Gravity - Sci-Fi Or Not Sci-Fi?

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No science fiction film has ever won the best film Oscar and this has prompted a debate about whether Gravity is sci-fi or something else. The answer in my view is very simple...

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  • Comment number 94. Posted by Gav

    on 1 Jul 2014 14:46

    Of course it's Science fiction. There is an entire sub genre (especially part of the hard SF spectrum) that deals with the practicalities of space exploration, I suppose you would call it specifically Space Adventure, it is nonetheless Science Fiction.

    To Daragho, you're reading of SF is very very narrow. It is in fact a broad church which includes many different types of writing.

  • Comment number 93. Posted by David H

    on 24 Jun 2014 11:26

    Mark Kermode is wrong.

    Science fiction is fictionalised science (space travel etc, all the science that has yet to be discovered or used). Gravity's fundamental genre is thriller, and it is fiction. I don't know if people have been following the news but astronauts are in space doing routine maintenance all the time.

    Just because the physics are not realistic it doesn't mean that Die Hard is science fiction does it? Breaking Bad isn't science fiction just because it is based on science?

    40 years ago, Gravity would be science fiction. It is now 2014 and it certainly isn't fictionalised science.

  • Comment number 92. Posted by nyhotep

    on 28 Mar 2014 17:27

    I suppose it depends on how narrow or wide your definition of SF is.

    IMDB lists "The man in the white suit" as Comedy-Sci-Fi- Drama" and it certainly has a speculative scientific mcguffin at the heart of the story.

    Marooned is also listed as Sci fi (3 astronauts stranded in orbit, rescued by the Russians) Coincidently, the screenplay for Marooned was written by one Mayo Simon...

    I have always assumed Star Wars was supposed to be a fantasy: the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." make that obvious, don't they?

  • Comment number 91. Posted by The 8th Passenger

    on 23 Mar 2014 19:01

    While I agree there is often an air of pretension and perhaps embarrassment on behalf of filmmakers claiming that their film is not horror, sci fi, etc I do think in the case of Gravity that the claim is correct. Primarily at least.

    I was unable to catch Gravity in the cinema and had to wait until blu ray and straight after watching it I put it on my shelf along with the rest of my action DVDS. Yes, it has sci fi elements but it seems clear to me it is first and foremost an action film with dramatic elements, then sci fi. I do not think that just because it has heightened reality in a space setting it is immediately sci fi, that term for me is used for stuff that exists in a 'what would happen if the world was like this' scenario (that's anything from Westworld to A Clockwork Orange to A Scanner Darkly) or futuristic dystopia (Children of Men, Logan's Run), other worldly surrealism (Brazil, Twin Peaks) or contain futuristic tech that doesn't yet exist and/or questions about what it is to be human (The Matrix, Robocop, Inception). Nobody walks away from Gravity contemplating the human condition, they think "Wow, those effects were cool and Bullock gave a great performance".

    Just cause its space don't make it sci fi. See also Star Wars.

  • Comment number 90. Posted by denilzon

    on 19 Mar 2014 12:55

    Dear Mark.

    Gravity is not a SF. I enjoyed watching Gravity and I really like SF stories. 2001 is a SF, Brazil is, The Zero Theorem probably is, I haven't seen it yet, but Gravity is not. SF doesn't necessarily have to be scientifically sound, and there are tons of inaccuracies in Gravity, but it is missing the central point of SF. SF depicts an (alternative) development or constellation of society or the environment and how it might influence people in this situation. SF's name derives from the fact that most of the time technological or scientific progress is the cause for these changes. Quite often SF is depicted in space and in the future. But non of that is necessary either. For example Minority Report is a SF, but the PreCogs develop their "ability" due to the drug abuse of their mothers during pregnancy and is set completely on Earth. Steam Punk is very often SF set in an alternative past. So, what is Gravity now? What does Gravity have? A catastrophe. So, I would call it a disaster movie set in space, but not a SF.

