There’s nothing more that says sci-fi than a film specifically set in space, as seen in Alfonso Cuaron’s newest released hit, “Gravity.” For those that are not familiar with the film, “Gravity” is a film mainly based around two core characters, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullocks) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who are conducting a space expedition when a satellite debris damages their shuttle, leaving them stranded in space. I found this movie to be particularly interesting for students in the science literature group due to the way this film approaches the natural beauty of space, the startling magnitude of the universe as compared to Earth, and the subject of God. The movie projects many awe-inspiring shots of space and the shots of Earth multiple times throughout the day, the shots seen through the eyes of these astronauts that make our planet seem so insignificant in terms of the scale of the universe.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film I found was perhaps Cuaron’s message for the audience regarding the direction of our future. During a part of the movie when Kowalski looks over Earth after the debris has destroyed much of the Earth’s satellites, he notes, “Half of north America just lost their Facebook.” Although Cuaron may have partially intended this as a joke, part of him also dedicated this line in the script to demean the useless direction that our society has progressed towards. Back then when sci-fi authors wrote about robots, space travel, time travel, and extremely advanced technological progress, many of them would have assumed that by the 21st century we would have already been progressing towards some notable and worthy technological progress or further research towards better understanding the universe. An example, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (this book may have over-stressed the expectations of technological progression though), was based in 1992 and during that time, society already faced extreme technological strides. Thus Cuaron writes this joke sort of to ridicule our society in the sense that people are more focused on things such as social media platforms, as compared to focusing their energy towards more efficient studies and rewarding activities. While Kowalski and Dr. Stone were isolated in space, most Americans were probably unaware and stressed only about minute worries, such as the fact that their television and Internet connection were defective.
Another topic I found to be particularly intriguing was the role of faith in the film. Throughout our class, we often noted the divide between science, technology, and religion. Especially, through many of the poems we have read in class written by famous Romantics, we realize that they almost deem nature and God as almost synonymous. An example is in “Frost at Midnight” when Coleridge enjoys the beauty of nature and notes God, “who from eternity doth teach Himself in all, and all things in himself. Great Universal Teacher!” So it seems that through many of the poems that we have read regarding the sublime and beauty of nature, the author makes some reference to God. However, in this sci-fi movie when Dr. Stone is fearing the brink of death, she laments, “No one will pray for my soul. I’ve never prayed. No one has taught me how.” It isn’t until the end when she back on Earth that she grabs a handful of sand and murmur’s “Thank you.” Usually in sci-fi books and movies, a conflicting opinion regarding religion persists. Interestingly, this movie contrasts with its counterparts of the same genre in that the main character, who never practiced faith, recognized and thanked God for bringing her out of danger in space. In a way, this movie makes unconventional progress not only in the way that it combines science and religion, but also combines both the technological aspects of space travel and the beautiful sublime of nature, seen through the astronaut’s perspective of Earth as compared to the cold, dim space that surrounded them.
I believe “Gravity” to be worthy of further consideration by the science-literature group due to the many topics that it raises. The director, Cuaron, makes us question if the progression of society is as expected. Perhaps these sci-fi authors overextended their imaginations when they expected Earth to be completely different in the future, or in the 2000s. Their books on androids and Big Brother, seem to be completely different than the society where people focus so much on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The daily worries that we face and our daily routines seems so insignificant to the strides that Kowalski and Dr. Stone are making in space research. This film makes the audience view progress through a bigger picture, through the astronaut’s perspective of Earth from the vast space of the universe. “Gravity” is deserving not only because of the beautiful sceneries that it depicts, but also the many topics that it raises including technological emphasis of our society and the role of religion. If you have seen this movie, what other subjects and interesting topics have piqued your interests? What technological subjects of this story do you believe relates to the subjects we bring up in our class?