The box-office receipts for the first week of the movie “Gravity” were a surprise Hollywood didn’t expect. Even now, in its 3rd weekend, it’s made $31 million, surpassing the rest of the film industry’s top 5, with a cumulative total nearing $300 million dollars.
That’s huge, even by the exaggerated standards of the U.S. film industry.
According to other data in the Wall Street Journal, the popular “Captain Phillips” is in 2nd place with its true life tale of a ship taken over by Somali pirates. A remake of a Stephen King movie, “Carrie” was third, earning $17 million but those revenues were in its first week, and likely to drop fast.
The statistics are interesting because conventional movie industry wisdom these days is that the era of the “big movie” is dead. Acclaimed director Stephen Spielberg read its obituary in June when he predicted the “implosion” of the expensive blockbuster industry. This, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which also reported Spielberg’s prediction of major money losses for movie studios “where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground….”
Spielberg knows a great deal more about the industry than I do but I can tell that the reason for his pessimism is people like us-post middle-aged, reeling from media bombardment, and entirely bored with Hollywood offerings that rehash the same story with accelerated special effects, mindless gunfire, and colorful pyrotechnics.
With such bombardment, the chances of a new film being consistent with our entertainment preferences are slim. We read the reviews but the number of times we’ve been burned by the reviewers has been astronomical, more revealing of the fractured factions and bifurcations of today’s filmmaking than useful for guiding one’s cultural affinities.
Curiosity played a big part in getting us to a real life movie theatre complete with over-priced popcorn and raucous teenagers. We wanted to see if the vaunted 3-D extraterrestrial floaty-feeling was worth the extra price of a ticket.
There was also in our DNA the memories of past decades of space travel complete with its successes and horrors like the 1986 Challenger disaster. And then there was a fact that it had a simple, human story without all the usually phony plot twists that competitive-for-eyeball movie makers contrive to keep audiences guessing.
So “Gravity” seemed like a sure-fire winner for us from the get-go. And it was. The 3-D technology may have been gimmicky and over-used, as this Rolling Stone writer suggests, but it was the perfect vehicle for “Gravity.”
I’m used to ducking punches in my boxing classes but it was quite electrifying to react to 3-D onslaughts of flying bolts, metal tools, debris and what-not bouncing around in directionless space. It’s rather a nice feeling to know that “up” is not always “up” and “down” is not always “down” and you feel that viscerally in “Gravity.”
To put it politely, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are not my favorite actors but I loved them both throughout the hour and 23 minute movie, and even on the way home. Clooney’s cheerfulness in the death dealing void of space paralleled the knowledge all creatures have of their own mortality, and was somehow uplifting.
Bullock had gotten herself into fine physical shape and being with her in length, width, and depth, both emotionally and physically, well, it was an experience I’m still analyzing.
So thank you, Alphonso Cuaron, for lifting me out of my anti-Hollywood mindset and cinema torpor. It’s comforting to know that there may be indeed be intelligent life on other planets, especially on Planet Hollywood.