Something has slipped out of kilter in the three weeks or so since I watched Gravity, the most expensive film ever seen in a cinema. I know, when we walked out into the Leicester Square evening, on our way to somewhere else in another galaxy far far away, I did so with slack jaw and a genuine sense of wonder. Wonder at rediscovering what cinema is capable of. Wonder of truly discovering the power of 3D for the first time. Wonder at the sense of having been closer to being in space than I had ever been before and knowing that this is testament to the skill of the technical team who took me there.
I know I felt all this, but when, sitting on a tube or something, I think back to the film, this is not what I remember. The thing I remember is the hokum lines that Clooney hokums his way through, in that neo-50s. sub-Jimmy Stewart style of his. They don’t come back to me in a specific fashion. I intuit a memory of lines about the Greenpackers and cherry pie and the value of striving, of never giving up, of being a homespun US citizen. I have no idea why this has become my dominant memory of Cuarón’s movie. I know that I read that Clooney himself came up with much of his dialogue. I also know that this diminishes my memories of the film to an unwarranted degree. All of a sudden it has become little more than a banal treatise on American values. All the fireworks have melted into thin air. There are no more flying spanners. There’s just George, bumbling away, taking it all in his stride.
I think that the moral of this story is that, no matter how remarkable the film, it can never supersede the limitations of its characters. Of course, many would say that Clooney’s character is perfect. I even remember at the time of watching it thinking how much better it was that he should have been cast than say, Robert Downey Jnr. (Who was scheduled to play the part until he dropped out.) But I can’t help it. That impression has not lasted and what remains in the memory tract, which should have been the glorious artistry and dazzling effects, is the faintly annoying message of yet more Yankee heroism. Which, in the cold light of day, I just don’t buy.
But, hell, it’s only a movie. The most expensive movie I ever saw.