Gravity has broad, positive influence

Director Alfonso Cuaron. (Contributed photo)

Film, like every other industry, is propelled by the promise of profit. While studios will finance a few artsy pieces every year for the sake of appeasing the high-brow, investors will almost always place bankability over skill for major releases.

This may seem disheartening, but it does not necessarily mean that art has to be absent from large releases. The key to this is working within the system. The director makes the film the studio wants them to make, while at the same time applying their own unique touch and ideas, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity fits this ideal perfectly.

Under his careful control, the film represents an invigorating breath of fresh air in a year abundant with stagnant adequacy.

What we have here is a critically acclaimed film based on an original idea, starring a lead woman character, which topped the box-office charts. In other words, it is the best kind of film we could have at this moment in film history.

With theatres dominated by comic-book movies, novel and TV adaptations, sequels, prequels, reboots, and junk, it’s obvious that risks are not often taken in Hollywood. That being said, it’s amazing Gravity even got green-lit in the first place.

On paper, it sounds far dryer and slower than the final product; almost like a modern take on 2001: A Space Odyssey, meaning more computer-effects and less classical music. So, even with half the budget of a typical blockbuster, it was a risky venture.

However, the terrific direction and jaw-dropping visuals demonstrate how a humongous budget will never trump good filmmaking when it comes to impressing an audience. And when the two combine, magic happens on screen.

There is an unfortunate philosophy in mainstream filmmaking that spending more money on effects and whatnot will yield larger profits. I suppose this is true to an extent, but for major releases to adhere so rigidly to this concept simply leads to catastrophic financial failures like The Lone Ranger. Gravity shows that, while money certainly helps in the crafting of a film, it cannot hide lackluster storytelling.

While imagery can carry a film for a while, it helps if it’s, well, good. And Gravity, by near-universal decree, is good. Speaking from the perspective of an average university student, the hype is all true, and it really is both an enthralling thriller and an amazing visual experience.

However, unless people see the film, quality can mean nothing more than award acclaim later in the year and maybe a position of historical significance.

Gravity, meanwhile, is drawing audiences in as a result of its acclaim, gaining the number one spot at the box office two weeks in a row.

After a summer full of recognizable hits (Iron Man 3) and spectacular misses (RIPD), it’s wonderful to see people taking risks with their money and spending it on something original.

After all, it seems as though high-profile releases live and die on their ties to nostalgia.  This is what makes the film’s success significant, as it could help dilute the presence of films based on franchise rather than ambition. Who knows? The audience might even gain a better understanding of quality in the process. The Hollywood system is in danger as a result of services like Netflix which allow easy and convenient access to entertainment, but it is still possible to salvage it if filmmakers take a page from Cuarón and focus just as much on story as they do effects.

What’s more, it’s an action-heavy film starring a woman. While it may be a famous actor like Sandra Bullock, this is at least a step in the right direction for female action-heroes. Typically women in action movies not directed by James Cameron possess an obnoxious self-awareness of gender that does the film more harm than good. Scarlett Johansson may dress in tight leather and call herself the Black Widow as she kicks male butt in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, but the fact that her character feels the need to remind us of gender reinforces the stereotype that this somehow empowers them.

Bullock, meanwhile, battles space because she is a stranded astronaut, plain and simple.  This kind of refreshingly straightforward writing allows for the character to just exist, rather than shoving their traits in our face at every turn.

After all, when was the last time someone bragged to you about being able to do something despite being a woman/man/haberdasher? Gravity will hopefully send the message to other mainstream screenwriters that, when it comes to writing action characters who aren’t white guys, they just don’t have to try so hard.

Gravity has both success and acclaim, but one must hope it has influence as well.

If it can leave an unmistakable stamp on current film culture, then audiences and filmmakers alike could benefit from it.

Maybe it can help lead to more experimentation within the industry, as well as weaning audiences off this age of adaptation.

Hollywood has become increasingly reliant on ‘name brands’ and poorly conceived sequels these days, but Gravity shows that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

Leave a Reply