advanced digital filmmaking techniques in service of material that could hardly feel more accessible.

THR:

At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise.

The Guardian:

Gravity, by the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is a brilliantly tense and involving account of two stricken astronauts; a howl in the wilderness that sucks the breath from your lungs.

The Telegraph:

Comparisons to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi are inevitable and well-earned, but in fact, Gravity operates as a companion piece to Cuarón’s last film, Children of Men, which played at Venice seven years ago.

HitFix:

It may not sound like high praise that I had no sense of timing throughout this thrillingly brief 91-minute film, but I imagine you can’t feel the minutes ticking by in space either. The immersive rhythmic continuity of Lubezki’s camerawork and Cuarón and Mark Sanger’s deceptively tight editing is such that it’s hard to mentally organize the film into scenes and sequences after the fact.

Hey U Guys:

This is a thrilling and moving rollercoaster of a movie that will appeal to space geeks and romantics alike.

Sandra Bullock in Gravity Gravity Early Reviews: Is Alfonso Cuaróns Space Thriller a 3D Masterpiece?

However, when it comes to whether or not Gravity has more to offer moviegoers than an audacious cinematic thrill ride – with Bullock and Clooney delivering strong performances as the human anchors – there appears to be some discrepancy among these early critiques. Reviewers seem to have conflicting opinions, as some appear to feel that Gravity suffers from the occasional screenwriting short cut; not to mention, a refusal to acknowledge the overt existential and spiritual implications of its story. Others, however, seem to argue that there is substance there, but it’s just more subtle than is customary for this sort of auteur-fare:

The Playlist:

The film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space (undoubtedly aided by the 3D: this is one film that’s really worth paying the extra bucks for to see in the format, whether the lens is capturing a tiny spinning speck in the distance or debris flying in your face). But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere rollercoaster ride — even if your instinct, as at a theme park, is to finish the experience and line up again for another go.

Screen Daily:

There will be little disappointment from audiences who are likely to be thrilled by the well sustained edge-of-the-seat thrills as this space-bound film follows the well-worn disaster movie format and keeps things tense right up until the final scenes.

The Independent:

A decade after collaborating on Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2003), Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and British producer David Heyman have combined forces again on Gravity, a 3D survival thriller set in deepest, darkest space. The new film… is a visual triumph even if its storytelling is less than sure-footed.

Variety:

There are glimmers of artifice, too, in the script’s conception of Stone… It’s the one on-the-nose element in a screenplay that, given its rigorous intelligence in all other departments, might have done well to trust the audience to stay invested in Stone’s journey without the benefit of an emotional hook.

THR:

For some viewers, that will be a good thing, as it avoids pretention and self-seriousness; for others, its refusal to acknowledge the eternal mysteries, to be anything more than a thrillingly made, stripped-down suspense drama, will relegate it to good-but-not-great status.

The Guardian:

Ruined satellites pitch and yaw. Shrapnel zips through the darkness like shoals of silver fish. As the screening wraps up, the delegates are politely instructed to return their spectacles to an usher and not leave them on the seat. Gravity, after all, offers a stark warning of the dangers of debris, clutter and human waste.

The Telegraph:

But by the end, you realise you have mentally sketched in two commas to make sense of the film’s deep-down, soul-fattening theme. Yes: life, in space, is impossible. But mankind was not built for solitude, and in a wide, empty universe, the yearning for human-to-human contact is a force as powerful and inescapable as the one that keeps our feet bound to the planet.

In conclusion, it sounds as though the initial critical consensus for Gravity is similar to that for the people who saw the rough cut version a year ago: no one denies that Cuarón has pulled off a daring feat of 3D filmmaking, but there’s disagreement over whether or not Gravity is equally philosophical as a 3D film such as Life of Pi (albeit, more quietly meditative). Regardless, everyone so far seems to agree that the project is worthy of a recommendation.

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Gravity opens in 2D and select 3D/IMAX theaters in the U.S. on October 4th, 2013.

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32 Comments

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  1. The true auteurs (so far Mallack, Scorsese, Le, Need to see Gatsby to judge Lurhman) of stereoscopy will produce 1-2 films a year for a while, until other serious directors and cinematographers start to “get” how to use the format.

    I anticipate this is another film to add to the Cinematic language of 3D.

  2. Nice. I’m definitely in.

  3. My problem with this film is the casting which for me is fatal.
    I cannot buy Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as Astronauts.

    The movie beckons to take you into its world and to be immersed in it and
    the presence of these two actors work against that taking you outside it.

    I do think this project would have been better served with largely
    unknown actors which would better drive the film narrative.

    • Who cares which actors or actresses you think are believable for the roles of astronauts?

      • I cannoot find them be liveable. That was my point.

        • *cannot

        • *believable

          • But you LOVE Ben Affleck as Batman!? Which is more laughable, honestly? Clooney was already in Solaris, he’s got it down.

            • I never said I LOVE Ben Affleck as Batman.
              But I do see him as a believable Batman.

              George Clooney always plays George Clooney.

              • This. Just look at George Clooney as Batman…still George Clooney (and a lot of ham).

    • Funny, none of the reviews quoted above seem to have had that problem, and they all have actually seen the movie.

