Has Alfonso Cuarón Made a Sci-Fi Gamechanger? Watch the Trailer for Gravity

Slate's Culture Blog
May 9 2013 10:32 PM

Trailer Critic: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in Gravity
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Still from the trailer for Gravity

It’s been seven years since visionary filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón put out his last feature, Children of Men. That movie was not only one of the best science-fiction films in years, it changed the way many people thought about what was possible at the movies. Now, Cuarón is finally coming back with his next film, Gravity. Tonight, the trailer hit the net, giving us our first look at this long-anticipated and still somewhat mysterious film.

Of course, a big part of what makes Gravity such a heavily anticipated film, especially among cinephiles, is the sense that it will take what Children of Men did even further, staging long, immersive action sequences with few if any cuts. According to Gravity executive producer Chris DeFaria (as he said it last year), the movie “opens with a continuous 17-minute shot” that shows, well, everything we see in this trailer. So how do you cut a trailer from something that doesn’t have any cuts?

The trailer for Gravity solves this problem beautifully. Setting the scene with Arvo Pärt’s gorgeous “Spiegel im Spiegel,” a favorite of arthouse filmmakers, it lulls us into a daydream—before suddenly smashing us with debris and sending us hurtling, helplessly, hopelessly, into space. It’s a nightmare, one whose lonely, agoraphobic terror I can only compare to the premise of Open Water, or Radiolab’s episode “Dark Side of the Earth,” which recreated a real-life story of being deserted in space.

What will happen after our hero (played by now Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock) is flung into the abyss? That remains horrifyingly unclear—the teaser knows the power of restraint—but the buzz so far suggests there’s plenty to be excited about. According to Guillermo del Toro, Cuarón and his collaborators (including Children of Men cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) consulted filmmakers like David Fincher and James Cameron for help with their plans, because they were “so insane,” and Cameron said “look, you’re about five years into the future … it’s too early to try anything like that.” Yet Del Toro says they pulled it off. To see whether Cuarón really did pull it off, and perhaps even to see what it is, we’ll have to wait until October 4.

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Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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