Monday, November 18, 2013

Gravity (movie)

It seems like the entire space and astronomy community is talking about Gravity. It is indeed a great film you should watch it in 3D. The new film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, presents Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who got stuck outside their spaceship. During a routine service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Russians sent a missile to destroy an old satellite (something the Chinese has actually done in the past). The debris' cloud spreads quickly and destroys Bullock and Clooney's space shuttle. The ISS team abandon it, and so does the Chinese in their Tiangong station. Our heroes are left alone to find their long way home.

The film is minimalistic. Bullock and Clooney are the only actors. There are some voices like Ed Harris as the capcom (Harris played flight director Gene Kranz in Apollo 13) but the most astonishing thing is the view of Space. I was very happy to see that one of the first places seen clearly on Earth is my country, Israel, together with the Sinai desert and Egypt.

Is the film realistic? The danger of debris is real. Of course there are errors in the film and you can search and find a whole list of them on the net. The debris cloud speed is too high and in this speed it will not orbit the Earth but continue to outer space. Hubble ,the ISS and Tiangogng, are in entirely different orbits and it is hard to go from one to another and so on. There is no point to search for errors, the point is to enjoy the film and the feeling of actually being there in space hovering above Earth. In the film we go through most of the existing spaceships. A space shuttle (now retired), the ISS, a Soyuz spaceship and the Chinese Tiangong which is much bigger that the real thing. Astronauts said the the spacecrafts look very real with all the handles and the buttons in the correct places, and it certainly looks real to the audience.

There is a lot of physics in the film. Children from grades 4 to 12 can learn a lot from it. Newton's second law of motion is demonstrated throughout the entire film and all the following terms: mass, velocity, acceleration, force, moment, vector, drag, pressure, energy, friction, lift, elastic and so on, are in the film. A guided view of the film can help to teach all these terms with the entire laws of mechanics.

However if you do looking for errors you will find quite a few. Here are some:
  • The Hubble Space Telescope ,Tiangong and the ISS are in totally different orbits. They are not in the same height and not in the same place moving in tandem. It is impossible to move  from one to another like the astronauts do in the film.
  • The debris cloud is moving too fast. In that speed it will not orbit Earth but proceed deeper into space.
  • When Bullock removes her spacesuit, she has only regular clothes underneath. In reality, there are many more layers on an astronauts body.
  • The Tiangong (Chinese space station) is like it might be in ten more years, but maybe the film is in the future (The STS number is 157 and the last one was 135, of course space shuttle are retired now)
For a very long list of errors (With spoilers) look in the comment I received in Reddit.
Gravity. All the rights are reserve to Warner Bros.
Gravity. All the rights are reserve to Warner Bros.
During the film Bullock is trying to have a radio converstaion with someone named Anningaaq. This is a corss-refernce to a short movie (7 minutes only) of the director's son: Jonas Cuaron. Watch the short film here. This cross refrence reminded me the masterpiece book by Chinghiz Aitmatov: "The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years".

After saying all the above, I will repeat my recommendation to see this film. Not because of the reality and not due to screenplay. The real star is space itself. 3D or IMAX are a must. Gravity is joining the hall of fame of space movies and we will probably hear a lot the sentence: "And the Oscar goes to Gravity". 

Watch the official trailer.

Additional links