Gravity just won seven Oscars, including two for editor/director Alfonso Cuarón, and was a blockbuster at the box office, grossing over $270 Million domestic and over $700 million worldwide. It was a theatrical experience, meant to be seen in 3D on Imax in a Dolby Atmos theater. Which means it’s exactly the sort of film that might not be as much fun to watch at home. So how does it fare on the small screen? Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in the film, and my 2D version of Gravity Blu-ray review follows after the jump.
Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a doctor who’s working on repairing the Hubble Telescope with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) when debris from an exploded satellite destroys their ship and kills the rest of their crew. With the debris still orbiting the planet at ninety minute intervals, it’s a desperate race to get to the closest space station, which might have a working escape pod.
Clocking in at 91 minutes (with the film proper running only 84), there’s a very lean narrative here, but the film doesn’t feel short – it feels like a full meal. This is because of the immersive shooting style, which is why the film was so heavily rewarded on Oscar night. Cuarón opens the film with a twelve and a half minute shot that features no cuts. It’s followed by another shot that runs nearly six minutes that goes from outside of Bullock’s helmet to her point of view inside of it. By having only one cut for most of the first twenty minutes you don’t get the sense of relief that comes with an edit, as they offer a change in perspective. This isn’t the same sort of one shot like the openings of Touch of Evil or The Player (this features numerous takes and material incorporated into the shot), what this does is establish tone. You’re completely with the protagonist, and not just because you’re seeing things from her perspective. That lack of cutting (like most cinematic effects) is more pronounced in the moment you’re watching it, it elongates the time. Looking at these sequences with a clock on, everything is shorter when being monitored because of the lack of cutting. Most films don’t have many shots that last longer than thirty seconds, so there’s a sense of build when you don’t, and the release isn’t there in the way it is with other films, you have to stay on the ride.
On the big screen, this was so immersive that it trumped Avatar, which was considered the next level of 3D filmmaking. So the question is, how does that play at home? Great, actually. Full disclosure: I’ve never been a big fan of three dimensional filmmaking, as it’s always felt gimmicky and never as engaging as its fans would lead you to believe, even if Gravity is obviously the best the format has to offer. Watching it at home I found it just as immersive an experience, which surprised me. The film is about visual storytelling, and though the extra dimension helps some parts (and digital effects seem slightly more pronounced here), the movie works because it’s well directed and put together. Though it may not be the equal of the theatrical experience, if your television is big enough and your sound system has some power, this will play great at home with or without the extra dimension.
Warner Brothers presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, while the set comes with a DVD and digital copy. The presentation is flawless, and the soundtrack is stunning, it’s no surprise this won all the tech awards, and their work is well preserved on Blu-ray. Though there’s no commentary, the film comes with a number of supplements. First up is “Gravity: Mission Control” (107 min.), which is a nine part making-of that walks through every step of the process. If you want to know how they achieved the weightless sequences, or how much was done in post-production, this feature length documentary shows that in great detail, which is awesome. This doesn’t pretend it was all done with magic, it’s very hands on, but it doesn’t lessen the film. The featurette makers don’t build a narrative like most great behind the scenes features, and you can see the structure is based around the production (it goes from pre to post production) but there are enough good details on the making of the film that it’s still worth a watch. There are also five “Shot Breakdowns” (37 min.) which walk through five of the key moments in the film. “Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space” (22 min.) is a documentary about how much debris and relics are floating above the planet (and is narrated by Ed Harris, who has a cameo in the movie), while Aningaaq (7 min.), which can viewed with an introduction by Alfonso and Gravity co-screenwriter Jonas Cuarón (3 min.), tells the other side of the conversation with the person on Earth who comes in contact with Dr. Stone. There’s also a list of all the film festivals the movie played, but no trailer for the film, nor commentary track. This is a really good set, so it seems unlikely the film will be double dipped.