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Out-of-this-world effects save Gravity from scientific inaccuracy

by Sabrina Khan

Among the plethora of trapped-in-space sci-fi movies, Gravity takes its place in the line-up as one of the most simplistic and least realistic.

The film focuses on astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). The astronauts find themselves stuck in space when an unexpected missile strike sends debris on a collision course with their shuttle.

    The movie had the best opening weekend of the season, bringing in nearly $55.8 million and receiving positive reviews from critics. Despite its success, Gravity did not live up to its potential.

Inaccuracy is Gravity’s greatest flaw. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter posts, “Mysteries of #Gravity,” reveal the issues in the movie.

Tyson’s first grievance is with the film’s title. The only time gravity comes into play in the movie is in the last five minutes. The title sounds nice, but holds little relevance to the film.

Some of the flaws identified by Tyson, other scientists, and even some astronauts were insignificant–for example, the fact that Dr. Stone’s hair wasn’t floating as it should have been in zero-gravity–however, others were unmistakable.

Going into space requires rigorous training, yet Bullock’s character confessed to having only six months of training compared to the minimum two years that real astronauts endure.

Dr. Stone was impulsive and irrational in the face of danger. She began playing games and hallucinating, a stark contrast to our understanding of real-life astronauts.

“It seemed impossible that Dr. Stone could have survived in space,” said senior Mary Coloney. “The rate at which she was breathing, and the little oxygen she had in her tank made her survival seem unrealistic.”

Other flaws may not have been obvious to the audience. For instance, the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope are not 100 kilometers apart, as indicated in the film, but rather 350 kilometers apart relative to the Earth’s surface. There are thousands of sources that could have provided Gravity’s production team with such information. The addition of such a small detail could have addedan element of realism and credibility to the film.

However, most viewers were not as concerned with the inaccurate information as they were with the lack of character development.

Director Alfonso Cuarón was pressured by the studio to add flashbacks and other scenes to establish a back story for Bullock’s character, but apparently he did not heed this advice.

“I didn’t feel connected with the main character,” said sophomore Darya Ganzah. “Gravity was so focused on its story that I wasn’t noticing Dr. Stone.”

Despite Gravity’s shortcomings, the film made up for these flaws with its remarkable cinematography.

Every single scene, from the sun shining over the curve of the Earth to the dark abyss of space, was in stunning detail and clarity. At no point in the movie were the viewers left without the overwhelming sensation of empty space surrounding the characters.

“[The setting] looked very real…I felt like I had gone into space with the characters,” said sophomore Annemarie Kearns. “The movie was scary, but that was because the special effects were so good.”

Gravity could have been a better science-fiction movie if it had focused more on the science aspect, but for one of the smallest, most under-budgeted films of the year, it is worth seeing, if only for the visuals.

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