Me and Neil deGrasse Tyson on the film Gravity
This week's movie from the library was Gravity ...
a 2013 science fiction thriller film. It was directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts. The film depicts the mid-orbit destruction of their space shuttle and their subsequent attempt to return to Earth.
First, the visual effects are really amazing. I love seeing realistic portrayals of stuff that is near impossible, from a park stocked with dinosaurs to depictions of the future, so I did appreciate the outer space special effects.
But on the downside, much has been made in reviews of the movie's theme. Many have seen that theme as religious, and you can read reviews by Fr; Robert Barron and by those at Thinking Faith on this.
To me, however, it didn't seem religious but more like a really well constructed driver's training film. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong, with the actors going from one splendid looking catastrophe to the next, barely (and sometimes not) surviving. It had elements of nihilism: the female astronaut told of her little girl's meaningless death (this is always worse, I guess, than a "meaningful" death), and her fellow astronaut saved her life only to lose his own as a result. And I also found it spiritually manipulative: we're given glimpses of a religious icon, a statue of Buddha, mentions of prayer and the afterlife, mentions of how beautiful the Ganges river looks from space, and a last minute save via a ghost, all against a backdrop of terrible adversity as beautiful music ebbs and flows. Sigh - it was like The Tree of Life in space :(
When the surviving character, despite her depression over her daughter's death and her co-astronaut's death, realizes she has the will to survive in spades, the music gets especially "moving" ... I think that's when I turned the sound off ;) ... and as she finally drags herself out of the lake and onto shore like Earth's evolving proto-creatures crawling up from the slime, I decided this was an existential film in which the character,s as well as the viewers, were free to take what was intrinsically meaningless and give it value.
For those like me who were not so enamored of the movie, here's Neil deGrasse Tyson telling you about all the things wrong with it :) ...