Monday, November 11, 2013

Tomatoes Thrown in Zero G Get Lost in Space and An Open Question About Gravity and Its Detractors



Alfonso Cuarón's latest science fiction film, Gravity, has been doing very well in the theaters even weeks after it premiered on October 4, 2013. According to the International Movie Database (IMDb) the film grossed U.S. $55,785,112 in it's debut weekend, and has since then amassed a total of U.S. $222,714,492, surpassing more than twice the budget for the film project.

While many reviews have touched upon the quality of the thriller, ["Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that's masterfully directed and visually stunning" (from Rotten Tomatoes)], other reviews are more concerned with the techniques employed in the project, ["In truth, I didn’t find the tension as nail-bitingly intense as I thought I would, but that’s partly because I was so distracted by the special effects, which are properly impressive, sometimes jaw-droppingly so, and more importantly, properly plausible," (from UK Daily Mail)]. Of these types, the reviews have been very positive towards the film.

The negative reviews consist of a third set or type which mostly come in the shape of "scientific opinion," and include articles like the following:


Some of these opinions indicate that part of the attraction of the film is that it is presented in a 3D format, which makes for a better experience of "space," but that the physics in the film are not quite right, or perhaps impossible in reality. While there are positive reviews that touch upon these flaws in Gravity's recreation of the "real space" experience, such as Phil Plait's review on Slate.com, the negative reviews seem to depend on the very issue that those things couldn't happen in real life.

Granted, out of all the types of criticisms--and without getting much into the Jamesonian philosophy of historicity and/or science fiction's correlation of present to imagined futures or utopia--perhaps one of the most fitting for science-fiction is the "scientific argument."

Yet, these types of "reviews" that lean on the "scientific argument" made me feel weird when I read them. I felt as if they were picking on Gravity for something that other science fiction films were not. I couldn't remember the last time I read about how this or that couldn't possibly happen in the last Star Trek film, for example. In effect, what I do remember is reading the opposite type of review in regards to Star Trek: Into Darkness: about how the science-fiction of Star Trek was becoming more of a reality every day. I am thinking of articles like Ron Atkins' on Space.com or Jacob Marcolis' on KPCC Public Radio.

My question regarding the negative attention that Gravity is receiving is thus framed in this context.

So, why is it that two very popular science fiction films debuting in the same year obtain different types of scientific reviews? Especially like the ones we have with Gravity and Star Trek: Into Darkness, which in my opinion, is more fantastic and "fictional" than the first?

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the broken links. They have been fixed.

    ReplyDelete