Alfonso Cuarón’s space survival epic Gravity set a box office record this weekend, raking in 55.6 million of the hard-earned dollars of Americans who really, really wanted to hurtle through space with Sandra Bullock. Including a few major space nerds, many of whom have pointed out that the movie is far from realistic, science-wise. Routinely awesome astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, for one, took to Twitter last night to point out some of Gravity’s biggest inconsistencies.
If you haven’t seen it, first of all, what are you doing here? Go see it. See it in 3-D. Maybe see it twice. Then come back and we’ll talk. But some people love spoilers, so here we go.
Sandra Bullock plays a medical engineer on her first mission to space, doing some unspecified–presumably brilliant–experiment and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope with the help of chatty old-timer astronaut George Clooney. When a Russian missile destroys a satellite, the sharp debris begins hurtling toward the astronauts at shrapnel speeds. Together, they have to avoid the debris (which is orbiting the Earth and comes back around on its destruction path every 90 minutes) and find a way to get back to Earth with their shuttle destroyed and communications with Earth shot. Major spoiler: only one of them will make it.
As he explained later:
For more on this particular faux-pas, read about Dennis Overbye’s experience watching the movie with an astronaut who actually did service the Hubble Space Telescope.
This was the most cringe-worthy moment of the movie for me. CLOONEY DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE. But he had to die. He just had to. For Sandra Bullock to find her inner strength. Sacrifices.
Real talk. But at least her tears floated into space convincingly!
Despite all the snarking, it seems the blatant rejection of some of the realities of space didn’t take away that much from the film’s experience.
Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait also went on a bit of a geek-out about some of the scientific errors over at Slate. His conclusion: “The science errors won’t bug you, and if they do, you need to pull your head out of your assumptions of what a movie should be.”
Scientific impossibilities aside, the film is pretty great. If nothing else, the view is fantastic.