It is a rare and beautiful gift when you get to experience a brand-new form of storytelling. For me, it is electrifying, like being hit by lightning, something that doesn’t happen everyday. It inspires me, realizing that there are still new possibilities out there to discover.
Some might think this is funny but the only other time I really can think of when I felt I was experiencing something entirely new in storytelling was in a videogame. Consider, before RPG video games attempted to tell narratives, we had merely games like Mario and Sonic. Fun sure, but there was no story there, merely saving a princess is not enough. Honestly, Pac Man is fine with an empty stomach or a full one.
Click here. Jump here. Run, don’t walk.
There was nothing that would make you care about the characters or on the outcome. There were no consequences, no emotions or dreams to be dashed (besides breaking the high score in Tetris).
For me that eye-opening moment where everything changed around video games was with Final Fantasy VIII. I felt almost blind-sided by the game, caring about the characters more than I ever imagined I would. I cried with them, I cheered them on. And when the game was over and done, I felt like I had just finished a great adventure with those characters.
Ever since that moment, video games changed for me. Never happy with the old school structures now, I wanted stories, the richer the better. Yes, something changed there for me…. Not just for me, but for most of us gamers, because we all experienced that moment with a game or two over the last few decades. A new storytelling artform (the first since the birth of TV) had come into life.
That electric moment, that bolt of lightning, has occurred for me again. Today, Gravity introduced me to the true potential, possibilities and differences there could be for future films made specifically in IMAX and 3D.
For years, I never got the whole IMAX/3D thing.
I remember when it was a big deal when they did it for one of the Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the first, I believe). Put on your glasses now, the film flashed on us, and we did; but I was disappointed. Feeling like I was reminded at that moment I was just watching a movie. Still… broomsticks… cool.
I saw a few of the Pixar films in IMAX/3D and they were nice, but the films were solid without the change. Yes, they were enhanced by the change, but it didn’t make the other “normal” version of the film unwatchable. It was just that film but a little more. Nice, but nothing to write home about.
Then there was Avatar, which was stunning in a “realistic-cartoony-Star-Wars-Prequel” kind of way, but it didn’t do it for me. Yes, it did do something new visually, but it was still hindered by two-dimensional characters and a predictable plot structure that we could all see coming a mile away. Again, story-wise nothing new there. No surprises for anyone. Watching it on a normal TV today it is almost lukewarm, for the story can’t hide behind the visual anymore.
Let’s see what else… Oh, The Hobbit was stunning in parts, but I didn’t need all that extra stuff to enjoy returning to Middle Earth. I would live in that Middle Earth if I could! If I had the choice (and a time machine), I would have pulled back the reins a little on Peter Jackson, having the visual be the same as what I experienced during my last visit to the land. It’s what we wanted.
The only time truly before seeing Gravity that I was impressed with IMAX/3D was around a film 75-years old. I wrote about my experience seeing The Wizard of Oz already here. It was not life-changing, but age-defying for I was five again, excited by the idea of joining the team and going on a mission to get the witch. Dorothy and her friends looked so very, very real.
Gravity is an experience. To describe it only as just another movie would not be to do it justice.
Alfonso Cuaron (the brilliant filmmaker behind Children and Men who also saved the Harry Potter film franchise from the genre of “children films” with the best and most artistic film in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) has created something truly unique, funneling the strength and potential of IMAX/3D to make something truly fresh.
Yes, the plot of Gravity, can be summed up simply.
Astronauts stuck in space trying to find a way to survive and maybe get home. Simple yes, but it doesn’t do the visual and intense experience justice. While others will go on about the acting (and they should, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are wonderful), for me I walked away, almost shaking. Realizing in my heart that I had just witnessed something new. Wonderfully and magically new.
Let’s start by discussing the story, the plot structure doesn’t follow the “cookie-cutter” structure that we are so used to (Hello again Avatar). The story takes place over a three-hour period of hell for one character, sometimes it feels in real-time. But I think if I was to really define it, I would consider it a collection of moments that come together that a tapestry to make the story, reminding me almost of the structure of the old IMAX films when they were more museum pieces and visual documentaries than big film spectacles. Yes, those old spectacles didn’t have traditional stories, but they visually took advantage of the size of the screen. It was not just an excuse to charge us an additional 7 dollars than what the people in the next theater were paying.
I want nothing more than to go back with a notepad, count the beats in Gravity (figure out what he had done new and what he drew from), the shifts in tone, study the gradual visual change in it… Visual change? Well, let me explain…
Visually at the beginning, the film Alfonso transports you with stunning shots of Earth and space, but over time the film shifts. Yes, we are still in space, but the focus changes from being in space to centering solely on Sandra Bullock’s journey. By the end, she is as big on the screen as the planet was at the beginning. The shift in the strength from one to the other is a brilliant example of character growth.
If you decide to wait and see Gravity when it is released for home viewing, you have already lost.
Yes, I’m sure it will be fine as a “normal” movie. But that is not what this film was intended for, not at all.
This is something new. Something wonderful. Something stunning.
Simply put, Gravity is an amazing new experience. Drop everything and go see it while you can. Lightning doesn’t hit everyday.
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