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Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Best Movies of My Life: Gravity (2013)


So much of the nuance of modern life--what little there was of it, that is--has been burned away by the polarization and rife divisions that have overtaken us, so much so that it's now fairly reasonable to assume that if a certain group hates a film, for example, and you, reasonable person you are, despise that group, that it's a safe bet the film is worth watching.

Such is the case with 2013's Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock, who appears almost exclusively throughout its ninety-one-minute run, it features Dr. Ryan Stone, who, with a team aboard the space shuttle Explorer, faces the horror of somehow surviving orbiting debris caused by some idiot Russian space SNAFU (as I recall; and yes, "idiot Russian" is, these days, redundant).

Hurrying to get back into Explorer from her spacewalk with her commanding officer, Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney in what I consider his finest performance, the debris strikes, wiping Explorer out, killing its crew, and stranding Stone in space, who is sent hurtling away in what I consider one of the most terrifying bits of storytelling ever committed to film:



It's a continuous shot, one that soon takes her point of view, and done so beautifully that every time I watch it I can't breathe. It's that good.

Kowalski manages to rescue her. But her--and his--troubles are just beginning. Because that debris will soon circle around the planet and strike again. They need to be on their way back to Earth--but aboard what? Explorer is gone. It's toast.

As a suspense story, this one, in my opinion, has few if any equals. The special effects are so good that I was having difficulty not feeling lightheaded and disoriented in the theater. I kept having to look down at the seats to remind myself I wasn't in space too. The soundtrack, composed by Steven Price, won an Academy Award, and rightly so. It never lets up, but never overwhelms the story itself.

You'd expect that audiences would absolutely love this movie, and for the most part, they did. The trouble came from one of those groups I referenced at the top, who took massive exception to it and, as trolls do, organized and hate-bombed it online and pretty much everywhere else they could as well.

The group? Materialists and atheists. The reason? Because, as far as I can tell, and as Wikipedia explains:

... [t]he film incorporates spiritual or existential themes, in the facts of Stone's daughter's accidental and meaningless death, and in the necessity of summoning the will to survive in the face of overwhelming odds, without future certainties, and with the impossibility of rescue from personal dissolution without finding this willpower.

In other words, Stone's story isn't just about surviving the debris catastrophe and returning home. She has--gasp!--layers. She has--gasp!--beliefs! She lost her daughter and is in deep mourning. The debris, the struggle to return home, space, Earth, and all the rest are suddenly and profoundly metaphorical. The survival story, hard-baked as it is, is a spiritual one.

And so those numbnuts went crazy.

I can't find the clip, but I remember watching Neil deGrasse Tyson trashing it, as well as the ever-execrable Sam Harris. I remember other notables from that blinkered camp taking aim at it, and I remember various review sites getting hate-bombed by many materialist/atheist herd animals.

These aren't, in my opinion, honorable or even honest individuals (read Harris' Wiki page to see just how much of an intransigent asshole he is), and this was further demonstrated to me by the tack they employed with criticizing it, which they took from the outworn and ludicrously transparent playbook so many other trolls have employed in the past.

Here's the tack. Those jerkweeds didn't attack the existential or spiritual themes, no. Usually after a haughty and dismissive verbal bit of spittle regarding those themes, they went after all the technical details instead. This allows them to feign ignorance as to their real anger towards the film while connecting with the millions of shallow pinheads who wouldn't know a metaphor from their genitals. "The physics aren't right, and so I couldn't keep watching it," was one complaint I saw repeatedly. I saw long harangues on just how exploding debris wouldn't reach a space shuttle in higher orbit, how "unrealistic" was Stone's attempts to board distant orbiting stations, and even how a woman of Stone's (Bullock's age)--roughly 50--would never even make the astronaut training program, let alone get shot into space. Of course, they went after the fact that Stone is a woman; I also read tons of comments on Bullock's appearance. They trashed her politics, as well as Clooney's (both are vocal liberals), and then had the temerity to go after the film's genius director, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, mostly out of sheer bigotry. He isn't, after all, Caucasian--as though that's necessary to being a movie director.

That particular tack is almost always taken by this group in particular when a sci-fi film or TV series upsets them; when, for a ready example, a black woman takes the lead on the new Star Trek franchise. The criticisms pull focus instead on other issues: "It doesn't feel like Trek"; "It's way too dark" (pun surely not intended--they really aren't that smart); "The special effects are lame"; "The science doesn't hold up" (almost always thrown out there, but with almost no explanation as to why it doesn't "hold up"); "There are all sorts of problems with plot versus canon," and so on, ad nauseam.

Here's the thing. Materialism and atheism are both entirely defensible as a philosophy or theology. If you want to subscribe to either/or, that's just hunky-dory with me. But they are not The Truth, no matter what deGrasse Tyson or Harris or Dennett or Crick or Nye or any of the rest of them bleat and blare and bloviate every damn day of the week. If you don't like a movie or a TV series because it upsets your materialist/atheist sensibilities, if your materialist/atheist panties get all twisted up, I'm so sorry! At least have the moral backbone and integrity to point that out in a manner that demonstrates that you do in fact have a backbone and integrity!

And if you, the reader, think that's going to happen any time before humankind actually discovers warp drive, you're delusional.

If you're one of the six or so people left on Earth who hasn't seen Gravity, trust me: it's an awesome, awesome film. Have the integrity and character to recognize the possibility that while its existential and spiritual themes might not agree with you, but being a human being of sufficient depth, you can absorb the story, still enjoy it enormously, and walk away feeling edified and entertained. Voice your criticisms honestly, succinctly, and with an eye towards humility (you don't know The Truth) and appreciation. Because Gravity is a beautiful, edge-of-your-seat, deeply affecting work of genuine art.