On Monday, which was a holiday here in Oz, after my twelve guests departed from my barbecue breakfast which lasted until lunchtime, I settled down under the aircon to watch a movie. I was going to choose John Carter, but settled instead for Blade Runner. Half way through Kane turned up to collect a few items left behind earlier, and he brought with him a selection of movies he thought I might like to watch. So I settled back down on the lazyboy in front of the giant TV, turned up the surround sound, and was utterly astounded by what I saw next. Gravity. I was quite unprepared for this film. I am so out of touch, I did not even know it existed.
It is a masterpiece. Believable characters portrayed by talented actors, absolutely amazing visual effects, a sound track that made me think “Space”. The script was natural, spiked with a few metaphors and symbolic references that appeal to those of us who look for that kind of thing. best of all, so far at least, no lines that jar on the third viewing. A sure test of a good script. I have watched it three times already in as many days, and found no cringeworthy moments yet.
It is an action film. Plenty of action, with incredibly well paced and beautifully shot quiet moments. With no monsters or villains except the inexorable clock, the movie carried off a simple escape story that had me totally engaged. Gravity had everything Avatar had plus everything it didn’t.
Avatar, like John Carter, was a fun comic-book science fiction film with amazing special effects but unlike John Carter, had more than the acceptable amount of appalling dialogue. It seems dialogue is just not Cameron’s forte. The plot of Avatar was enjoyable, and engaging in its way, but was essentially Fern Gully in space, with some horribly poor plot holes glossed over in the excitement. Avatar also has several of those cringeworthy lines I mentioned. Nevertheless , like John Carter, I love it. It is great entertainment, and on my list of favourites. Seven and a half stars.
Gravity is in a different category altogether. It is pure SF adventure with the accent on the S, going back to the golden age of writers such as Clarke, Asimov, Niven and Heinlein. The very thing I was bewailing not so long ago, that we did not see any more. No alien monsters, no evil villains with insane plans, no stupid mystical messages, just people, science (especially physics) human nature, warmth, fear, terror, more of the same, and then some more, all in the midst of the most beautiful backdrop of earth and space. I have not seen the 3D version of Gravity, but I found it extraordinary to watch just in 2D. I intend to get a 3D copy for myself as soon as I possibly can, so I can watch many times, as I still do with classics such as Blade Runner, 2001 A Space Odyssey and Alien. I do not consider the unlikeliness of the ending to be a defect, as some trolls on IMDB seem to think. It is a great survival story, well told. I like a happy ending. If I want sad endings I just have to look around me. Nine stars. The highest award I give, reserving ten for that impossible Perfect Film that may someday come along.
Speaking of sad endings, the sad, uplifting ending of Elysium was actually one of its strengths, and it was not at all overplayed. For some reason, when I read the title of this film, I was expecting it to be a political thriller, which I suppose, in a way it was. A (valid) left-wing commentary on the present condition of the United States. I had not realised until it started that this was another SF film. Again it was unexpectedly enjoyable, and pretty much again met my criteria for a proper SF film. It reminded me just a little of District Nine, possibly because of the dystopic vision, and possibly because it had one of the actors. As a science fiction action adventure I thought it was a cut above the rest. Once again well filmed and directed, with excellent special effects and some very good actors. Jodie Foster makes a great villain. Seven and a half stars.
It should hardly seem surprising that Hunger Games, Catching Fire, did not capture my imagination, or strike me as being anywhere near as satisfying as what I had already seen. In fact having reviewed what I have written so far, I am beginning to think that I need more objectivity before I proceed to dismember this five star movie.
I think I might stop right here for now, watch it again, and see if I can find more to comment on. perhaps find it another star. I am feeling charitable today.