      • I don’t have to see the movie to know
        I cannot buy them as astronauts.

    • I totally get it. For actors with as big personalities as Clooney and Bullock, it’s hard to separate them from their previous work. They’re charismatic entertainers, but I couldn’t say either of them have ever disappeared into a role. On the other hand, I’ve never seen an Alfonso Cuarón movie I didn’t like, so I’m hoping its leads will surprise me.

      • That is exactly what I was getting at.

        Actors that disappear into this landscape
        would have been ideal and these two being
        so well-known make that essentially impossible.

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    System weight reduction through development of new technology.

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    The Director of the Keshe Foundation

  5. Really looking forward to this movie. Even the trailer in the IMAX 3D format when seeing MOS and Pacific Rim looked amazing (especially compared to the “cardboard cutout” 3D of MOS and the Jurassic Park 3D trailer also shown during those movies).

    • Man Of Steel was post-converted 3D. This is shot in 3D which is always superior.

      • Gravity IS post converted

        • Really. I thought with all the raving it was shot in 3D.
          Why is this considered a 3D breakthrough as critics say.
          Makes one wonder why all these initial reviews are aligned.

          • Because it has some of the longest running post converted shots (over ten mins). The quality of the 3d, which has now reached a point where it can look better then native stereo (which can still suffer from things like horizontal alignment issues, slight color mismatch, and contain elements that may be uncomfortable to view in 3d which conversion could adjust). Some of the problems with 3d is it starts feeling flat because the movie keeps changing shot and everything’s moving so quick your eye doesn’t have enough time to assess all the positioning whereas here you’ll have the time to feel things gradually change depth. The conversion also gives them the controls to make it deep enough without blowing your eyeballs. The director said at comic con it was practically impossible to shoot the shots he wanted with a stereo rig anyway

            • A breakthrough of sorts in 3D conversion then not 3D filming.
              Shooting in 3D does have limitations on shooting and some
              shots are literally impossible to do with current cameras.

              I wonder if conversion gets so good that filming
              in 3D will become unnecessary, just the opposite
              of what James Cameron has been campaigning for.

              • Good point. I think we already have some great examples of post converted 3D movies that blew people away. For example, Titanic; Jurassic Park. Even though this was post converted, the reason why the 3D looked so well was because James Cameron had twice as much time to work on post conversion. He worked on the titanic 3D stuff for about a year. Thats double the time what normal movie studios have when they are doing a post converted 3d film.

                So in the end, I do agree with your assumptions but at the same time disagree with conversion will be better than shooting in 3D. I think shooting in 3D would be a lot better.

  6. I was thinking the same thing, about the casting. Neither actor has ever done it for me in a dramatic role, owing most of their relative successes on screen to semi-comedic or comedic roles. And Clooney, like Affleck, Cruise and an ever-growing list of others, always seems to walk around with that pathetic, —t eating grin on his face, regardless of the role. Nope. Can’t buy him in this role, unless the director made him serious it up. Could happen, but I’m not holding my breath. As for Bullock, this is just unnecessary. There are literally hundreds of better, available actresses that have serious dramatic acting chops. There was simply no need to shoe-horn her into this role, just for name-recognition seat sales.

    • I am guessing Clooney and Bullock were brought in for
      funding and box-office reasons and not suitability first.

      • Correct if I am wrong, but RDJ was originally cast only to later back out…

        • Now that I would like to have seen.
          To bad if what you say did happen.

  7. Lol all these reviews saying how amazing the movie is and all you guys can do is complain about Clooney and Bullock. Go watch the movie first. How’s that sound?

    • This is a small number of reviews released and all glowing.
      This is hardly a universal consensus of reviewers and
      why should you pay for actors you don not like?

      • Yet all these reviews said the acting was great. Any problems they saw mostly had to do with script issues, not the acting. From what’s come in thus far, they’re saying this is the best acting Sandra has done in her career to date.

  8. Will watch this on Netflix when available. Hope the plot does not just “float away”!

  9. Here is a review of the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Both are in outer space trying to fix a space telescope when satellite debris wipes out the space shuttle and they are the sole survivors in space, After being separated in space, Clooney miraculously finds Bullock in pitch black and starts putting the moves on her in geosynchronous orbit 22, 300, 000 miles above Earth. Luckily, Clooney releases himself from a life tether to our delight never to be seen again for the most part. Somehow Bullock manages to skyjack 2 space stations and destroy them single handedly trying to learn how to be an astronaut by reading a manual written in Russian. I thought for a minute I was watching Spaceballs. I have never wanted fire, rouge meteor , satellite debris or harm to come to person so much as Bullocks character. At one point Sandra started to act like a dog and bark and howl in an escape pod.??The girl sitting next to me looked at me shaking her head. I agreed. Finally Jesse James ex-wife punks a Chinese satellite escape module and dumps it in the ocean with frogs swimming around. Why not a fat shark instead? I swear I didn’t make this s*** up. The only reason I stayed for the whole movie is cause the girl next to me was cute. Save ur money and buy a 12 pack instead.

  10. For a refreshing review of Gravity – (3D) – click on FILM & TV REVIEWS at:
    http://www.davidmurph.wordpress.com

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