A trip through Gravity’s extras: iTunes vs Blu-ray
James R | On 05, Mar 2014
It’s not often that a movie is shorter than the special features that go with it. Gravity – out on DVD and VOD now – is one of the few exceptions.
Despite clocking in at a lean 90 minutes, the film’s visceral simplicity was born out of one of the most complex productions in modern cinema history. Half of the technology was practically invented for the shoot, which took place simultaneously in real life and inside a computer.
You’d expect the extras, then, to be extra special. They don’t disappoint: the journey from script to screen is summed up in a detailed featurette, which by itself leaves your brain detached and spinning out of orbit. Those 5 minutes are just part of several chapters in the making of, which interlock seamlessly to form one staggering behind the scenes movie, which spans an hour and 45 minutes. Only Peter Jackson delivers bonus goods this good.
Much like The Desolation of Smaug’s dragon showdown, Alfonso Cuaron spent the shoot on a digital set, pointing a virtual camera at an empty room while looking at pre-vis animations on a monitor. The live action shots of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s faces, meanwhile, were captured by building a box of LED TV screens, which allowed light to spin round the harnessed actors in coordination with the CGI backdrop. A string of shot breakdowns go into even more detail about the breathtaking composition of individual sequences.
The Hobbit, though, is one small step ahead of Gravity’s giant leap: the Extended Edition was released by Warner Bros. last year with the full whack of extra content as both Blu-Ray and iTunes Extras. Gravity, sadly, doesn’t get the same treatment.
Digital downloaders of the film in iTunes can expect to land half of the payload. Two extras are included. The first is a documentary about space debris, narrated by Ed Harris, which highlights just how close to reality the scenario faced by Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski is. Cuaron contributes to the CGI animations and statistics, pointing out that they intended to write science fact rather than science fiction.
Clocking in at 20 odd minutes, it’s an insightful, eye-opening account of one of mankind’s under-publicised problems in the space age. Accompanied by Steven Price’s Oscar-winning score, it’ll have you scared of crossing the road, just in case a stray screw from a rocket lands on your head.
The second is perhaps the most curious of all: a short film, Aningaaq, directed by Jonas Cuaron. The seven-minute spin-off from the feature movie follows an Inuit fisherman who has a broken phone call with Sandra Bullock. Originally produced by Warner Home Video as an intended Blu-ray extra, it has been screened in several film festivals and leaked online.
Playing out in white-washed high definition on both the disc and iTunes, the $100,000 story (a budget which was mostly spent on travelling to Greenland) is a beautiful, poignant companion piece to Gravity, a low-key interlude that anchors Ryan’s emotional journey firmly on Earth.
It’s a shame, then, that Warner hasn’t gone the whole home entertainment hog and made the rest of Gravity’s astonishing bundle available on VOD. Even blinkbox viewers, who have been treated to featurettes for films ranging from Star Trek Into Darkness to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, are left floating out in the cold.
Nonetheless, the extras cement Gravity as a must-own title – if the riveting, unique main feature wasn’t enough to convince you in first place. Indeed, since the film’s winning of seven Oscars on the eve of its DVD release, it’s become the fastest selling 3-D title, overtaking the previous record holder Prometheus.
In 2-D, Gravity turns out to prove no less absorbing on the small screen, with the intimate environment fitting the private escalation of terror endured by Dr. Ryan Stone; the breathtaking visuals and harrowing audio are as crisp as they are terrifying.
The insight into the truth of the production – both scientifically and artistically – only makes the 90-minute ordeal even more impressive. It’s not often that a movie is shorter than the special features that go with it. Gravity is one of the few exceptions. Whether you choose to buy it on iTunes or on Blu-ray, one thing’s certain: as far as exceptions go, this one is exceptional.
Read our five star review.