Gravity: With effects this special, how can we tell outer space from CGI?

If the moon landings were taking place now, people would be rightly suspicious

Share

By now, you will probably have seen the posters proclaiming “Gravity” as one of the best films ever made. In the advance publicity for the film which opens next week, they've not been parsimonious with the superlatives, and one of my friends - a highly respected figure in Britain's movie industry - told me a few weeks ago that it was an outstanding piece of work, and not to be missed.

So, laden with expectation, I went to a charity screening of the film the other night. It is, no doubt, a film like no other, a 3D extravaganza that, indeed, takes you to another dimension. It is an assault on the senses. It is a powerfully crafted mix of  fantasy and reality. And it certainly has a very different texture from almost every other film you'll see these days. In synopsis, it's the story of an American space mission that goes wrong, and the struggle of the two astronauts, an experienced space hand played by George Clooney and a rookie scientist played by Sandra Bullock, to find their way back to earth, or, more specifically, to middle America.

No need for a spoiler alert, but the unfolding of the story is just one of the ways in which "Gravity" fails to conform strictly to Hollywood type. Another is that you never get actually to see Clooney: the voice is unmistakeable but he only appears in full space suit with mask. This is not the case with Ms Bullock, who is to be seen for long periods in tight T-shirt and undercrackers, allowing viewers to marvel not only at this journey to the furthest frontiers of man's discovery, or to glory in the awe-inspiring stillness and dream-like quality of space, but to imagine how much work you have to do to maintain a body like that at the age of 49.

We are told that the only thing that's real in the film are the actors: everything else is computer-generated imagery. I did wonder whether this extended to Ms Bullock's physiognomy, but we'll let that pass. Equally, I've never actually been to space, but it looked pretty authentic to me. The ability to create the illusion of reality is, of course, a stock in trade for Hollywood, and now, with the advance in technology, anything in the world (or beyond it) can be realised by a few clever people in front of computer screens.

When George Clooney rhapsodises about seeing the sun rise from space, I totally believed what I was seeing. Which led me to wonder this: what if the moon landings had only just happened? We're all aware of the conspiracy theorists who are adamant that the Apollo 11 mission was created in a movie studio, the ultimate piece of advertising for American hegemony. And that was in an era when computers were in their infancy. Hard to imagine it could be faked. But now? A bit of airbrushing on one of the astronauts would be the least of it. Surely, if the landings were taking place now, people would assume that the whole thing had been cooked up by a CGI studio in LA. However, the clinching argument would be this: it must be real, because it would look much better if it wasn't.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Circles South East Youth Service: Youth Services Volunteer

this is an unpaid voluntary position: Circles South East Youth Service: LOOKIN...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £30,000+

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading privately owned sp...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Daily catch-up: how come Ed Miliband’s tuition fee ‘cut’ is so popular, then?

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn