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Why the Scientific Inaccuracies of 'Gravity' Don't Matter
Written by Katie Marzullo
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a stickler for accuracy in movies. Especially biopics – if someone was fascinating enough to make a movie about in the first place, why would you screw around with historical fact?? Some exceptions can be made, depending on the film (winking at you, Hitchcock), but when a film is not based on true events but is ensconced within a scientific framework, the issue becomes a bit muddled. Case in point: Gravity.
I finally saw this Alfonso Cuarón-helmed sci-fi tour de force over Thanksgiving weekend, a film I had seen nothing but rave reviews about, a film that YA author and friend of YH Shaun Hutchinson dubbed “the perfect movie”… Wow! Yes, everyone seemed to love it, even physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who, despite his Twitter rant pointing out the flagrant scientific inaccuracies of the film, admitted that he enjoyed it. How can this dichotomy exist, you ask? Simple: It doesn’t matter.
I too greatly enjoyed the film, and like Mr. Tyson, I too was not ignorant to some of the more unbelievable aspects of the film. I grew up around the space program, so I’m pretty well-versed in the goings-on of astronauts and their cosmic milieu. It was a pretty incredible story all around, but hey, weirder things have happened in real-life: i.e. Apollo 13. But at the end of the day, it’s irrelevant, because the point was not in the scientific minutae – the bigger themes were the focus here, the feelings of utter isolation and helplessness that soon give way to determination and that good ol’ primal survival instinct. When you already have nothing to lose, you’re willing to do some pretty redonkulous things, like (SPOILER ALERT!) hurling yourself out of an accelerating escape pod toward a space station and steering yourself using nothing but a fire extinguisher. Holy crap! Would that work in real life? Probably not, but only because that Chinese space station doesn’t even exist yet, and when it does, it will not occupy the same orbit as the ISS. Or how about a landing pod spinning out of control and magically righting itself and coming through Earth's atmosphere unharmed even though it had no set trajectory (without which it would either burn up or skip off the Earth's atmosphere like a stone... If you've played Angry Birds Space, you know what I mean...)? Pretty much impossible. But did these make for incredibly intense action sequences in a Sandra Bullock movie? Hell yes! It was definitely way more believable than Speed
So, long story short: Yes, all the things NDT pointed out were certainly true. But what’s also true is that this was a beautiful, edge-of-your-seat cinematic experience. And there is no flaw in that.
(Photo via WENN / © Warner Bros.)
- Katie Marzullo, YH Staff Editor