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October 21, 2013

The Force of “Gravity”

By Tyler Kearn '15  |  october, 2013, Issue 2

Most people chose to do their Audience Captivation Training (ACT) speeches on important topics such as the 24 news cycle, human obsolescence and telehealth. I did mine on 3D movies. Little did I know when I started that a movie was about to come out that would change the genre.

Yes, 3D movies are in fact on the list of ACT topics, right between decision fatigue and revolutionary invention. I chose it not because it was a "light" topic, but because it was one that I felt I could say something about.

The ACT prompt is based on a New York Times article from January 2010 that discusses the impact "Avatar" (which came out in December 2009) was going to have on 3D movies and whether it was going to be the movie that popularized 3D.

The answer seemed an easy "no." With the benefit of hindsight, I could say that no movie since Avatar had done nearly as well financially or artistically (I speak of the artistry of the 3D, not other elements). For evidence, I found tales of 3D movies that were rushed into production in order to capitalize on the 3D "trend" and anecdotes of studios forcing films to be released in 3D, even against the wishes of their creators (famously, director Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010)). I had data on the number of 3D movies released each year, and I even had a great quote – Roger Ebert's quip, "3D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension." It seemed I had my speech, case closed.

And then I read the reviews for the new film "Gravity" from director Alfonso Cuarón. Reviewers loved it, and, more than that, they were talking about the movie's use of 3D. The New York Times review proclaimed, "Mr. Cuarón's use of 3-D ... surpasses even what James Cameron accomplished in the flight sequences of 'Avatar'." James Cameron (the director of "Avatar") said to Variety that, "I think it's the best space film ever done." Clearly, if I wanted to thoroughly prepare for my ACT speech, I needed to watch this movie.

The critics are not wrong – "Gravity" is stellar (pun intended), and I believe it uses 3D better than any film I have seen to date. The movie stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts making repairs to the Hubble space telescope when, well, let's just say things go wrong. Bullock and Clooney are both great, Bullock in particular. However, in many ways the star of the film is the visuals.

The movie is made of gorgeous, long, fluid shots with the camera literally moving through space, depicting amazing images of astronauts, shuttles, space stations and, of course, the Earth. The use of 3D is both creative and subtle. There are plenty of spectacular shots of the Earth from space, but what really stands out to me in 3D is the point of view shots from inside the spacesuit – you look out through the curved glass of the helmet, complete with displays and gauges, and see everything with proper dimensions and perspective.

The bottom line is that "Gravity" is worth seeing while it's still in theaters, and definitely worth seeing in 3D. It won't be the same in 2D, on DVD, on Netflix, or, god forbid, on an airplane. Your best bet is to see it in IMAX, such as the theater at Navy Pier. It's worth it.

So, how did my ACT speech go? It's hard to be objective, but I can safely say that watching "Gravity" is a lot easier than watching myself on video.

Last Updated 10/21/13
Last Updated 10/21/13