Why Gravity’s Brilliance is Depressing

Gravity is a fantastic film. Sure, it may have a few issues here and there but it’s an experience few other films can match. Visually it’s an absolute masterpiece and made me realise why I love the cinema so much. However, this also made me a little depressed.

After I watched Gravity, I realised that once it disappears from cinemas in the next month or so (it’ll have already disappeared in most other countries), it will likely never be experienced in quite the same way.

As we all know, some if not most films are better at the cinema, especially action films with big set pieces. They can still be immensely enjoyable at home on a smaller screen but nothing quite beats an enormous cinema screen with full surround sound. So much of Gravity is about becoming completely immersed in the experience and being in the cinema allows that. Put the film on a small screen and it will lose much of what makes it what it is. Sat in a dark cinema, you’re effectively there with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating miles above the Earth but sat at home with various other distractions, that level of immersion is a lot less likely.

In the future, cinemas may well dust it off and give it another run as part of a showcase or anniversary of something or other, but for the most part it will be relegated to DVD and Blu-ray viewings, and I suspect it simply won’t be anywhere near as good.

Of course this can be applied to pretty much every film, and there are many that I’ve watched at home and can only imagine how much better it would have been on the big screen. For example, I’m very jealous that I wasn’t able to see Kubrick’s 2001 or Ridley Scott’s Alien at the cinema; those are just two films that I imagine would be unbelievable when seen on a huge screen.

It just hit me with Gravity that much of what makes this film so great will soon be lost, and that’s a little sad.

Are there any films that you think really only work at the cinema or that you really wish you’d have the opportunity to watch when they first came out?

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68 thoughts on “Why Gravity’s Brilliance is Depressing

  1. davecrewe says:

    There are definietly a few films that fall into the category of “you had to see it in the cinema.” For example, Avatar is not a good movie, but seeing it at the first wave of new-3D – and new-3D done right – was memorable. I can’t imagine anyone understanding why it was such a phenomenon if they caught it on Blu-ray 15 years from now. Had the privilege this weekend of seeing a restored Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, which is certainly one of those “needs to be seen in a cinema” films.

    • Avatar is a great example Dave. I saw that at the cinema and really enjoyed it but I’ve seen it since and didn’t think it was that great. Films like 2001 are always great but Avatar is a considerably weaker film outside of the cinema. That’s awesome you managed to catch Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, I bet that was fantastic!

  2. I agree in a sense, but let’s take 2001: A Space Odyssey for example. It’s such an amazing experience in cinemas, a groundbreaking technical achievement who’s visuals surpass most films today, still, after 45 years. Watching it on Blu-Ray very nearly matches the experience of seeing it in the cinema. Just because it’s on a smaller screen doesn’t make it any less of a historic achievement in cinema. I think people who truly loved it when they first saw it will understand and continue their affection as it is released on Blu-Ray. Or maybe that’s just me.

    • No doubt about it that 2001 is still a fantastic film whether you watch it at the cinema or at home on the TV. I just think it would have been extra special seeing it on a big screen and it will lose just that little bit on a smaller screen at home. The best films can be watched pretty much anywhere but some just go to the next level at the cinema and I feel that’ll be the case with Gravity.

  3. liamdoesfilm says:

    This is a really good post, I agree hugely with what you said. In a cinema you’re forced to watch and enjoy at home it’s the opposite. Hopefully like you said one day they’ll be an option to see it again on the big screen. Films where this has happened before are like Avator that is impossible to watch at home if I’m honest and I can see it happening with Life Of Pi too. Good Post Terry.

  4. Agreed! I was lucky enough to see 2001 Space Odyssey in cinema though. Would love to see Bladerunner in the cinema too!

  5. Very thought-provoking! I get what you mean, and I think it’s sad too. Even though Gravity could be enjoyed at home, the viewer will never have as immersive and captivating an experience as watching it in a dark cinema with only the screen to engage them. Calls to mind the existential themes of the film! Sad times!

  6. One of my dreams is to see 2001 in theaters as it was originally intended. If I had $$$, I would pay to do so. That, and anything in Cinerama.

