Saturday, November 02, 2013


     Tam and I went to see the film this afternoon.  I'm not normally much of a big-screen person; with a 42" at home, why go rent a seat at preposterous prices when you can watch at home?

     This movie, is why.  I suppose the story could be told without 3-D, but not nearly as effectively; and this film makes the best use of 3D I have yet seen, including some unobtrusive but amazing-in-hindsight POV shifts.

     I think it's the best SF film I have seen, period -- Tam argues it's not Science Fiction at all, "No more than The Hunt for Red October," which I think may yet contain a kernel of ambiguity. 

     Whatever.  We agree it's a good movie.  Are there some physics blips?  Yep.  Can continuity nits be picked?  Barely.  Thing is, no one has ever done it better, which is a helluva a trick for a film that includes the kind of deadly "meteor shower" rarely seen outside of B movies.  Go.  See.  Your disbelief will remain suspended; the Soyuz interior is on-model, the Chinese spacecraft works (IIRC, they even got the Service Module right), the whole thing makes sense.

     A downside for me was a blasting musical score that tended to oversell dramatic moments.  Could be an artifact of the particular theater we saw the film at but for my taste, the music could have been 10 dB softer* compared to dialog and SFX or even largely eliminated and the film would still be at least as heart-grabbing.
Make no mistake, it will grab you and if you're a techie like me, you'll try to grab right back.  I was actually physically on the edge of my seat at several points in the movie.

     Gravity: worth your time and money.
* One-tenth as loud, that is. 


Old NFO said...

And bring earplugs... Anymore it seems like ALL of the movies blast the sound!

jed said...

Better than Alien? That there is the gold standard, IMHO.

Ridiculous dynamic range coupled with excessive volume is why I quit going to the movie theaters. Watching at home, even with audio compression in use, I'm constantly fiddling with the volume control.

Completely OT: my outing for the day involved going the library and finding the 2013 ARRL Handbook in the used book section, hardcover, pristine, with CD. $2.50.

Divemedic said...

I liked it, but a friend told me that it was nothing but 2 hours of the main character having a panic attack.

Tam said...

"I liked it, but a friend told me that it was nothing but 2 hours of the main character having a panic attack."

99.44% of everybody who says they wouldn't have a panic attack in those circumstances is a _______ liar. :)

Tam said...

Incidentally, this movie will not be the same, even on the baddest 2D home cinema you can buy.

I'm tempted to go watch it again and sit... about four rows closer so that the screen perfectly fills my field of view.

jon spencer said...

Went and saw it the other day, for a movie that was only a half hour long it was pretty good.
At least it felt like a half hour. Watched the start, got mesmerized and in what seemed like about 30 minutes the credits were rolling.
First movie in quite a few that I did not check the watch to see how much longer it would be.
I know there were so many things shown that are impossible, but it is a movie and I did not care.

Tam said...


The run time of the movie was one of the things that made it interesting. IIRC it covered maybe... four? five? hours of time in space in a 1.5 hour flick, which is as close to "real time" as I've seen in a movie in a long time.

DOuglas2 said...

Last Christmas I, (as the family techie expert in home-threatre,) helped a relative in Blighty pick out a new TV. Over there 3d TV is apparently the big thing. There is hardly any programming for it, mind you, but one would "have to be a fool to buy a TV without that capability".
We were fools, apparently. We did get the "internet enabled" TV, because that kind of came free on the model with the desired features stocked by the locally-owned TV store with the toothless tech who would come set it up for Mum. I was very aware that I would be an ocean away within 10 days, so we opted to pay the extra hundred quid to buy at a store with in-home after-sale support....I didn't bother to run the ethernet line across the house for the online features, however.

On a more pedantic note, a bel lower might be a tenth of the power electrically or acoustically, but "loud" is a measure of perception. Originally a 10dB decrease in level was considered half as loud, but that got refined to 6dB as we became more used to this nomenclature in place of "loss over a mile of standard cable".

Roberta X said...

No, it got changed because -3dB is half the power (-10dB is a tenth the power and, for a quick check, what's -9dB? Three 3dB drops. Half of half of half, call it one-eighth. Close enough).

It's not subjective and, expressed as non-suffixed dB, it *only* tells us the ratio. You can measure the powers and calculate it: 10log(P1/P2) gives you the same answer for any 1:2 power ratio every time. 20log(A1/A2) if all you had was a voltmeter.

The frikkin' SPL was way over the top in the that theater, but I can put in earplugs. What made it a real problem was the music was way louder than the dialog and most SFX and kept sawing away at the cables suspending my disbelief.

Drang said...

Hmm, sounds like this movie would be a good test as to whether science fiction is necessarily speculative fiction.
Too geeky?

Roberta X said...

Nope. Good point.

The thing is, the membranes between genres are increasingly permeable.

Dwight Brown said...

"Tam argues it's not Science Fiction at all, "No more than The Hunt for Red October," which I think may yet contain a kernel of ambiguity."

I remember reading an introduction Michael Crichton wrote for a short story collection. This was not long after "Terminal Man" and "Andromeda Strain", and he mentioned there was some initial friction between himself and the author in question. Why? The author didn't consider Crichton's works to be SF. And Crichton promptly responded that he didn't consider them to be SF either.

Somebody else coined a phrase for those Crichton books that I agree with: they are science fiction, but they're science fiction about 15 minutes into the future. I think I could mount a defense of "Red October" as also being science fiction 15 minutes into the future, but that breaks down with "Clear and Present Danger".

Not sure about "Gravity"; haven't seen it yet.

Douglas2 said...

I've no dispute that the spl was way over the top, or the dialog/fx/music balance off.

I got my information on loudness largely from my memory of BCJ Moore's textbook on perception of sound, and the psychoacousticians will swear up and down that:

-- sound intensity is a physical measure but loudness is a subjective one,

-- even so, there is approximate correlation between dB SPL (using the A or C "weighting curve" most appropriate for the sound intensity in question) and "Phon"

-- early experiments all pegged "half as loud" as a decrease of 10 phon (or 10 dB if you will)

-- After the article "Elimination of biases in loudness judgments for tones" by RM Warren in 1970 it is common knowledge that "half as loud" equates to a drop of 6 phon.

Roberta X said...

We're taking at cross-purposes, then, Douglas2. A lifetime of working with sound-through-electronics leaves me unfairly biased against any discussion of "loud" that doesn't involve a meter.

I know how far I would have turned that damn music down if it was running through a generic pro mixer with ANSI-spec VU meters. Lacking that, I would have cranked the level down until my ears stopped bleeding.

--The stuff I work with, "too loud" has a strict legal definition (for several different modes of transmission); exceed it and you get slapped with fines. Exceed it in one direction in one mode and the laws of physics beat you up directly; exceed it in another mode and people tune away, annoyed.

And in my line of work, the -3 dB half-power points, and -6 dB drop from double-terminating a conjugate match, are considered "half as loud." ...Really half-power and half-voltage and Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Munsen and Mr. Olsen tell me I might or might not perceive a change of that sign and magnitude as "half as loud," depending on the nature of the sound and the absolute level it was at to begin with.