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Is ‘Gravity’ Alfonso Cuaron’s Game-Changing Masterpiece? First Impressions From His Sci-Fi Epic Drop

Posted by , on May 4, 2012 at 8:50 am 

If you visit this site regularly, then you know Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men follow-up, the sci-fi epic Gravity, is personally my most-anticipated film of the year. Details are sparse on the project, but we do know it follows Sandra Bullock as “the lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope who desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter.” George Clooney is also thrown in the mix as a fellow astronaut. We also know that Cuaron shot solely in a studio and pre-visualized the entire film, which contains many single takes up to 17 minutes long, by placing the actors inside this already created environment entirely in post-production.

It sounds like a big gamble, but the pay-off may be just as great, as first impressions have begun to roll in from a test screening this week in LA. As with any test screening impressions, they should be taken with a massive caveat as visual effects are barely completed, but for those itching for the first thoughts on this film, look no further. Check out a round-up below, some which steer heavily into ridiculous hyperbole territory.

Film Experience:

“Gravity is Cuaron’s masterpiece. It’s gonna be divided. Half will think it’s a self-indulgent borefest and half will think it’s amazingly brilliant. The movie is 80% just Sandra Bullock!” He went on to say that he thinks its her best work, particular in the final fifteen minutes (from which he assumes they’ll draw an Oscar clip should that time come) but that the film is Cuarón’s. He called likely nominations for Visual Effects, Picture, Director, Editing (“breathless” action), and Cinematography which he calls “amazing.”

Awards Daily #1:

I still can’t believe what a great movie this. Wow!!! I don’t think anyone will doubt Sandra again after seing this. what a performance! I agree that George Clooney can be nominated as well. He has a bigger part than I imagined based on what I heard about the script and was really funny in his scenes. He provided the comic relief of the movie. The audience was laughing all throughout the first half hour because of his character but he also had a heartbreaking scene as well. He and Sandra played off of each very well and I think he was the perfect casting for the role.
Sandra was amazing and I think this will be an easy nomination for her. She completely dominates the movie and is alone on screen for the next hour and a half. As great as the directing and music was throughout, there is no way the movie could have worked so well if she wasn’t up for the task. I don’t think she has ever been more psychical or vulnerable on screen and she did very well in the quiet, dialogue free moments. It’s a great vehicle for her. There’s a lot of long scenes towards the end where she’s talking to herself… She has a monologue about being scared to die, she talks about praying and it’s all very convincing and heartbreaking. She is in great shape for the movie as well and the director shoots a lot of close ups of her face mostly relying her ability to convince and engage the audience. A lot of the scenes are shot in a way that makes it so intense to watch. It’s almost as if you’re there with them.

My only complaint is that the effects were very rough (im sure this will be fixed), in the beginning the actors looked like cartoon characters. You could see strings attached to the actors, etc. I assume the beginning of the final cut will be very effects heavy because I could barely understand what was happening. The directing and acting were so good that they made the story compelling enough to watch even when the effects got cartoonish.

Overall I thought it was a very suspenseful and engaging movie. Even with the extremely long takes it never dragged or became boring in my opinion.

Awards Daily #2:

IT WAS AMAZING! The movie wasn’t completely finished and the special effects looked bad as expected. But honestly, even if they had released the movie the way it currently is, it would have been freaking amazing. Alfonso Cuaron’s direction is absolutely phenomenal. Though his shots are very long, he manages to keep you captivated the whole time. He effectively puts the camera in these specific angles, including so first-person P.O.V. shots, that make everything so realistic and heart-pounding. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are both terrific and the dialogue is both funny and heartbreaking, but it never turns into something it’s not (like a goofy comedy). HOLY SHIT! You HAVE to see this movie when it comes out!

I will totally see it again in theaters in 3D and IMAX. Visually amazing. It was around 1 hour and 30 minutes but then again, it’s a work in progress. Clooney was in it for a pretty long time and it was great. The plot was gripping and never lost your attention. Masterpiece!

