Alfonso Cuaron wanted space to be an unforgiving void in “Gravity,” where astronauts in orbit lose their concept of up and down, and their only frame of reference comes from the reflected light of Earth, spinning 347 miles below them.
A collaboration between Cuaron (“Children of Men,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien”) and his screenwriting son, Jonas Cuaron, “Gravity” is a nerve-wracking plunge into the unknown. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. While working on a modification to the Hubble Space Telescope, Stone and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) suddenly find themselves cut off from safety, victims of a sudden debris storm they only knew about seconds before impact.
“Gravity” explores the intense loneliness of space and the horrors of a worst-case scenario in orbit. Alfonso Cuaron's desire was to make it real for viewers. His visual approach with “Gravity” attempts to simulate the disorientation and physics of a zero-gravity environment. Gaining momentum and hitting the right target at any cost becomes the only option for Stone and Kowalski as they try to save themselves from being lost in space. As a result, viewers will feel fully immersed in the 3-D film, spinning and hurtling with the two astronauts.
The director said that getting rid of up, down, left and right made “Gravity” more realistic, but during a press conference in Los Angeles, Cuaron said the prospect of getting rid of any discernible X/Y axis gave his computer animators fits.
“That was exactly the biggest challenge early on,” Cuaron said. “I mean, even before getting into the technical solutions, I would bring things from the standpoint of gravity, horizon and weight. It was a whole learning curve, because it is completely counterintuitive.
“The way you start the choreography is with animations,” he said. “The problem is that graphics people, people who draw, animators ... they learn to draw based on horizon and weight, and it was a big, big learning curve, with experts coming to explain the physics of zero-G. With the physics of space, we wanted to be super-accurate.”
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