Gravity (2013) (DVD review).

In many respects, Dr. Ryan Stone (actress Sandra Bullock) must have been the unluckiest luckiest person in the space drama ‘Gravity’. Matt Kowalski (actor George Clooney) and herself are the only survivors after their space shuttle and the Hubble are wrecked by space debris. He then sacrifices himself when she can’t hold onto him and she boards the deserted International Space Station and facing a fire, she flees to their emergency escape capsule but can’t use it to return to Earth as the damage prematurely releases the parachute. Nearly giving up, she finds a means to get to the Chinese space station and for anymore, you’ll need to see the film.

Gravity (2013) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).
Gravity (2013) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

In many respects, the plot is very basic but from the quality of special effects, it isn’t surprising that they won so many awards for it. The only reason that it is spared from being called Science Fiction is because Stone doesn’t really come up with any ingenuity to resolving her problem. She might be a novice astronaut but she’s also supposed to be a brilliant engineer but doesn’t exploit her talents other than look at manuals to work out what buttons to press. Plot-wise, this story could work equally well at sea as in space and I have vague memories of another film doing that.

Mistakes spotted. When there was a fire on the International Space Station, the last thing Ryan should have done is use a powder fire extinguisher. The ISS, even spinning, has no gravity and the extinguisher would have only sprayed a globe of dust everywhere and wouldn’t have helped and taken a long time to clear up. Granted, she was under pressure, but that type of extinguisher shouldn’t have been on-board in the first place, well not unless you wanted to use one as a thrusters out in space. For small fires, a fire blanket would have been effective or a carbon dioxide extinguisher. With bigger fires, the section should have automatically been closed and the air evacuated. Even if she was trapped inside the section, an oxygen mask would have been in there somewhere to ensure her survival.

I read one critique that the ISS wasn’t in the same orbit as the Chinese space station but bearing in mind the change in apogee that the space capsule took and her tweaking with the fire extinguisher, that wouldn’t have made much difference. With the damage caused by the space debris, placement of either space station would have been unsure and both likely to be nearer to Earth because of…er…gravity. I think I would have chosen a better title, like ‘Space Debris’ which was the real problem.

If anything, ‘Gravity’ could be used as an example of some things that shouldn’t be done in a space emergency. Stone’s landing on Earth being one of them. She certainly shouldn’t have released her helmet when the capsule landed in the sea as this would have been her means to survive getting to the surface. If not that, then certainly some sort of oxygen breather should be included in the capsules for such problems.

With the DVD version, there are only two extras. The 6 minute film short is showing who Stone was receiving a radio call from on Earth. Although clever, you would have thought that the other radio transmitters around would have picked up her signal. The second, ‘Collision Point’, examines the amount of space debris surrounding our planet and the problems in collecting it, including political ramifications for removing it. Although the problem is referred to as ‘The Kessler Syndrome’, ‘Gravity’ is by no means the first filmed story to show problems with space debris because the ITV/Gerry and Sylvia Anderson show series ‘UFO’ centred one story, ‘Conflict’, on it back in 1969. I never thought the solution there of blowing it up was much good because it would have left a just a lot more smaller shards floating around, although presumably these would have fallen back to Earth and burnt up in the atmosphere.

In most respects, ‘Gravity’ is a tour de force of British special effects and I’m sure that will do more for our industry for getting more work from across the pond.

GF Willmetts

March 2014

(region 2 DVD: pub: Warner Bros 5000176716. 87 minute film with extras. Price: £ 9.99 (UK))

Subtitles: English, Castilian, Spanish, Danish, French, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish

cast: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

check out website: warnerbros.co.uk/gravity


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.