Don’t believe the hype.
I went to see this film wanting to enjoy it. I like space movies, think it is an underrepresented genre currently, and thought that a big budget with Clooney and Bullock would guarantee a worthwhile film. I was wrong.
The plot is simple, astronauts working in orbit are threatened by a debris field, catastrophically compromising their mission, and the race is on to return home.
Visually the film is sumptuous, the special effects are tremendous, but the dialogue is as vacuous as space itself, and, bereft, of any big idea, the story becomes a little tedious. Much of the film is monologue. If you are either Shakespeare with a gift for soliloquy, or have a challenging proposition as in Duncan Jones’ “Moon” then you can overcome that, but Director and writers Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón, are neither.
The characters are desperately underwritten. There are a few knowing jokes about Clooney’s looks, Bullock is both a top scientist and a dimwit. Yet there is none of the courage of Apollo 13, no wonder of 2001 a Space Odyssey, no intrigue of Moon. This is Hollywood at its worst. Lack of characterisation also results in the scriptwriters’ nightmare, we are not that bothered about the fate of the protagonists. Compound that with a lack of jeopardy, and it all becomes a little flat.
Some points simply irritate. Many of the spectacular views of earth are unidentifiable, save for a nice shot of the Nile Delta, how a super intelligent scientist fails to realise that opening the hatch door in water will result in a sinking is risible, and the anonymous identity of the landing site is a missed opportunity to build on the international dimension of the story. The 3D effects are perfunctory and lame, a hand coming out of the screen, floating debris, and that is about it.
I suspect that there may be a generational aspect to the acclaim this film has received. If you are too young to have seen the great space films of the past, then this rebooting with fine effects may be enough. For the rest of us it is not.A let down.