It’s pretty rare that I make it over to Chicago’s Navy Pier IMAX for my movie seeing pleasure. And by rarely, I mean I’ve never been there before to see a movie. Never felt the need to pay the prices I suppose, when I have a perfectly good (yet smaller) IMAX 10 minutes from my home. BUT this weekend, I decided to make a special trip to Navy Pier to experience Gravity on the biggest, most butt-rumbling screen I could experience it on. Did I think it was worth the $16 tickets and $25 parking garage costs…?
Well, let me put it this way, I guess… In 2007, I saw Danny Boyle’s space film Sunshine. I thought it was a really good movie (one of the best of that year), and I sort of campaigned the fact that people should make an effort to see it in theaters, because it honestly won’t be as mindblowingly visceral on your TV as it would on a large screen. Space movies, in my opinion, are best when they fill up your vision completely, and you get lost in the darkness, and mesmerized by the moments of brightness. Almost more importantly, having your ear drums potentially damaged by ominous humming noises and deep bass sound mixes are a must. Short of having a mansion with a personal theater in it, you will never recreate the sights and sounds of a space movie in theaters, especially if you have a crappy TV and a distracting computer/smartphone next to you. And as much as I tried to get people to see Sunshine on a big screen, I plead to you ten times more to see Gravity on a big screen. Actually a BIGGER screen. If you don’t see a lot of movies in theaters, and you’re looking for that one that’s worth it, it’s Gravity on the IMAX. You can rent this in a few months on RedBox, and watch it at home, and totally enjoy it in all its tense glory… And I 100% guarantee that you would have enjoyed it to a disgustingly higher degree if you just took 2 hours out of an upcoming weekend and saw it in IMAX 3D. Oh, yeah, that’s right… I thought the 3D was awesome, too.
I’m clearly not alone in this line of thought either. In addition to being critically successful (98% Rotten Tomatoes score, 96 on Metacritic), it’s also approved by common yokel audiences (90% liked it on RT), AND it was financially successful (#1 at the box office with $55 million, the biggest October movie opening of all time). The trifecta! It pleases the snobs, it pleases the common man, and it did so while being a high concept art film that a ton of people went to go see anyway.
I guess I should talk about the actual movie at some point? But first, I’d just like to say that I understand why it could potentially turn people away, before they even see it. I was at a party over the weekend, and I was trying to explain to people why Gravity was so good, and I got a lot of “Is that the Sandra Bullock movie where she screams a lot in space? EHHHH.” I guess I understand how people who don’t go see movies all the time, or aren’t big into the technical side of filmmaking, would actually see the trailer for Gravity and could, like, NOT be impressed. It’s a movie that thrives on all of its technical levels first and foremost. From the cinematography to the sound design to the (clearly about to be Oscar-winning) special effects, Gravity is a marvel of sight and sound. Probably more so than a great story-type film. So if you’re not impressed by 10 minute long-shots and a masterful use of depth of field, then I understand why this wouldn’t top your list of things to see. That being said, if you actually want to EXPERIENCE something at the movie theater for a change, Gravity is the best “theme park ride” type of a movie you can see, short of going to a 1950s matinée and getting shot with water guns by employees.
A lot of people are calling the story the weakest part of the movie. And it is. But at the same time, I didn’t think the story was bad. It’s much less of a character driven piece, and much more of an emotional journey through a terrifying drift of fear. It’s a movie that made me feel helpless quite a bit throughout it. It’s basically a barrage of moments where Sandra Bullock has to survive elements mostly out of her control. And again, IT’S FRIGHTENING. It’s a great film in general, but for right now, I’m happy with having the experience it gave me at the top of my list of why I liked it.
I suppose if I had a criticism of anything, it’s that it tried to hit at a few underlying themes, and they weren’t really all that subtle. I’m looking at you, fetal position Sandra with space suit umbilical cord shot. Not that I necessarily disliked that moment, I actually liked it quite a bit on a pacing level. But c’mon… Maybe a little too obvious? It felt like a film student quality symbolism scene. But with breathtaking cinematography.
There are really just two elements that make up the core of Gravity: Sandra Bullock’s great performance, and the visually and audibly stunning ocean of panic that is outer space. They both worked well together at giving me an upset stomach from stress. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. So, yeah, it was worth it, if you just skipped from the first paragraph of my review to the last sentence.
9 out of 10