AICN:

I just got out of a test screening of Alfonso Cuaron’s new film Gravity. It was a “work-in-progress” print, with only about half of the shots having fully completed special effects. There were lots of unrendered 3D cubes, pre-visualizations & wires holding up Sandra Bullock’s ass to make it float. It felt a little like being shown 2001 and then during the Journey to the Unknown an iTunes Visualizer pops up, & they say “You get the idea right?” Or like watching James Franco raise Andy Serkis from infancy when you first watch Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. I feel justified in saying I’ve seen Gravity, but I haven’t SEEN GRAVITY, if you know what I’m saying. But I’ve seen enough. Here’s my review of what I did see: Gravity is a fucking masterpiece.

This is not just next level shit, this is several levels ahead of next level shit, & quite possibly the highest level shit you could possibly make. This is like if Avatar had been released in 1927 a week after The Jazz Singer. People won’t know how to comprehend what they are seeing. In short, Gravity genuinely makes you feel like you have been to space. It really, really does. And guess what? It’s beautiful, and awe-inspiring, and profound (and a little scary too), everything you thought it would be since you first thought about going to space when you were a kid. The movie exploits dreams it knows every sentient being has had, using the best special effects I have personally ever seen. I honestly don’t know how you could enhance a cinematic experience more. I kept waiting for a cameo from the Tupac hologram.

The story is profoundly simple. Sandra Bullock’s space ship is destroyed by space debris & she has to figure out how to get back to Earth. It’s told in real time without feeling like a gimmick & it has all the ludicrously long shots we’ve been promised. The movie never feels like “Phonebooth in Space!”, because the ‘one-location in real time’ aspect is vital to the story. The second after your space shuttle is hit by space debris you better believe every second of the next hour and a half counts (we’ll all know this first hand once Richard Branson gets his shit together). Don’t worry, I won’t give away the one spoiler in the movie, i.e. Will she make it?, cause that’s the only question you ask yourself the entire fucking movie. Cauron does a masterful job of setting up the impossible stakes & giving you hope & hopelessness at the same time. You have hope because you don’t believe a Hollywood movie studio would let Sandra Bullock burn up reentering our atmosphere (they paid a lot of money for her).

But by the way the film is shot, you feel hopeless. It has some of the best uses of first person POV shots I’ve ever seen, making you feel like you too are hovering right over the Earth, so close yet so far away. Other than Enter the Void, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more physically embodied as an onscreen character. It’s not POV the whole time though, Cauron breaks it up & often utilizes his signature ‘roaming-cameraman-who-never-cuts’ technique, which is very effective when there’s no gravity & for the ‘race-against-the-clockiness’ of the story. However, some people might end up saying that Gravity ends up being too light on story & is just an expensive space roller coaster ride, ‘Space Mountain: The Movie’ if you will. But those people would be wrong, stupid & ungrateful. Gravity is an important & subtle character study wrapped up in the guise of the most technologically advanced film of the new millennium. Sandra Bullock’s character has no family down on Earth. No friends. Her job is up in space. She’s struggling to get back to survive, but in truth, she doesn’t have much to live for down on that planet, so why even go through the effort? To me the film is about apathy and isolation. It’s about people today not knowing why they should be excited about living but only knowing they don’t want to die. It’s about looking at your own insignificance in the universe (or on Earth, or at your job, or at your school, etc.) & becoming empowered by it instead of defeated. And most of all, it’s about seeing what it would be like to float through space like an astronaut (spoiler: it’s fun).

It was amazing to see an early cut of this film but it was cruel and unusual to flip back and forth between the pristinely realized space footage and the 16-bit pre-viz stuff. This cut still gets my ultra-rare 11 out of 10 rating though, & it can only go up after I see the 100% completed version. Congratulations Mr.Cuaron, you sir have changed the game.

There you have it. As I said, that last impression especially is too over-the-top to put faith in, but this is exciting news for the one film I can’t wait to see. It’s nice to hear praise for Bullock’s performance as well, one aspect I was unsure about. For now, we wait about 200 days until Gravity arrives on November 21st, 2012 in its fully completed form.

What do you make of these impressions? Are you looking forward to Gravity?


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