A SHORT NOTE ON THE “SIMPLICITY” OF GRAVITY

Film Crit Hulk explains why GRAVITY's slight narrative is part of what makes it great.

A SHORT NOTE ON THE “SIMPLICITY” OF GRAVITY

THERE IS NO GIANT COLUMN TO WRITE ABOUT GRAVITY.

OR, AT LEAST, HULK IS NOT THE ONE TO WRITE IT.

THAT COLUMN WOULD PROBABLY BELONG TO THE HOST OF BRILLIANT CINEMATOGRAPHERS AND / OR TECHNICALLY MINDED GENIUSES WHO COULD POSSIBLY EXPLAIN TO HULK HOW SUCH A FILM COULD BE ACHIEVED. SERIOUSLY. HULK'S JAW IS STILL AGAPE. IT IS SUCH A NEAR-PERFECT EXECUTION OF UTILIZING 3D SPACE AND CRAFTING WITH SOUND AND LIGHT, ALL COMBINING INTO A COMPLETELY VISCERAL EXPERIENCE. IT IS A MARVEL OF OUR TECHNICAL ABILITIES (AND AN EVEN BETTER MARVEL OF CINEMATIC UNDERSTANDING). BUT THE FUNNY THING IS THAT THE MORE HULK ASKS AROUND ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT, IT IS MORE THE FILMMAKERS AND TECHNICIANS WHO ARE THE MOST BEFUDDLED AS TO HOW CUARON AND COMPANY ACTUALLY PULLED IT OFF (NOT SO COINCIDENTALLY, THOSE WHO SEEM TO KNOW JACK SHIT ABOUT MAKING MOVIES SEEM TO BE THE LEAST IMPRESSED). SO ALL HULK CAN SAY, IS HULK CAN'T WAIT TO WATCH BEHIND THE SCENES DOCUMENTARIES.

BUT ANYWAY, LAST NIGHT HULK TOOK TO TWITTER LAST NIGHT TO TALK ABOUT HULK'S AMAZEMENT. ABOUT 95% SEEMED IN AGREEMENT AS TO THE FILM'S INCREDIBLE QUALITY.

A CURIOUS 5% DID NOT.

THEY SAID THEY FOUND THE STORY TO BE LACKING OR SOMEHOW UNSATISFACTORY.

NOW, IS THIS OPINION UNDERSTANDABLE? OF COURSE. AFTER ALL, A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE THE ABILITY TO IDENTIFY WHEN A MOVIE ISN'T SPENDING A LOT OF TIME ON STORY OR WHEN THEY ARE USING A STORY ELEMENT WITH CLUNKY THEMATIC PURPOSE. BUT WHAT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST IS THIS PARTICULAR REACTION TO GRAVITY IS PART OF THE PHENOMENON OF HOW MOST PEOPLE IGNORE "THE CINEMATIC PRINCIPAL OF GIVE AND TAKE."

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WHEN SOME PEOPLE EVALUATE A MOVIE, THEY WANT IT TO CHECK OFF ALL THE BOXES OF RELATIVE GOODNESS IN ORDER TO QUALIFY THAT GOODNESS. HULK KIND OF ABHORS THIS TREND, BUT LUCKILY, HULK HAS ALREADY ARGUED TALKED ABOUT THIS SUBJECT A GREAT A DEAL. SO NO, A FILM IS NOT A CHECKLIST.

AND OFTEN THE VERY THINGS A FILM MIGHT BE LACKING, AREN'T THERE ON PURPOSE, AND THAT IS MEANT TO HELP THE THINGS IT DOES QUITE WELL.

GRAVITY IS A FILM THAT IS TRYING TO PUT YOU IN A 100% ENVIRONMENTAL AND VISCERAL EXPERIENCE. WE COME INTO A STORY AT A CERTAIN POINT. WE LEAVE IT AT A CERTAIN POINT. IT IS A CONTINUAL NON-STOP EXPERIENCE IN BETWEEN. IT CAN NEVER LET UP FROM THAT. AND THE PURPOSE OF THIS EXPERIENCE IS FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE SPACE, IN ALL IT'S INFINITE TERROR AND WONDER. AND BOY DOES THIS FILM BRING THE TERROR.

HULK SERIOUSLY CANNOT CONVEY TO YOU HOW IMPECCABLE THE CRAFT IS HERE. THE WAY THE FRAME IS FILLED. THE WAY THINGS GLIDE WITH ASSURED CONFIDENCE. THE WAY THE SUBJECTS DANCE WITHIN VIEW. BUT BEST OF ALL, IT JUST MOST INCREDIBLE IS IT'S SENSE OF TIMING. IT KNOWS HOW LONG TO HOLD A BEAT. HOW LONG TO BUILD UP CALM. HOW LONG TO BUILD DREAD. HOW LONG TO USE CHAOS. HOW LONG TO USE STILLNESS. IT KNOWS WHEN TO SHIFT BETWEEN THEM AND HOW. IT IS FILM SCHOOL FOR PACING IN JUST 2 HOURS. AND BOY DOES IT KNOW WHEN TO USE A RARE CUT FOR MAXIMUM IMPACT (THERE'S, LIKE, SEEMINGLY 17 IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE).

THE FUNNY THING IS THAT SOME PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THE FILM BEING "A RIDE" AS IF IT'S SOME HORRIBLE THING. THIS IS CINEMA, FOLKS. WHEN A FILM CAN BRING US ON A RIDE OF ETHEREAL TRANSPORTATION (MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THE TURN YOUR BRAIN OFF INSIPIDNESS OF TRANSFORMERS OR SOMETHING) THEN THAT IS A THING TO BE FUCKING CHERISHED.

