Note: I'm updating this review as I've now had a chance to spend some quality time with this "Diamond Luxe" Special Edition Blu-ray Disc. See "4/1/15 Update" section below for my impressions of the actual "Gravity" Special Edition Blu-ray Disc with Dolby Atmos. I've left my original review intact here for posterity as my commentary (3D vs. Dolby Atmos) is still valid.
Original review (pre-release):
"Gravity" is an intense audio and video experience, and an enjoyable film overall which is enhanced through the use of both 3D and Dolby Atmos surround. So why does the studio make us pick one or the other? The initial release of "Gravity" on Blu-ray is available in 3D, but with only a 5.1-channel soundtrack. It's a great-looking and sounding disc, but lacks the immersiveness of Dolby Atmos. This "Diamond Luxe" edition of the film will have a Dolby Atmos mix, but is not available in 3D. Frustrating!
I saw the film two nights in a row in theaters: first in Dolby Atmos (in 3D), then in IMAX (also 3D). Both were enjoyable, but the pinpoint precision of sound available in Dolby Atmos made certain scenes -- like the opening shot with the sound slowly growing out of the vast nothingness -- so much more effective. Also, in scenes where there are layers upon layers of sound objects on top of the powerful score, Dolby Atmos helps to keep the mix sounding both coherent and immersive. Little details and spatial cues make it all very believable.
As for the 3D, I know the live action shots were shot with a traditional camera and upconverted to 3D, but really that's only the actors' faces. The suits, backgrounds, ships, etc. are nearly all CGI creations, rendered in 3D. I would consider this more "real" 3D than "fake" 3D. Hey, if the director thinks 3D is essential to enjoyment of the film, who are we to argue? 3D is certainly effective at accentuating the peril when rogue satellites and space shrapnel are hurtling toward the viewer and when one of the astronauts is spinning out of control attached to a damaged space ship. 3D also heightens the feeling of claustrophobia in the tight spaces of the ships and space station, making the experience of what these people are going though more immediate, and more real.
C'mon, Warner, let us watch "Gravity" the way Alfonso Cuarón intended: in 3D *AND* Dolby Atmos!
Having watched this Blu-ray now a couple of times all the way through, and repeating several scenes, I have to say, my opinion hasn't changed much from the theatrical release: the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of the Blu-ray Disc is nothing short of spectacular, but I do miss the 3D. If I had to choose one, I'd pick the Dolby Atmos 2D version over a non-Atmos 3D version, hands-down. If you have a Dolby Atmos-capable system, you simply *must* get this Blu-ray Disc. I've said for a while that "Gravity" is the poster child of Dolby Atmos, and this Blu-ray reinforces that.
Just sit back and watch the opening scene for proof. Deep bass and effects build to a crescendo as text on screen describes the utter inhospitability of space. The sound peaks at intense levels and abruptly ends, followed by a deep enveloping silence. Out of this audio void slowly come the sounds of radio communications among astronauts and mission control personnel. Only in Dolby Atmos can you pick out the individual voices as they span the entire 3D space, side to side, top to bottom.
Comparing to my memory of the film in theaters (I saw it twice in Dolby Atmos), I think the home mix on this Blu-ray is an excellent representation of the theatrical audio. Switching over to the standard 5.1 "Silent Space" track, these same conversations sound jumbled. I've never thought of standard 5.1 surround sound as "flat" before, but it feels that way, compared to the wide open Dolby Atmos mix.
Dolby Atmos is used to good effect multiple times within the film, including that opening scene, the initial bombardment of the shuttle with space shrapnel (at about 11:00), the destruction of the International Space Station (52:39), and the final scene with buzzing insects and the sweeping music (1:22:00). The sense of 3-dimensional space is conveyed well in the Atmos mix.
As for extras, there is a whole separate disc of Special Features, but these are mostly carried over from the previous Blu-ray release (with 3 new exclusives, detailed below). The main new thing here is the "Silent Space" version of the film. This is a bit of a misnomer, as there are still plenty of sounds and effects (including Dr. Stone's deep throbbing heartbeat). The only thing missing is the music. It's basically what Dr. Stone would have heard from within her own spacesuit (or from inside the various crafts she enters). Frankly, to me, this is an interesting experiment, but not one that I'd enjoy for repeated viewings. The film's score by Stephen Price is one of its highlights and I miss its presence. Without the music, the film feels a little more like a documentary and is, ultimately, less dramatic.
