Hard to argue against half a billion dollars. As one of the most successful sci-fi films of all time, Gravity certainly won over audiences this past October. However, box office success rarely assures one of a great story (see Skyfall or Iron Man 2) and unfortunately that appears to be the case here.
The strength of this outer-space thriller betrays it’s ultimate weakness. By placing the audience almost entirely within Dr. Stone’s (Sandra Bullock’s) first person point-of-view for most of the film, Gravity fails to provide the much needed third-person perspective on the day’s events. Without an objective view to juxtapose against the subjective, the story loses all hope of providing any greater meaning and instead becomes nothing more than an amusement park ride.
Sure, they provide a little more substance with Stone’s massive chip-on-the-shoulder personal issues—a concrete and easily accessed Main Character Throughline. And they do offer a competent catalyst for her growth beyond this troublesome area by introducing Cpt. Kowalski (George Clooney) and his Influence Character Throughline. But it simply isn’t enough.
There seems to be a beat missing—almost an entire Act—that would help Stone’s development seem less an affect of the medium and more a natural and organic consequence of solid story structure. Four movements, not three, guarantee effective personal growth within a story. Gravity only gives three to Stone (if that many) and as a result shows her catharsis to be both predictable and mechanical.
The path towards greater meaning—towards Bringing Gravity to Gravity—would require adding that fourth and objective perspective
But again, half a billion dollars—a weak and incomplete story structure matters little when taking that into consideration. Read two or three reputable reviews of Gravity and you’ll pick up on a pattern though: high praise for the spectacle, yet somehow lacking in the character department. Both the lack of a solid objective point-of-view and missing beats within the Main Character and Influence Character Throughlines guarantee this kind of disappointment in the final analysis of story.