  7. MojosWork says:

    Not a big Star Wars fan, but I always wished I could have seen that in theatres on its first go-round, not for the cinematic experience, but for the historical “I was there when…” experience. I felt the same way for the Miracle on Ice. Tangentially, hockey is only good live, in person, and football is way better on TV than in the stadium. Its for this reason that I wish we had more diverse-looking movie theatres. AMC gobbles everything up and they look more and more homogenized. That said, if you’re ever in NYC, the Lincoln Center AMC stull has its own flavor. I used to live in that place. Not literally, but almost.

    • Yeah Star Wars is a great shout, like you say for the experience. I’ve seen a couple of hockey games live and they were fantastic but never seen an (American) football game live. Our English football (soccer) can be fantastic live but it’s filled with so man idiots I prefer to watch it at home.

  8. ckckred says:

    I think you’re right on Gravity. Amazing movie but to be fully appreciated I think it needs to be seen in theaters with 3-D. As for the question, I would love to see Apocalypse Now and 2001 (my two favorite movies of all time) in theaters.

  9. Chris, interesting post. Any film whose setting is space benefits. I was thinking of ‘Tree of Life’ and even the opening to ‘Melancholia’ is enhanced because planets and solar symptoms should be seen ‘big’. Having been that kid who saw Star Wars in 1977 on the big screen made me a film addict because of the experience.

  10. jjames36 says:

    Interesting post. And agreed. Though, I have to say, after a second viewing, I’m considerably less “in love” with Gravity than I was in the first sitting.

    That’s a tangent, because the bigger point is that you’re right. This one will not be the same outside of the theater.

  11. theipc says:

    I wish I had seen The Conjuring in the theater… : (

  12. ruth says:

    Hi Chris, great post and I agree on some level in terms of the immersive quality of the film in that it really envelops you with the visuals, sound, etc. But for me, a well-written story has the same effect as well, so I felt like I was as immersed watching HER as I did Gravity for different reasons. I think one could argue that being truly caught up in the character’s journey is just as enchanting in terms of cinema experience, and I felt that way about Joaquin Phoenix’s character as I did w/ Bullock’s here.

    • ruth says:

      Oh, but to answer your question. One film I wish I had been able to see on the big screen in all its glory is Ben-Hur. I’m hoping TCM would re-release it one day like they did w/ Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, etc.

    • Hey Ruth, you can’t beat a well-written story and that’s the most important thing of all. With Gravity I felt the visuals helped make it what it was, so to dilute that slightly by putting it on a small screen, to me, will lessen its impact, especially as I think there are a few story issues with it. I can’t wait to see HER, that looks fantastic and good to hear you enjoyed it so much!

  13. Smash says:

    Nothing beats watching a movie at the theatre, that’s for damn sure. But, if you’re lucky, you can setup a fantastic home theatre with a giant T.V. and surround sound which makes the experience much more immersive than watching on a laptop while you lie in bed, right?

  14. Mark Walker says:

    Excellent point Chris. I mentioned this problem myself in my review and I stand by it. I don’t think it’ll stand up as well which is a shame as it’s the pure spectacle that makes this film special.

  15. Great post Chris; absolutely agree. I regret never watching Heat on the big screen, if only for the amazing LA gunfight. Jaws as well for obvious reasons.

  16. Great post. That IS a little depressing. I had a fantastic cinema experience when I watched Gravity in 4D. When (not if) I buy the Blu-Ray, it won’t be the same :(

  17. Zoë says:

    I really wish I could have seen Inception in cinemas :(

  18. This is a very interesting post! Gravity is really the only film that 3D has enhanced for me. I told everyone that wanted to see it to go to it in 3D. Now that you mention it, it probably will lose that effect watching it on DVD.

  19. thegit13 says:

    This is actually a bigger issue for me as I have gotten used to watching movies in IMAX. I’m one of those who loves 3D and IMAX really adds to the visuals on a grand scale and the sound is awesome. I’m very glad I got to see Pacific Rim on IMAX 3D as well. I’m not saying it’s the best movie but, like Gravity, the visuals and sound are terrific.

