Why Hollywood Warms to the Chill of Outer Space

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Why Hollywood Warms to the Chill of Outer Space


Byline: Roger Highfield

IT looks like a nail-biting Oscar night next month after the sci-fi thriller Gravity took best director award for Alfonso Cuaron, as well as five other Bafta trophies. But it comes as no surprise to me that Gravity has nudged ahead in the tight three-way race for Oscar best picture.

One of the many reasons is that science has so much to offer scriptwriters. Through its application in engineering and technology, it's changing life, culture and everything, while science fiction offers film makers all kinds of exotic possibilities for social commentary and spectacle.

Over the decades, Hollywood has generated a long list of unforgettable sci-fi films, from Forbidden Planet to Jurassic Park and The Matrix. And, of course, the unfathomable abyss of outer space has provided a breathtaking backdrop for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Alien and many more blockbusters because it really is the final frontier of human exploration. There's no oxygen. No sound. And, of course, no one can hear you scream.

What is different about Gravity is that cinemagoers stagger out of the IMAX theatre feeling that they really have just spent 90 minutes in space watching Oscar contender Sandra Bullock struggle to return to Earth's warm gravitational embrace.

Cuaron called this film his "love song to space" and, thanks to the visual effects nerds at Framestore in London (where Cuaron is also based) it does a pretty good job in conveying the reality of leaving Earth for an environment that is utterly hostile in a drama that tells a stark and simple tale, that of survival.

Scientists have been enthralled by Cuaron's depiction of microgravity where there's no up and no down and, if you are unfortunate enough to spiral off into the void, your rotation never ceases. …

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