Gravity and the necessary evil of movie marketing
Suppose your movie is opening in a few months. Do you trust its quality and hope good word-of-mouth will slowly but surely get cinephile butts in seats, or do you give it a little nudge with some previews and hope the marketing campaign will get more butts in the seats and faster?
Filmmakers, obviously, want their creations to reach the widest, largest audience (so do studios, albeit for a different reason). But what if your marketing campaign ends up hurting your film?
This unintended damage happens all the time, of course, but I really felt it (and it really hurt) while seeing Gravity. As a Cuarón fanboy with limited willpower, of course I ate up every clip, sneak preview or featurette before the film opened on October 18th.
Sitting there in the middle of the room, I slowly began to realize I had had the first half of the movie spoiled for me, and it was not a good feeling.
Act I of Gravity, through no fault of its own or of the filmmaker, lost quite a bit of its emotional power and ability to surprise. What do you do in these cases? The sight of Sandra Bullock bobbing around violently in space loses some of its impact after 394 viewings.
“I really wanted to love Gravity”, I thought, “but it’s not giving me anything new or exciting”.
How wrong I was, thankfully.
It was like the second half of the film, after Clooney dies, was telling me “you want new and exciting? Here you go”.
Few times have I been this tense at the cinema, and I really commend Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón for encouraging audience participation. Advice for Ryan Stone (Bullock), many “no no nos” and general curse words escaped my mouth from time to time. Ha!
In all seriousness, the trailers didn’t spoil the best things about Gravity: its ability to amaze visually and connect emotionally.
Yet again, cinematographer Emmanuel ‘El Chivo’ Lubezki knocks it out of the park, aided by top-notch visual effects, both of which will surely be mentioned a lot come award season.
There’s a scene -if you’ve seen the movie, there’s no way you’ve forgotten it- where Bullock, breathing fresh oxygen after almost running out of it, and suspended inside the ship, takes off her spacesuit and curls up in the fetal position. It’s a scene of such subtle beauty and also one of the best I’ve ever seen.
I have been a fan of Sandra Bullock pretty much my whole life, but I’d never considered her a capital-letter Actress, until now. Her heart-wrenching performance will make you cheer, suffer, laugh and weep (oh, how I wept with that dog scene). A ‘Best Actress’ Oscar nomination is pretty much a sure thing, and don’t be surprised if she takes the golden man home once again (only this time much, much more deserved).
Even if the first half is sort-of ruined by the numerous trailers, Gravity picks itself back up and becomes one of the best films in the 2013 universe, one that masterfully combines the thrills of a great sci-fi actioner and the harrowing emotional torture of the finest dramas. Destined to be a classic.