  20. sati says:

    I think Gravity holds up well, sure 3D is amazing and the beauty of the film on the big screen unforgettable but it is also a very moving, thrilling film, beautifully acted out and directed with flawless scenes one can watch over and over. I don’t think any film belongs only to the big screen.

  21. Jon Harrison says:

    Yeah unless you are one if the few people who have their own theaters. I am very anxious to see how it looks on a decent sized tv on blu ray though!

    For me I would say The Shining. That movie is a masterpiece in my eyes and is perfect for the theaters. At home it is very easy to stray away from the tv by numerous distractions during the slower parts. For example My friend was like that when she attempted to watch it at home, and she didn’t make it through the film, however we recently saw it in theaters and she really enjoyed it. Oddly enough she was telling me how the slow parts had such a creepy score to it which defined the overall mood of the film. Plus it’s bigger and louder haha. I also say Prometheus & Inception off the top of my head!

    • I hope that if you have a decent sized TV it will at least come close. I would loved to have seen The Shining on the big screen, that really would have been amazing. You definitely notice things like the score more at the cinema too. Prometheus is a good shout, I’d say any of the Alien films to be honest.

  22. I’ve never seen Brokeback Mountain, but have had the DVD lying around for years. I’m kind of hoping I get to go and see it at a cinema, though, given what I’ve heard about how good it looks.
    Jurassic Park amazed me at the cinema…20 years ago now (wow!). But I don’t think small-screen viewings will ever come near to the experience.

  23. Myerla says:

    Nothing is stopping you watching 2001 and Alien on a big screen, all you have too do is buy one. Problem solved. Ha.

    In my review of Gravity I said similar things, the effect of the film will be greatly diminished when viewed on a small screen.

  24. Katy says:

    Interesting post! I feel like some movies need an adjustment when I watch them at home, and others not so much. Watching movies at home can make them feel more convenient and we do other things while watching them, so our focus is all over the place unless we recreate the theater atmosphere.

    Gravity, I think, will have to be one of those movies that you sit down to watch and focus on it, or not watch at all. I can’t imagine being on the computer or doing something else other than putting my full attention towards it.

    (P.S. Keep your eyes open on your local AMC Theatre. They play a bunch of classics all year long for one-day/weekend screenings! :D)

  25. Alex Withrow says:

    Yep, I fully agree with this. I actually just read a double profile on Cuarón and J.C. Chandor in Esquire and they both, individually, said the films the released this year were meant to be viewed in the theater. It is a shame that both of those films may not resonate as well at home.

  26. Oh definitely. You make an interesting point.
    I saw this in IMAX 3D, and it was absolutely worth the price. I just wish I had seen it more than once, but I couldn’t afford to.

    Hopefully it’ll pull an Avatar and be re-released into the cinema again.

  27. Tom says:

    Very insightful post man. I guess at the end of the day though, those who did get to experience this in theaters. . . well, they (I) know and those didn’t, well they certainly missed out! For these very reasons that you point out, I would probably have to highly advise against buying this on DVD/Blu-Ray since the movie will lose a lot of its luster for sure. A great many times for me the question becomes how much playability does a story have? Some will wear out their welcome a lot quicker than others, but in this case, it’d actually be the very same element that made it so powerful in theaters. Thanks for bringing this back up. It’s a very rare position for a film to be in.

    • Cheers Tom. I’m still unsure as to whether I’d get this on Blu-ray or not. I’d like to watch it again but I just feel it’ll be nowhere near as good. I mean, Gravity has been hailed as one of the best films of the year and one of the best space films of all time, but I just have a feeling that’s based purely on cinema viewing.

  28. hybridZone says:

    Wow this is true, two movies come to my head….Avatar and Pacific Rim, unfortunately I was unable to see the former on the theatre but when it was re-released in 4DX theatre in Budapest. I was lucky to view it. These two movies to me had to be viewed in the cinema.

  29. table9mutant says:

    Agree. Gravity will NOT be the same on a small screen. :-( Although Alien is great either way. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen too, though, as they did show that in cinemas several years ago! :-)

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