Sunday, November 10, 2013


We weren't exactly clamoring to see this wildly hyped action space pic with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. If anything, the wild praise made me suspicious, even if I rather liked Alfonso Cuaron's turn at the Harry Potter franchise (Azkaban) and didn't hate Children of Men. Whatever: We're still in the post-summer doldrums, and desperate times call for any excuse for popcorn, so there we were.


It's over-hyped. Not really its fault. It's a solid action flick, considerably better than most stranded in space movies (like Marooned and those awful Mars movies from the last decade), and it's a nice showcase for Ms. Bullock (and even Clooney is perfectly cast here).

Some who saw it insist it's a good vehicle for 3D. I didn't see it in 3D because 3D annoys the crap out of me, and having seen it, I think it would've detracted. But note my predisposition.

The story is minimal. Seasoned astronaut Clooney and novice astronaut/comm-satellite-specialist Bullock are repairing a satellite when their ship is taken out by Russian mayhem. I forget what exactly it was. A satellite explodes and ends up taking a bunch of other satellites with it, and the whole thing creates a debris storm circling the earth at 24 hours at whatever height our heroes are currently at, and with enough density to cause trouble.

No, it's not realistic.

Or, let me say, I wouldn't use the word "realistic" to describe it. There are some more realistic choices made in this film than many other films of this ilk. For example, there's no sound in most of the situations where there shouldn't be sound. Things float around well in excess of your typical zero-G movie. A great deal of attention is paid to the no-gravity situation, e.g., when Sandra Bullock rests her head, instead of falling back on the chair headrest, it floats forward.

In fact, if anything, they probably overdid it. It seemed like the zero-G persisted into scenes taking place on re-entry.

The debris field is way more visible than it would actually be in the darkness of space, and individual particles seemed to be making noise. Real life would lack the suspense. You'd either never see it coming, then you'd be dead, or you'd see a hole appear nearby you, or (most likely) nothing. You'd just never know.

But that'd be boring.

We seem to have been on a vector for the past 50+ years where everything has to be "more realistic" (even our superhero movies!), but mostly this involves shifting the unrealism around to things that we have less knowledge of. (For example, superhero movies seem to revolve entirely around a lack of understanding of Newtonian physics that our grandparents would probably have found preposterous.)

So, despite the cries that this is "the most realistic ever!!", it's really just a matter of conforming to our limited notions of what reality is.

Which is fine, but a good thing to be aware of. It would help the world a great deal if we realized we aren't really the apotheosis of culture and evolution, rising out of a sea of ancient barbarism.

I digress, but that's probably because there isn't much more to say about this movie. If you like Sandra Bullock and stories of struggling-for-life, this is a movie you will probably enjoy.

The movie fosters a bit of characterization involving Bullock's character and her daughter and I couldn't really decide whether or not I liked this. On the one hand, it was awful ham-handed. On the other, well, All Is Lost (think of it as Gravity, but on the ocean) is completely devoid of such background material, and suffers from it, I think.

But I think that Bullock is almost inherently empathetic (except to certain feminists, as noted*), and if the movie needed this underlying character development, it could've done with a lot less of it.

Nonetheless, The Boy and I liked it. The Flower demurred, deciding that the trailer looked like the entire movie (astute) and that it didn't look very interesting (your mileage may vary).

*For double-super-awesomeness, you could read a review of how the movie is a betrayal of all things feminine here. It's the sort of review that could only not be satirical in our modern world.


  1. Good review Blake. Not the best script out there, but as for the visuals, well, it's a totally different ball-game. Some of the most beautiful and realistic ones I've seen since Avatar, which is saying a lot.

  2. Hey, Dan (or et al)!

    I am not a fan of Avatar but, yeah, you can't knock the visuals for technical competence. Cameron knows his stuff. This is way easier on the eyes, of course, since they were going for "realism".


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