Every year for as long as I can remember, I have made it a goal to see every Academy Award nominated film. There have been very few that I missed over the years – most were due to the fact that I live in a small town and we don’t always get the small indie flicks. This year was no different, save for one: Gravity. I get major motion sickness, so I knew that this film was one that I would never, ever, in a million light years, be able to see in the theater. Heck, I had a hard time with flying scenes in Prisoner of Azkaban, never mind a movie set entirely in space, with no gravity, and therefore, most likely a plethora of spinning, upside shots. No, this movie would have to wait until I could view it at home. Well, let me say this –
OH. MY. GOODNESS.
Now, this isn’t a review of the movie, but I do want to briefly touch on something. Alfonso Cuarón has long been one of my favorite directors (I can hear the anti-Cuarónites booing as I type this) and Gravity only cemented that for me. No matter what you think about his choices, story-telling ability, etc., you would have to admit that he is a visionary. He has an astute eye for detail: his films are always absolutely stunning. The colors pop, the light dances on screen, and the angles and cinematography are always refreshing and innovative. It’s always clear how passionate Alfonso is, and again, Gravity was obviously no exception.
Once I finished watching the film (and, might I add, took around an hour to catch my breath and come down from the state of high anxiety I was in) I dove into the special features. They are on the same disc as the film, yet tout a running time of over 3 hours. (Remember the 90 minutes VHS?). They are separated into two groups, and most focus on behinds the scenes aspects of the film. I watched the first group in it’s entirety, runtime of around 105 minutes – but it felt like 20.
I learned more about special effects from these special features then I did in two years of graphics & film school. Wait, seriously, no joke. Did you know that they basically made Gravity like, 8 times? First they storyboarded, then they did the pre-visual animation – which ended up turning into a previs of the entire film, something that is unheard of in the film industry. Then, in order to give the actors something to react to when being filmed, they created an animation from the actors point of the view. THE ENTIRE FILM, from the actors point of view. Then they actually shot the film. They compiled the film. Re-shot bits. Need I go on? I was in complete shock and awe of how many times this film was actually made! It’s clear at this point why the film was pushed back as many times as it was.
One of my favorites features from the grouping I watched was focused on the zero gravity aspect of the film. Obviously they didn’t film in space, and many of the solutions that already exist in the filming industry simply weren’t working or good enough. So, naturally, they had to invent their own. They did try the Vomit Comet, as they so nicely put it, but quickly realized that the 30 or so seconds of zero gravity weren’t enough. The team ended up with, I believe, four rigs, all which were built or engineered in a different and very specific way for this film. One is called the “six point wire” rig. Basically, the actors wore a very thin metal vest under their costume and were strapped in to wires hanging from a suspension rod. They used this rig in conjunction with puppeteers, in order to allow the actors to completely relax and not use their muscles, something that is instinct for us, but wouldn’t look the same in a zero gravity situation. The most innovative rig, “The Cage”, is massively impressive. Without giving away a lot of details (you should really watch this for yourself), the actor(s) stand in a central cage that goes up to their waist. The cage can rotate and tilt in any direction, and moves in conjunction with a robot usually employed in the car industry, to create shots of flipping, floating, spinning, etc., without the actors feet ever leaving the floor. Oh, and the whole time they’re surrounded by the aforementioned movie, so that they can see exactly what they would be seeing while flipping through space. It’s like virtual reality to the tenth degree.
What this long winded reviewer is trying to say is that this Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack is absolutely incredible. The special features flew by for me – I’ve rarely been so entertained. Do yourself a favor and pick up this Blu-Ray/DVD. It has an UltraViolet copy of the film too, for those like me who actually don’t mind UV movies.
Plus, you get to see a lot of David Heyman, which is never a bad thing.