All movies are works of fiction. By knowing this, your enjoyment of a movie can only be impacted so much when you see inconsistencies in a film’s storytelling. Spotting “flaws” in movies varies from person to person, which is why movies are so subjective. While there may be no right or wrong answers with movies, but there are informed opinions. For one former Guidance, Navigation and Control Officer at Johnson Space Center, Alfonso Cuarón gets it all wrong when it comes to Gravity.
According to Michael A. Interbartolo III, who wrote a very technical article for Blastr, the jet propulsion and space exploration depicted in the trailers for Gravity are all wrong. Interbartolo explains that the way the shuttle and space station move through space is completely inaccurate to how they would travel through space in real life. He also suggests that Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone gives female astronauts a bad name for her reactions to being whipped around in the vacuum of space. Interbartolo writes:
The way I am seeing it, the shuttle was wings level, payload bay up (Z), right wing into the orbital velocity vector (X direction of travel), nose in Y. The Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris [MMOD] (though most were not really micro Meteoroid) impact puts it into a roll about Y with it still traveling in the velocity vector X, and why are the Forward and Aft reaction control jets not firing to damp the ramp since they were intact in the trailer? When the Remote Manipulator System (RMS, the Shuttle robotic arm) breaks, it was rolling and moving forward with the shuttle, but then with the camera and the Earth in the background the arm goes into a radial direction (Z) away from the earth (thus the opening rate between the shuttle and RMS making it seem like the shuttle is plunging down) with a tumble about the radial axis (now a roll about X).
Did you get all that? You might need a whiteboard to diagram it all. Basically he’s explaining why the physics of the crash don’t make visual sense. And he continues:
Then they show her unstrapping from the tumbling RMS, which isn’t going to change her velocity vector, since she was tumbling with the RMS, thus has the same motion and velocity as the RMS. Unstrapping doesn’t arrest that rate. Maybe her EMU (space suit) had a SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue) to arrest her rate, but it would be pretty limited propellant for her to then be able to get back to Clooney. All that MMOD and she doesn’t take a leak seems highly unlikely given the big stuff is usually surrounded by lots of hypervelocity small stuff. And since Clooney was still in the debris field, how did he not get shredded when the shuttle did? Not to mention her freakout does a disservice to every female astronaut out there and would eat through her 6-8 hrs of metabolic suit O2 very quickly.
Now I’m not going to pretend to understand most of what Interbartolo described, but I’m going to take it on good authority, as he is an expert in the field. But at the end of the day, Gravity is a movie. Nothing in it is real. Movies are supposed to deliver the emotional and intellectual truth through fiction. Now I haven’t watched Gravity yet, so maybe the space exploration sequences are extremely inconsistant, but I’m most likely going to give it a pass if the film moves me on an emotional and intellectual level. Not having worked in the industry, the space scenes look pretty real to me.
If we wanted to we could find errors in every movie ever made. Organized crime doesn’t work like that so The Godfather is wrong, migrant workers don’t act like that so Days of Heaven is wrong, and aliens don’t exist so Avatar is wrong. The Blastr piece is an interesting article, well worth a look, but make sure to read it with some perspective.
And while you’re reading this article, you can now listen to 23-minutes from composer Steven Price’s score. The music for Gravity is eerie and unsettling, and, like most modern film scores, is more tonal than melodic. It almost sounds like Ennio Morricone’s score for John Carpenter’s The Thing, propulsive and creepy.
Price also composed the music for Edgar Wright’s The World’s End and Joe Cornish’s awesome Attack The Block. He’s also worked as the music editor on all of the Lord of the Rings films, Batman Begins, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
Gravity hits theaters everywhere in IMAX and 3D on October 4th.