Younger Daughter and I screened “Gravity” the other night. It was one of her Christmas gifts to me, along with exclusive membership in her “pie of the month” club. My first installment was apple, and it was out of this world. Can’t wait for February.
“Gravity” was great to look at, and great to share, though not quite as satisfying to consume. When it comes to space-based cinema, “2001” may have set the bar impossibly high for me. Like “Interstellar,” “Gravity” falls short of displacing the film I listed at #2 on my recently-composed favorites list* for Older Daughter. I’m trying to recall memorable quotes from the newer film and can come up with nothing more profound than Dr. Emma Stone (Sandra Bullock) declaring “I hate space.”
For my part, I still love thinking about space. So though “Gravity” isn’t much about ideas, it got me thinking. The “final frontier” will always loom large in my youthfully-dreamy imagination of what human life might still someday make of itself.
*2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968). Arthur C. Clarke’s story famously infuriated premier attendees including Rock Hudson (“Can anybody tell me what the hell this is about?!”) and mystified me too, near the end. But this was the year before Neil Armstrong’s “one small step,” and I really thought there’d be Martians (from Earth) by now. This movie captured and amplified my generation’s dreams of cosmic exploration. The recently-released Interstellar has been called this generation’s 2001, but that’s silly. Oh, the echoes are there alright. But in 1968 the idea of space as our beckoning “final frontier” had real credibility. Or so we thought. “Unlike the animals, who knew only the present, Man had acquired a past; and he was beginning to grope toward a future.” More groping, please. Open the pod bay door, Hal.
“Gravity” treats space, even low-earth-orbit space (misidentified in at least one review as “Deep Space”), as too far from home. “2001” expands our territory. It has the better idea.
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