Traveling into space has been something that I have wanted to do since I was a child. The Jetsons promised us personal space shuttles. Star Trek allowed us to think that we would travel to where no man has gone before. NASA has led us to believe that eventually we will make it there, to the void, to the quiet, silent, harsh reality beyond the comfortableness of our third dimensional life on planet Earth.
But, for the moment, those of us who are ultimate travel folk live for the stories told by the others, the very privileged and trained few that have been as far as any of us can go – to the International Space Station (ISS).
I haven’t been in a movie theater in years, so when I was surprised with an invitation to view the new-ish film Gravity yesterday, in 3D, at an afternoon matinee, in an almost empty theater, I gave out a resounding “w00t!”.
I can’t really talk about the flow of the film without giving anything away, except for the beginning. After slipping on the 3D glasses, after the titles, the film opens up with a view of planet Earth from about the height of the ISS. The camera is recording from space, not from inside the station, so the sound is no sound at all – absolute, beautiful, silence. It moved me in those moments to experience that, even in a theater, and brought me to realize that this is the kind of silence that, while it defines the space beyond our atmosphere, it is also contained within each of us.
The camera is also recording from the the viewer’s perspective. While watching the film, I got the sense that I was the one in a space suit holding the camera and observing Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone as she worked. The 3D visual effects of the film are subtle and stunning. Which made them all the more effective. Water and objects floating in space, hitting the camera lens. The confusion of moving the body without a gravitational tug to hold it down or to pivot from. The confusion of knowing the absence of up and down. The claustrophobia felt within a space shuttle becomes real, and eerily, almost tangible. All are things that I’m not sure would be noticeable in a flat two dimensional viewing.
Other events happen too, but I can’t tell you about them.
For any of us travelers who dream about space exploration, the feeling that, well, maybe it’s for the best that I’m not going out there, because, you know, Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission is an ever present thought in the back of one’s mind. This film is a mixture of beauty and terror. Would I have the skills, or the balls, to survive? After a certain point in this film, survival skills become an issue of wry comical trust in the wild dance of the forces that are just beyond our control.
Is Gravity a perfect film about one particular ultimate travel in space? Yes, almost. It’s definitely worth a once in a decade trip to the theater.
Image: Press photo.