Also exclusive to this release are three new videos, all in HD: "Looking to the Stars": a 42-minute homage to space-based SciFi films; "Gravity: The Human Element," an 11-minute featurette on what it takes to be a real astronaut, and "Sandra's Birthday Wish" a 3-minute birthday greeting from Sandra Bullock to director Alfonso Cuaron (complete with completely cheesy green screen-based visual effects). Pile on the special features from the original release and it all adds up to nearly 6 hours of bonus materials (including 90 minutes for the Silent Space version of the film). In other words, there's a lot to keep a fan busy, if you're into that sort of stuff.
All in all, it's really an excellent release with top-notch video and audio. If they had included a 3D version of the film with Dolby Atmos, it would have been a clear 5-star Blu-ray Disc set, but even without that, it's still worth a purchase.
on October 5, 2013
ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Just moments after this movie ended my daughter leaned over to me and declared, "This is the most perfect film I have ever seen in just about every way."
I had to agree.
GRAVITY gives you everything: thrilling action, awesome visuals, incomparable cinematic spectacle, a terrifying scenario, an exciting adventure, and a masterpiece of minimalist characterization. They all combine in one pedal-to-the-metal slam-bam technically perfect movie that gives you equal shots of hope and hopelessness from the first frame to the very last.
It is as electrifying a film as I have ever seen, with scarcely a down moment in it, hardly a misused frame. I won't spend time telling you anything about the plot; if the trailers haven't told you enough about why this film is a must see, then I can give you two words that should do it...
She is not only in practically every frame of the movie, but she exposes herself emotionally here in more ways than I could count: she is equal parts victim and heroine, emotional and calculating, frightened and bold, wounded and powerful. She is a tortured soul who reveals herself in dribs and drabs, revealing her emotional torment when it will have the most effect. The movie is as much about what HAS happened to her as what IS happening to her. She is able to make herself as interesting and captivating as the events that occur during the film, and this is important: rather than simply being a movie about a series of cascading terrors, it is equally about the human spirit, the "stuff" that lies inside us that drives us to go on when going on seems impossible.
GRAVITY is amazing. See it in IMAX 3D if you can; it is worth the money. The technology depicted in the movie is stunning--but I imagine I will be as amazed when I finally get the DVD and find out HOW these truly amazing scenes were shot. Alfonso Cuaron does remarkable job as director, co-writer and co-editor of this absolutely wonderful accomplishment. His technically perfect movie never loses track of the actor within it--I won't be surprised if this achieves Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Acting nominations this year, notwithstanding a half-dozen other technically-related ones.
There have been some critics who have found fault with the movie's accuracy when it comes to the positioning of the space stations, the likelihood of a debris field causing a "Kesslar Syndrome" this devastating, and some other technical flaws, but I will leave these people to their respective perturbations. To me it doesn't matter if GRAVITY is science fiction or simply fiction about science. What it definitely IS is a tour de force balls-to-the-wall spectacle that will leave you gasping. Don't miss it.
on October 5, 2013
Many people don't take science fiction seriously, but here's a movie that might work for those who don't usually like the genre. There are no aliens, unknown worlds, monsters, or laser shootouts. This is a movie that's set in the real world, or more accurately, above it.
The story opens with a George Clooney voice-over. We meet astronauts working to repair a satellite. This shows how calm such a silent world can be. I reluctantly saw the movie in 3D, but this was one occasion that I came away feeling that it added to the experience. It almost made me dizzy seeing Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (Clooney) go about their routine business with Earth looming large in the background. Indeed, the cinematography was breathtaking throughout the 90 minutes.
I don't want to give away too many details, but if you have seen the trailer or even looked at the poster, you'll know that this movie is far from being a calm ride. An accident sends debris racing toward the astronauts like some kind of deadly shrapnel. What follows is a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the will to survive against all odds. Remember that the word gravity has more than one meaning.
While I enjoyed Sandra Bullock's performances in The Blind Side and Speed, I would hardly describe myself as a fan. However, I left the theater thinking that she carried the whole movie, and it's easily the most accomplished performance of her career.
Alfonso Cuarón directed Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and the best Harry Potter movie (Azkaban), but this is comfortably my favorite from his impressive portfolio. The story is lean, gripping, thoughtful, thrilling, scary, breathtaking, beautiful, and emotional, and feels perfectly paced at every point. He doesn't insult us by giving too much exposition, and that draws us deeper into the story. His use of extreme close-ups is another reason we are drawn to these characters. It's hard to avoid feeling that you are a part of the movie.
As I watched, I thought of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Apollo 13, Cast Away, Alien, and a few other great movies. Cuarón lets us see his characters thinking, and that's a good thing. Remember that astronauts are not selected because they are stupid or incapable of adapting in extreme situations. I'm always impressed when I see a movie which takes the trouble to show how people really think. It's not an easy thing to do well. This choice works perfectly and helps the whole story succeed because it's so believable.