THUS, THAT IS THIS FILM'S PRIME DIRECTIVE. IT KNOWS THAT IF IT WANTS TO HAMMER YOU WITH CONSTANT THRILLS, THEN IT HAS TO HIT THESE BEATS IN A VERY PARTICULAR WAY. IT KNOWS IT CAN'T FLASHBACK TO EARTH, FOR IT CAN'T LET YOU ESCAPE. IT HAS TO KEEP YOU GROUNDED IN THE TERROR THAT ENTIRE TIME AND TO DO THAT IT KNOWS IT HAS TO HIT YOU EQUALLY WITH THESE PEACEFUL AND SOLEMN RESPITES ALONG THE WAY, JUST BEFORE COMING RIGHT AT YOU AGAIN.

AND IF IT WANTS TO ACHIEVE THAT? IT ABSOLUTELY CANNOT TAKE THE NEEDED TIME TO HAMMER OUT A FULLY ORGANIC STORY IN THE WAY THAT FITS SOME PEOPLE'S CHECKED BOXES.

IT JUST CAN'T. HULK HONESTLY CAN'T IMAGINE A WAY TO MAKE IT WORK FOR THIS STORY. AT ALL. ANY ATTEMPTS WOULD SEEM LIKE A DETRIMENT TO WHAT IT WANTS TO ACHIEVE. ANY LITTLE CHARACTER BUILDING NOTES HULK COULD GIVE (AND HULK COULD HAVE A LITANY OF THEM) WOULD SEEM COMPLETELY ANTITHETICAL TO WHAT WAS TRYING TO BE ACHIEVED AT EACH MOMENT IN THAT MOVIE. IT JUST HAS TO STAY ON MESSAGE. IT HAS TO PUT THE EXPERIENCE FIRST.

THE BEST WAY TO DO IT IS WITH COMPLETE ECONOMY. HENCE THE EXACT STORY THEY USED. HENCE THE DEAD DAUGHTER. HENCE THE SHORTHAND OF CHARACTERIZATION. HENCE GEORGE CLOONEY BEING THE CALMEST MAN IN THE WORLD. HENCE JUST GOING INTO HER HEAD THAT ONE TIME. HENCE HER REFLECTIONS. HENCE HER TALKING TO HERSELF AND PEPPING HERSELF UP. THESE THINGS ARE ALL BIG OVERT AND ON-THE-NOSE STORY MOTIFS. AND IN A MOVIE LIKE THIS? THEY ARE PRECISELY WHAT WE NEED TO MOVE THROUGH THE BEATS IN THE WAY WE DO. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THIS THRILL RIDE INTO A HUMAN REALITY.

IT IS WHAT MAKES IT A REAL STORY.

IN THE AGE OF THE CONVOLUTED BLOCKBUSTER ESSAY, HULK REMINDED YOU THAT THE MECHANISM OF DRAMA WAS ROUTED IN CLARITY. THE BETTER YOU UNDERSTAND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE PEOPLE IN FRONT OF YOU, THE MORE READILY YOU WILL ACCEPT THEIR WANTS AND NEEDS AND THE MORE READILY YOU WILL EXPERIENCE THE CONFLICTS THEY EXPERIENCE (AS HULK SAYS IN THE ESSAY, THE ACTION IN THE RAID IS COMPLETELY ROOTED IN KNOWING ALL THE MOTIVATIONS). THIS CLARITY IS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THE TERRIFYING MOMENTS, TERRIFY US. TO MAKE THE TRIUMPHANT MOMENTS TRIUMPH. CLARITY IS HOW WE TRANSFER. AND SO WHEN PEOPLE KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE HOW THEY COULD BARELY BREATH DURING THE RUNNING TIME OF GRAVITY AND THEN CHASTISE THE STORY, THEY ARE DEFINITELY MISSING THAT IT WAS THE STORY THAT ALLOWED THEM (OR IN THE VERY LEAST, WASN'T AN OBSTACLE IN ALLOWING THEM) TO HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE.

THE REAL KICKER TO ALL OF THIS IS THAT COMING UP WITH THESE SIMPLE FRAMEWORKS IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE TRY AND FAIL ALL THE DAMN TIME TO GET THEM TO LINE UP WITH THE ACTION RIGHT. AND CUARON (WHO HAS HELPED WRITTEN SOME OF THE MOST REMARKABLE SCRIPTS EVER IN Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN AND CHILDREN OF MEN) MANAGES TO TAKE A VERY SIMPLE STORY AND MAKE IT A PERFECT ALLEGORY OF BIRTH CYCLES WHILE MAKING A HELL OF A COMMENTARY ON THE NATURE AND IMPETUS OF SURVIVAL INSTINCTS. AND IN THE END THAT SENSE OF SURVIVAL IS EXACTLY WHAT HULK FELT. JUST SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL TO BE ALIVE AND BREATHING AFTER A TERRIFYING "RIDE." WE FEEL AS IF IT HAPPENED TO US.

BUT IT IS NOT PART OF THEME PARK PARLOR TRICKS... IT IS GREAT CINEMA.

PEOPLE WILL CALL IT SIMPLE... BUT IT IS ANYTHING BUT SIMPLE.

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AT THE END OF ALL THINGS, WE JUST HAVE TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: WHAT IS THIS MOVIE TRYING TO DO? DOES IT ACHIEVE IT? AND IS THAT ACHIEVEMENT VALID AND PURPOSEFUL?

WITH GRAVITY, THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE EVIDENT AND THEY CONFIRM THE VERY PURPOSE OF WHY WE GO TO THE MOVIES.

<3 HULK

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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