This actor reinvention column has already spotlighted some of today’s greatest dramatic actors and actresses landing roles in big-budget sci-fi movies. Everyone from Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, and even Melissa Leo are plunging into this genre for perhaps one good reason: The scripts are better than anything else in the mainstream. It’s true that sociological sci-fi has become the go-to genre for actors if they want to find something of substance without going indie.
As we go down the list of other actors joining the sci-fi ranks, you can now add Sandra Bullock. Just a few years ago, even her fans wouldn’t have guessed she’d do such a movie, particularly one that takes place in space. Then again, her days doing action movies might have given hints in a time when sci-fi is mostly action rather than being quiet and cerebral.
But based on the movie trailer for “Gravity”, there may be moments for thinking within the chaos. No matter that the trailer shows a space shuttle blowing up (with astronauts Bullock and George Clooney being tossed around in Earth’s orbit), doing an entire movie in space can’t be an excuse for continual explosives. And, in fact, it wouldn’t be believable when sound can’t travel in space.
Basing a movie strictly in space is a daring move and one that we wouldn’t have expected Bullock to take on her first sci-fi foray. However, the beauty of space might have been the best environment for her style of acting rather than seeing her hunt down aliens or work with gadgetry on terra firma. Bullock is simply too down to earth to look anywhere near at home being on earth in a futuristic spectacle.
Her playing an astronaut may also come close to being a stretch. You can say that in some of the key scenes of the “Gravity” trailer, particularly her repeated cries of “What do I do?!” when a real astronaut would have planned for such things. What may override all that, though, is the wise choice of seeing Bullock’s facial expressions through her helmet visor.
Of course, the above usually isn’t possible either due to helmet visors having reflective material. For “Gravity”, it was mandatory to see the expressions of the astronauts or there wouldn’t have been a movie. The film is going to have to rely on that for the most part, perhaps with slower-paced action scenes after the initial shuttle explosion.
Can Clooney and Bullock help the sci-fi movie along and turn it back to a slightly slower pace as audiences saw in the days of “2001: A Space Odyssey?” The words “fat chance” come to mind, despite this being an interesting development in how far-reaching sci-fi is in attracting nearly every A-list star. It may get to a point where we’ll be seeing a sci-fi film every month with actors we never thought would take such roles.
The good news is that Sandra Bullock didn’t have to put on grotesque makeup to work in the sci-fi genre. It proves that some actors who want to work in the genre while looking recognizable certainly can if the genre stays within real (or at least theoretical) environments. We’ll be seeing that again next year with Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” where Bullock could have also found a place had casting been slightly different.