Although the visuals dazzled on a regular basis, my favorite shot in the whole movie was Sandra Bullock in the fetal position. It jumped out at me as being so appropriate for the scene, and it was a stroke of genius. You'll know what I mean when you see it. The opening titles remind us that there is no sound in space, just as Kubrick depicted almost 50 years ago.
I admire this movie so much that I would happily watch it again tomorrow. It's a wild 90 minutes. I left the theater feeling as if it was an effort to be back in the real world. I was totally immersed in the story to the point of being almost unable to function when it was over. I'm glad I had a long walk back to the car so that I could catch my breath.
There are so many reasons to see this movie, even if you hate science fiction. It won't be forgotten when the awards season arrives. See it immediately. I would even go as far to say you should see it in 3D.
on May 31, 2014
GRAVITY (2013) is a well-acted Science Fiction film featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It has superior special effects and is genuinely touching in 2 or 3 places ... but, sadly, it has dozens of major plot-holes I just could not overlook.
The plot of GRAVITY is almost identical to that of the contemporaneous movie ALL IS LOST (2013; Robert Redford), in which an aging man making a solo sailing voyage in the Indian Ocean collides with a metal cargo container that rips a large hole in his boat. GRAVITY is quite a bit more engaging because, unlike with Redford's unnamed and taciturn character, we get to know some of the back-story of Sandra Bullock's character and do get to learn her feelings and thoughts almost non-stop ... and GRAVITY's amazingly similar concluding scene is at least 25 times more plausible than the concluding scene in ALL IS LOST.
In GRAVITY, Bullock and Clooney play the two surviving members of a space shuttle that is blasted to fragments by space debris. If we think about possible outcomes while watching, only these six are possible: Bullock and/or Clooney will soon die; Bullock and/or Clooney will survive with serious injuries; Bullock and/or Clooney will survive with little or no damage. No "Spoiler Alert" is needed when confirming that, by the end, two of these six outcomes have been presented.
As for the major plot-holes, most of them concern the orbiting space debris that not only is all moving at the same incredibly rapid velocity in an incredibly tight formation (which is implausible, given that the debris originated from an earlier collision) but its altitude above Earth happens to coincide perfectly with that of the American shuttle craft ... AND a Russian space station ... AND a Chinese space station (which is hugely implausible), AND this debris is on an absolutely perfect collision course, one after another, with all three (despite the fact that space is three dimensional, meaning there are TWO major variables besides "altitude above Earth" to be considered in any collision ... and the fact that virtually all orbits are elliptical, not circular, which MEANS that "altitude" will fluctuate in almost every object's case).
FURTHER, there is the fourth variable of TIME ... and here is where a "slight" SPOILER WARNING is needed. I won't waste words here about the fact that the American shuttle and the Russian and Chinese space stations were all moving objects. Instead, let's consider some "WHAT IF--?" propositions (the kind of thing nerds of all ages like doing when reading or viewing Science Fiction / Speculative Fiction): WHAT IF Sandra Bullock's and George Clooney's characters were outside their shuttle, exposed to debris, when it destroyed their craft? And what if they were totally unharmed despite hundreds of very near misses? What, then, are the odds that (given the three dimensions of space AND the time variable) the debris would go around and around the Earth and arrive and destroy the Russian space station at almost exactly the time Bullock and/or Clooney arrived there? And WHAT IF, when Bullock and/or Clooney arrived at the Chinese space station, the EXACT SAME THING happened there at THAT time to THAT space station?
I'm not NECESSARILY saying that these things DO occur in the film, but IF they do, are you prepared to ignore them?
Weighing the nature of GRAVITY's story--its "Admiration Plot" that is designed to make us feel good when we see people being brave and resourceful when faced by an array of life-threatening situations--against the screenwriter's lamentable lack of ingenuity, and factoring in the acting, the attractiveness of Bullock and Clooney, and the wonderful special effects of the opening scenes, IF I were giving this film a letter grade, it would be a "B-".
on July 22, 2014
For as many films as we’ve gotten about space over the years, very few of them are actually about space. The worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars are metaphors representing more grounded themes, and even Alien director Ridley Scott described his classic as a haunted house in space. Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, however, is a true space film, deriving its thrills and horrors from the fear of outer space itself.
Gravity has certainly earned much of the praise it has earned. It is rich with dazzling visuals and often terrifying sequences, of Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone barely clinging on to survive. Its strengths, though, come awfully close to being Gravity's weakness - for nearly an hour we go through conflict-solution, conflict-solution. As thrilling as it is, this movie frequently becomes an exploitative experience.
After the turmoil, though, what lasts is its more long-term storytelling methods. A sense of order is created through key missions (such as approaching the Chinese space station, using escape pods to leave for Earth, etc.), orienting the viewer through what is otherwise a dizzying adventure. This narrative clarity also spills over into the film’s themes of survival and determination, and holding to heart one vision in order to survive.
