For a movie that takes place where there’s no sound, it’s quite LOUD AND DEAFENING.
Yesterday, I went with some friends for an early afternoon 3D IMAX showing. This was my first IMAX experience and I figured if I want to do this right, this would be the movie to watch it in on top of the 3D. Later, I went with another friend for a different 3D IMAX showing; so nice I had to see it twice. I’ve heard raves and reviews and went in with an open mind but left a bit unsatisfied.
We start with some information about space set to a recurring crescendo that was loud enough to have some people cover their ears. Some friends who saw it before yesterday said that this showing was louder than usual. We’re talking jet plane take-off levels in multiple points of the film. But then said crescendo drops off and we see Earth in all it’s glory. This starts one of many long shots, introducing us to the characters and their position in space as the debris hits.
With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney drifting in space, the main objective at hand is stated in the tagline: don’t let go. But then, Clooney tells her to let go. And so, he floats away, bringing to mind the final words spoken in Firefly: “Well, here I am.” There he goes, George Clooney, off to break the longest space-walk record for good.
When Sandra climbs into the first pod and restores oxygen, we get a shot alluding to the Star Child from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, we see an almost-omnipresent floating pen, also from 2001. Looking through the station we see a foreshadowing moment with the haywire equipment. Cue crisis as the fire rages and Sandra has to try to extinguish it.
Trapped in the pod, Sandra tries to make contact but picks up some foreign radio transmission and emotionally breaks down, barking like a dog. And then, back from the floating dead, George comes in and opens the hatch, all set to that crescendo. Immediately after that, our ears get a reprieve as we hear the sounds of silence. SILENCE. George tells Sandra what to do and one way or another, she gets home.
Is it technically stunning? Absolutely. 3D is the only way to see it as it uses the space within, well, space. The glasses did not dim the image as it was mostly dark to begin with. This will come back to bite me when I watch it in 2D at home, with reflecting glare and more. There are moments where the movie reminds you that it is in 3D as tears hit the camera and shrapnel flies toward you. But the size of the IMAX screen complements the 3D in that it shows a sense of scale and relative position of the people and objects in space.
The soundtrack was too much. I know it’s not 2001 but that had some stylistic choices in terms of sound in the scenes where the humans were out in space. You either heard the ambient noise of the breathing in the suits or in the pod. If you’re talking about nondiegetic sound, then it’s either the soundtrack or nothing at all. There was no overlap in 2001. But here, they overlapped a bit too often to the point of distraction, especially with that crescendo. I personally would have preferred that the score’s volume dialed down a few notches or omitted in some scenes.
Then there’s the idea of not letting go. The tagline sets up that objective when Sandra moves about in space. But metaphorically, she needed to let go of her daughter’s death and that helped motivate her to go home. I guess letting go is optional given the context.
Go see it in 3D, IMAX if possible. Be prepared though for the emotional roller coaster.
Winner of Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing