Warning this blog post contains some spoilers not to mention my views on a terrible movie!
Nasa, Roscosmos, Space X and the European Space Agency have had incredible successes and most suffered through learning from terrible mistakes. All have done so in the glare of public life. It has helped harmonise warring countries in a mutual goal to live and learn in space. Following this progress I have only the greatest respect for what has been achieved.
Now, through Nasa TV, you can watch live launches, space walks and experts explain the complex science involved. All this is freely available and incredibly interesting. So why did the film Gravity make me feel annoyed at the inept and dismal treatment of the subject. The special effects, most done in the UK, were superb. The work that the large team of designers created was nothing less than masterful. It is just that a child could have done a better job of the story.
I am not going to pick every bit of the film apart but lets take the jetpacks. George Clooney is flying around like a buffoon. The photograph below shows the only ever distance (100m) untethered flight in a Manned Maneuvering Unit MMU by the great Bruce McCandless II. It is a stunning photograph that shows him further out from the shuttle Challenger than anyone before or after. It was taken in 1984 and the unit was used to help move satellites but was replaced due to safety fears and the fact the manipulator arms could do the work with a higher degree of safety. The replacement came 10 years later in 1994. It is a small unit that fits on an astronaut’s backpack and is there if, while performing a space walk, the worse happens and they become untethered. Where was the new ‘Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue’ in that film? Why was Sandra Bullock flying free and needing an old 80’s unit to rescue her. I still cannot believe these flaws were included in such a big budget film.
Click on any of the photographs for larger views
I think my strong feelings about this film come from the way that I know it could have had a truly inspiring story, an educational and thrilling ride without playing so freely with facts. The image tech is there. I am going to ignore the obvious political influences of the film too. What I can’t ignore is the use of the space shuttle destroyed so realistically. That is unforgivable. Showing the deaths in the cockpit felt in such bad taste that if I had not had it on rent from Google Play and was in pure awe at just the CGI then I would (and should) have turned it off. Goodness me who signed off the Soyuz section and the Chinese station that does not exist and the bit where Sandra Bullock was wearing pants under her spacesuit…I could go on and on. It was pathetic. It was such a waste of all that talent.
Oh and Clooney letting go. What a plot hole that was. It was as if they implied he weighed her down. Then when he did fly away he could still go around the Earth and return back. His trajectory would take weeks to eventually burn up in the atmosphere. Take the photograph below of an Orlan spacesuit stuffed with old clothes. It was pushed away from the ISS in 2006 with a transmitter. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes for weeks. Why was this not implied in the film?
Let me close giving you the part that made me chuckle the most. It was the discussions that Sandra’s character had with Clooney. These are professionals that would have worked together for months, if not years before the mission they were on. Yet they didn’t know anything about each other. It got incredibly silly when Clooney was explaining to Sandra about her breathing and how it would affect her oxygen supply.
Please, next time just go to the local primary school and ask a pupil to write about space. It would be more interesting for sure! How utterly disappointing.