    It would please me to see a SF movie win the Best Picture and hopefully erase the collective idea that SF is something like Star Wars(Which it incidentally is not), but Gravity would not have been that movie, since it is not a SF movie.

  • Comment number 89. Posted by Oliver

    on 17 Mar 2014 08:09

    No, it isn't science fiction, because the story doesn't hinge on technology that is fictitious.

    It's an action movie set in space. Does the hero do things that are highly improbable, if not impossible? Yes, she does. But isn't that true of virtually every action movie ever made, regardless of setting?

    Setting something in space doesn't automatically make it science fiction. Space is a reality.

  • Comment number 88. Posted by Baz

    on 15 Mar 2014 23:41

    I don't normally add to these comments, but this got me.

    "Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life.".. ok Wiki isn't the best source but I'd go along with that definition..

    Is Gravity dealing with imaginative content? like futuristic settings? nope, futuristic science? nope, futuristic technology? nope.. is Gravity involved in space travel? yes ok I'll give you that one but- time travel? nope, parallel universes? nope or meeting E.T.s? no!

    Gravity is a modern day drama set in space.. it's not "science fiction" Yes it is based on modern-day science, set in space and the story is made up, but that doesn't mean it's "science fiction" Star Wars is set in space but isn't a sci-fi film. It's a fantasy film.

    Mark, Brazil is not science fiction either, it's a fantasy film. 12 Monkeys on the other hand is Sci-fi.

  • Comment number 87. Posted by Berba_Was_King

    on 11 Mar 2014 15:57

    Gravity is a sci-fi film as opposed to Star Trek which is a Sci-Fi film if you like but it is still blooming sci-fi. Honestly people you're thinking about this way too hard. It doesn't mean Gravity can't be described as a space-set drama or a thriller or whatever BUT it is of the sci-fi genre, end of.

    Apollo 13 is also of the sci-fi genre but also a thriller, historical drama whilst Star Wars is Sci-Fi but also can be described as space opera, science fantasy etc.

    The point is some films can be described in many different ways, some may seem easier to pigeon-hole but even then one may be surprised - The World's End is a comedy (I thought it was pretty funny in places anyway) BUT it is also bitter-sweet drama in some ways, a love story (albeit between two heterosexual men!) and is also, sorry, a sci-fi film.

    For perhaps the first time ever I agree with Mark, although perhaps not for the same reasons.

  • Comment number 86. Posted by Glenn Broadway

    on 10 Mar 2014 22:20

    Sorry Mark, you're wrong on this one. Gravity is way less far fetched than Bond or The Fast and the Furious movies. Saying it's SciFi is basically declaring that you're an old fart who hasn't been paying attention whilst the world has moved on. We already have robots on Mars you know? ;)

  • Comment number 85. Posted by Terry

    on 10 Mar 2014 20:06

    If you argue Gravity is science fiction because it has things which aren’t possible in real life then that makes 99% of Hollywood films science fiction.

    I would argue for something to be Science fiction two criteria need to be met :

    a) It has to be about people like us, or who originated from us. Ie. people from planet Earth.

    b) The environment they inhabit is basically like ours but some key science / technology has changed in ways that enable the characters to behave differently to us without it seeming unusual (to them).

    For example :

    Matrix - Yes (Earth humans in a changed world)
    Blade Runner - Yes (Earth humans in a changed world)
    Gravity - No (Earth humans in the same world)
    Star Wars - No (Non earth humans in an entirely different universe)
    Lord of the Rings - No (Non earth creatures in an entirely different universe)
    I Robot - Yes (Earth humans in a changed world)
    Alien - Prob yes (Earth humans, but not really about our earth) - SF not prime genre
    Avatar - Again prob yes (Earth humans, not really about earth) - SF not prime genre
    Battlestar Galactica reboot - (Human origin unknown, earth unknown) - mmmmm??

    I wouldn’t argue I’ve got the criteria exact but I think it's almost there. Refinements?

    Hence the best Science fiction I think has the ability to make a comment about our world and our lives by taking a small part of it, twisting it 180, and having fun with the consequences while still telling a good story.

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