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I read Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets about “Gravity” with some interest. The popular Astrophysicist was pointing out factual errors and violations of physics, and received much ire from people upset at his unwilling suspension of disbelief. It’s the problem that people always have as soon as there are nitpicks – “oh so hairy walking aliens and talking robots are ok, but The Force coming from blood cells called Midichlorians is not?”. I think we all draw this line in a different place, depending on how much we’ve bought into the world of the film we’re watching, but for me it’s whether the film violates its own logic to to tell the story.
Let’s take ‘Gravity’ – NO SPOILERS – it sets up a somewhat fictional universe but goes out of its way to make it clear that all the Newtonian Laws of Motion are in effect and adhered to – relied on, in fact, to tell the story. There is however one moment (which Tyson and others have identified) where those laws are broken at a significant story moment that would not be possible without the violation of the laws that the film is supposedly adhering to. Does it cripple the film? Not at all, it’s still a great achievement but it does make you wonder if it would have been possible to tell the same story without having fudged with that pesky Third Law of Motion.
Opinions expressed are solely my own and are not shared, supported, or endorsed in any manner by any employer, past or present. I am a writer and film fan with a background in both physics and filmmaking and it is from this perspective that I write, not as a person involved in making this or any other film.