Ragtag presented ‘Gravity’ with insight into its production

The film comments on the nature of danger, our will to live and the power our minds have over any situation.

The film “Gravity” is one of consistent suspense, emotional human storyline and well-done computer graphics. The journey of Sandra Bullock's character Ryan Stone trying to navigate space on her own with only six months of training evoked a feeling of hope in the audience, as we were invested in her survival. George Clooney's character Matt Kowalski, and his nonchalant attitude offered the comic relief a film of this intensity requires.

Although the film alone was enough to impress, the viewing experience was enhanced by Ragtag Cinema’s inclusion of an academic panel that spoke about the scientific integrity of the film. The presence of Linda Godwin, an astronaut turned professor added a wow factor to the panel as well. During the Q&A, Godwin explained the accuracies as well as fallacies the movie made about what a space mission entails and how it works. In the film, as Stone and Kowalski orbit the Earth, it looks enormous. Godwin informed us that Earth does in fact appear this large from space; they got that right. However, the spacesuit Stone is wearing has no coolant system, so she likely would have overheated and died in real life — they got that wrong. Godwin also explained that the trips from space station to space station that Bullock's character makes throughout the film would be impossible seeing as many space stations are in different orbits and not as accessible as the movie makes them seem.

Unfortunately, I have never been to space or studied space travel. Fortunately, however, that meant I could view “Gravity” with an unbiased eye. I had no previous knowledge of how physics works in space or the plethora of fatal mistakes and disasters that astronauts must be prepared for. This film did a wonderful job, especially when it came to how it was shot, of immersing the audience into the world of zero gravity. At the Q&A immediately following the film, Chip Gubera, a visual effects and motion graphics expert, explained that the director of the film favored very long shots so as to simulate the astronauts’ experience of floating in space. He told us that three shots make up 30 minutes of the film because of how long they are. When asked by an audience member how the spacecraft and their interiors were created, Gubera explained that all of it was computer generated. In fact, 80 percent of the film was computer generated. This is also why the film took $80 million and four years to complete.

As with most good, suspenseful movies, everything that could have gone wrong did. The extensive disasters Bullock’s character had to deal with ranged from a raging fire on the second space station to a constant risk of a satellite debris storm hitting her, the latter occurring multiple times. When asked if the fire in the spacecraft was realistic given that there is no oxygen in space, the answer was multidimensional,stated Godwin. There can be fire because there is oxygen in the shuttle, however, it wouldn’t evolve into a massive flame given that hot air doesn't rise in space. This left the audience in a communal state of contemplation. Additionally, the threat of cyclical debris that loomed throughout the film was also unrealistic, but the panel was the first to admit that it made for a great story.

Despite a number of inaccuracies in the film, this story remains a compelling one. It is one of self-discovery and perseverance, as well the terrifying nature of the unknown. Both Clooney’s and Bullock’s performances were extremely engaging and the feeling of triumph at the end of the film was undeniable. “Gravity” is an absolute must see.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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