This makes me question the re-watchability of this film; since so much of its meat is spent on these momentary thrills (however excellently crafted), there isn’t that much emotional punch to invite additional viewings.
"Gravity" is the latest in a long tradition of films in which survival in a hostile environment is a series of hops from one slightly habitable sanctuary to another. It can be in a desert, underwater, or in space, but the premise is the same: one person against all odds tests her own mettle to (hopefully) survive and in doing so, come out a better person in the end. In the case of Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), it's a form of rebirth.
Stone is on her first mission aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer with veteran astronauts Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Shariff Dasari (Phaldut Sharma). It's not long before things go horribly awry in the form of a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which triggers a recurring boogeyman: floating debris pierces everything in its path every 90 minutes. The cloud of debris is catastrophic, and it's not long before Stone is on her own doing her best to survive. But does she want to? Lurking in Stone's past is the death of her daughter due to an accident, and she has been sleepwalking through life up to this point. Kowalski (one of the few characters in Stone's literal universe) challenges her on this point.
And so begins a desperate struggle for Stone, alone and only partially trained, in the most hostile environment imaginable. She battles the triple threat of asphyxiation, hypothermia, and insanity. On the third point "Gravity" distinguishes itself from other films, led by Bullock's excellent acting as a woman under extreme pressure.
Bullock (nearly 50, if you can believe it) is stripped to her core, both emotionally and physically, until there is nothing left. And then, like a babe, must struggle her way out of tight spaces and cramped airlocks in a battle to return home. Expertly shot and breathtakingly choreographed, "Gravity" is a thrilling spectacle in 3D. It's a heavy subject, but well worth the ride.
on February 9, 2016
DVD transfer is excellent which this film must have to convey the feeling of space.
The special affects are stunning which elevates this film's rating. Sandra Bullock is very good as a specialist astronaut trapped by circumstances which leave her alone in space, drifting and in grave danger. George Clooney appears in the opening sequences but, for most of the film, this is a solo performance.
The action centers on space debris which destroys a space shuttle and kills the crew. Space walkers Bullock and Clooney are left to find a way to survive. Soon, Clooney must drift away leaving Bullock (Ryan Stone) to fend for herself. She travels to the ISS then to a Chinese space lab in hopes of finding a way to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.
There is some tension and, once again, great technical work creating the space environment where the film takes place. The ending is flat and somewhat unbelievable so I left out the 5th star rating.
Recommended for viewers 12 and older. Nice space adventure for the family and the older kids. I found the storyline to be somewhat hard to believe since this is not a fantasy film.
on April 19, 2015
Although I liked the movie I did not feel it was a great film. Certainly not in the same class as *Interstellar* with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Cain, and John Lithgow but I digress. This movie has decent 3d implementation and I certainly don't fault Sandra Bullock who is one my favorite actors or George Clooney but I did find the story a bit far fetched. Yes it is action packed, yes the actors are believable, but for me the problems start when they reach the ISS. It is just too many bad things happening in really rapid succession that test the limit of belief for the audience. That is what lets it down for me. Any one of those events is rare but the probability they would all happen in succession like that must be astronomically small.
on July 11, 2014
Prior to watching this movie, I expected a nausea-induced dizzy-camera fest…but I was happily surprised by the careful consideration given to how the movie was shot in artificial space. Some shots might make a few viewers claustrophobic, but it definitely will get the heart pounding in many scenes. Certain scenes seem to go on longer than needed, but the pacing overall is quite good and the story is unique (for once in the sci-fi genre). I bought this BEFORE I had watched it, just going on reviews and previews I had seen. I have no regrets. Blu-ray video and audio quality are excellent, and the special features are exhaustive. I've watched the ultraviolet version streamed on my living room blu-ray player and it looks/sounds fine, but you can't compare it to the crystal clear sound and visuals of the blu-ray.
on April 2, 2014
Bought the movie because we did see it in an IMAX 3D theater and loved it. It was the best movie use of IMAX 3D we had ever seen, it really made you feel like you were in space. There were times when I involuntarily flinched because space junk was zooming at my head!
So we bought the Blu Ray, and while it is high quality, it isn't the same experience we had in the theater. Honestly, I didn't expect it to be, but we had to try. It is a very good solid four star film with a strong female character. Bullock does a fine acting job, and Clooney does his usual charming thing. The movie is a little cliched, with nothing really new, and kind of has a predictable ending, but has a good fast pace, leaving you anxious and worried in parts.
I recommend this for anyone who likes action, sci fi and/or thrilling movies. It keeps you entertained and moves along quickly.