I still haven’t watched GRAVITY.
This is really rather poor form on my part, as I’m quite a big fan of space. As a concept. Or at least as a setting for fiction. I don’t know much about space, or physics, or how things work up there. I understand that once there you can create a Nuclear Man, as long as you have some of Superman’s hair and access to the sun.
Still, I quite enjoy bitching and nitpicking about things, especially from an informed bitcher/nitpicker, and they don’t come much more informed than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Well, I guess some people would come more informed than he is; I’m not really in a position to judge his overall ranking within the international community of astrophysicists. In truth, I know who he is because he’s an entertaining interviewee and shows up on podcasts and youtube a fair bit. I suppose it’s possible that he’s some kind of astrophysicist flunkie, living the good life on the new media gravy train while the real stars of the field (BOOM. Puns ahoy) toil away never to be recognized by wider society, or even by a guy that writes a blog about DIE HARD movies in his spare time.*
*I still go to the “writes about/talks about/watches DIE HARD movies” well when describing my blog, when in reality I’ve never gotten around to writing about DIE HARD. I just think about it a lot, in a “What Would Die Hard do?” kind of way, though it makes me feel bad for making that reference because it shows that I really did keep watching The Simpsons for a few years after it turned bad. We talked about DIE HARD on the podcast once. That was pretty sweet.
Anyway, Tyson says he enjoyed the film, but still pointed out that the filmmakers decided to skate by on artistic license in quite a few areas. There are mild spoilers here, though I quite like his assertion that the film should be renamed ANGULAR MOMENTUM, because it seems like a funny thing to say but I have no idea if it is or not. Yes, yes, I could use Wikipedia to figure it out but where is the fun in that? And stop judging me. Jeez.
To get back to the point, I think I’ll have to go and watch GRAVITY soon, in no small part because it represents a remarkable cultural touchstone: we are now at the point where smash hit movies involve taking two of the most attractive people alive and putting them in space. I personally endorse this trend, as I never quite understood Michael Bay’s predilection for taking disconcertingly young women (or adult women presented as being disconcertingly young) and getting them to bend over a lot while Shia LeBeouf runs away, to or alongside giant robots. The two attractive people in question can actually act, too, which is nice.*
*I’m from a generation that can never quite get used to the fact that George Clooney can act, because he was in ER and ER was a bit silly really in that way that early to mid 1990s television clearly was, now that we live in an enlightened time when Ichabod Crane is some kind of time-traveling crime fighter. I’m still at a point where I come out of Clooney films thinking “wow, he really did well” as if I’m doing the guy a favour by bestowing my (to him) anonymous faint praise.
It’s also a film that my wife and I can watch together, which is the kind of statement I found vaguely boorish and sexist until I got married and realized that my wife lacks the vestigial part of my brain that urges me to pay good money to see RIDDICK films in the cinema. We both want to see the film but neither of us know much about it, a minor miracle in 2013, except that there’s a lot of spinning around and explosions going on. Actually, from what I can tell, Bullock’s character gets separated from a satellite in the first five minutes and spends the rest of the film engaging in philosophical discussions with George Clooney’s disembodied voice while gently careening through space. Perhaps she discovers a few minutes from the end that the whole thing was a trick of her subconscious, and that she’s really on an American Airlines flight to Dulles experiencing an unpleasant dream brought on by having slightly dodgy milk with her cereal that morning, despite the fact that it seemed okay and she really didn’t want to end up caving and eating at McDonald’s. I mean, wouldn’t that render the previous day’s spin class rather meaningless?
I’m also intrigued by the film’s title. Gravity. GRAVITY.* Where is the gravity? Is the film entitled thus because the setting features an absence of gravity? That’s really rather clever. Not too clever, but clever enough. Clever enough to provide some comfort against fears of reckless silliness. I mean, it’s not likely that they’ll kill Kirk in this one and then bring him back again minutes later in the middle of a completely pointless thirty minutes of screen time. They didn’t call it GRAVITY: INTO DARKNESS. That’s how you know if a film is in danger of being bad. You know, if it’s title is both astonishingly lazy and aggressively stupid.
*You see, the first use of the word refers to the natural phenomenon, the second to the title of the film. Incidentally, I’d much rather use italics for film titles, but all caps is easier when writing a blog. I save the italics for pointless not-really-footnotes like this, inserted into the text. I quite like them, though it wasn’t even my idea.
That’s the funny thing with a one-word title, you see. It’s not actually lazy despite appearing like it is in fact extremely lazy. It’s lazy if there’s no context I suppose. ARMAGEDDON, for example, is a very lazy title. Not as lazy as ASTEROID RIDERS or something, but pretty bad. Then again, what would you call it? If you were going for a one word title and trying to be at least moderately clever, I mean. SON, I guess. I don’t know, if they had made ARMAGEDDON in the 1970s they would have called it MOONCHILD and there would have been some weird third act that involved earth having two moons and the change in tides erasing the Western World from history. But then Liv Tyler wouldn’t have been in it.
So perhaps we should go ahead and call ARMAGEDDON a wash. When I lived in Taipei, I was introduced to the phenomenon of how subtle changes in translation can drastically affect a film’s title. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, for example, was translated into “AFTER TOMORROW HAS PASSED” in Chinese for the Taiwanese market, which lent the film all kinds of subtle poignancy that would be nowhere to be found onscreen. In Mainland China they translated it as “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW” using a two-character combination that showed no attempt to convey any kind of intellectual level whatsoever. Consider it comparable to translating THE GODFATHER as “MOB BOSS” and you’re halfway there. So, GRAVITY is quite a nice title really. I mean, it beats ASTRONAUTS or something equally literal, just by implying something.
I’ll go and see it soon, and I might write about it, though it may lack commentary on Chinese language translations of movie titles from Jake Gyllenhaal’s rather spotty back catalogue. Or I’ll watch GHOSTS OF MARS instead. That’s the most obvious space themed film to watch as an alternative, right?