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Gravity - Sci-Fi Or Not Sci-Fi?

Friday 7 March 2014, 14:25

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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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 4.

    If Gravity is science fiction, then so is Dallas Buyers Club.
    After all, the Matthew McConaughey film is based on science (medical drugs that combat disease) and is fictionalised.

    To qualify as science fiction I think a film needs to be set in a non-contemporary fantasy world. Gravity is a fictional film based in space, set in the present. Sorry, I'm not buying it.

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    Comment number 7.

    To be honest, Gravity doesn't fit my personal definition of science fiction. Gravity is as much science fiction as Apollo 13. What Sandra Bullock does is not accurate in order to maintain dramatic tension, not because the film is science fiction. With that logic the Fast and Furious series would be considered science fiction.
    For me, science fiction is a film set in the future or at least uses some sort of futuristic technology. A film that more accurately treads the line between sci-fi and none sci-fi is Europa Report.
    To be honest though I could be convinced otherwise. For example, I am not convinced Pan's Labyrinth is a fantasy film.

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    Comment number 16.

    Well, I think the issue is that people do not agree on the definition of science fiction. In this film the characters being where they are, doing what they are doing, is dependent upon science...hence this is a fiction that requires science for the plot to exist. At the same time people do get bent out of shape because the film does not adhere to the rules of science...because the film is a fiction that is not attempting to adhere to these rules but rather to tell a dramatic and exciting tale first and foremost.

    Personally, I would call the film science fiction because what takes place in the film could only happen in a piece of fiction inspired by real world science.

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    Comment number 1.

    Thank you Mark! This issue has been bugging me ever since the nominations were announced. The BBC and others have repeatedly kept referring to Gravity as a "space film". Every time I heard that I seethed just a little bit. Its Science Fiction to its core, just as the film Buried is a horror piece and not a thriller as some have stated.

    I always smell pretension in the air, when filmmakers actively go out of their way to try and avoid categorizing their work outside of the genre that it most clearly resides in. Its almost as if they are slightly embarrassed to admit that its a genre piece. Rejoice I say, and take pride in what it is; not what you try and make it to appear otherwise.

    Sure; Gravity has thriller elements and religious overtones that do appear to transcend some of the more obvious tropes of the genre. But at its heart it is and always will be Science Fiction. And proudly so.

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    Comment number 2.

    Well, duh. Look to the bookshops as well - too many things get stuffed onto "genre" shelves in an attempt to pretend that they aren't "literature". Just because something is a genre movie doesn't mean it has no artistic merit, as Gravity proves in spades - and, equally, just because something is considered "art house" doesn't automatically mean it deserves more respect...

    So here's my own minor contribution to this pointless debate: Gravity is clearly not SciFi - Gravity is SF. There, that should sort everything out.

    (Anyway, in passing, and *spoiler alert* does anyone else think that Gravity would have been immeasurably improved if there had been a single post-credits shot of Bullock still in the Soyuz airlock? As someone who thinks that the only plausible explanation for the last part of Dark Knight Rises is that everything after Bruce Wayne in prison is his fantasy, this reading of Gravity appeals to me enormously.)


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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema - and invites you to give your own opinions.

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