Out of all the lessons “Gravity” taught viewers about how dangerous the space surrounding Earth might really be, it also reached into the inner space of the astronaut mind. While it might be box office poison to outright say that a movie shows the themes of persistence or perseverance in turmoil, that’s exactly what “Gravity” showed us. With that, it also shows how the mind shifts into different gears when faced with the worst kind of peril.
Yes, it’s a theme that’s been around a while in movie, yet mostly done now under disguise so it isn’t so obvious. The stunning visuals of “Gravity” managed to keep it beneath the surface until you analyzed the plot after the fact. But what are some examples of similar themes in recent films of the past? And what about upcoming films that go even further in how a mind gets shaped by experiences that shock characters out of their comfort zones?
“Here Comes the Boom”
You can’t say Kevin James isn’t making films that touch on universal issues that are relatable to families. As contrived as it looks, his Mr. Voss character in “Here Comes the Boom” is the ultimate example of mind shaping in order to survive. In this case, it’s not a life or death situation and more a reputation at stake. Mr. Voss’s students don’t think he’s capable of becoming a mixed martial arts fighter. Out of the idea that he might lose all credibility, he turns his mental acuity around to a point where he becomes someone else entirely.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”
Despite many themes in this family film franchise, perseverance in the quest to solve a world problem became more than a little compelling. When it becomes a successful attempt to create an invention that solves world hunger, you have a unique movie theme. Regardless, this film also showed how perseverance to solve one problem sometimes leads to other problems that require changing your mindset again to reverse it. As seen in the new sequel to this film, trying to stop surreal food monsters requires a persistence that shifts in two directions.
“The Pursuit of Happyness”
Believe it or not, the Will Smith family seems to be on this same perseverance train if you include Jaden Smith in the recent remake of “The Karate Kid.” Before that, Will Smith and Jaden Smith starred in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and based on a true story without much embellishment. Smith’s portrayal of Chris Gardner showed something we don’t see much of in the movies: Persistence through the trials of homelessness. His mindset isn’t any further away from Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone in “Gravity” where dogged determination to get out of the worst possible situation changes their mental outlook forever.
In Theaters: “12 Years a Slave”
There might not be any better example of a cinematic perseverance theme than this fall’s “12 Years a Slave.” Based on the true story of real slave Solomon Northup, the graphic nature of what this film will show is going to demonstrate perseverance like we’ve never seen it before. In fact, it’s the perfect follow up to “Gravity” where more perilous situations show us the transformation of someone’s thinking in minute detail.
It’s a strong movie theme we’ll likely continue to see as a way toward providing the best possible psychological profile of human beings without going inside someone’s head.