Gravity (2024 reissue) (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jun 20, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Gravity (2024 reissue) (Blu-ray Review)


Alfonso Cuarón

Release Date(s)

2013 (May 14, 2024)


Heyday Films/Esperanto Filmoj/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Gravity (2024 reissue) (Blu-ray Disc)




Gravity is among the more fascinating films to come out of Hollywood in the 21st Century, and it’s been—for me at least—something of a puzzling experience. It originated in the minds of director Alfonso Cuarón and his son and co-writer Jonás, as the image of a lonely astronaut, untethered, tumbling away into space. Based on that image, their goal was to create an edge-of-your-seat roller coaster experience that also served as a deeper examination of the death and rebirth of the human spirit. Admirably, after a four-year effort of sheer creative willpower and paradigm-shifting visual effects innovation, they accomplished exactly that.

The film’s story is a logline: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are spacewalking NASA Shuttle astronauts working to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, when things begin to go catastrophically wrong and their mission objectives are rapidly reduced to just one: survival. That’s pretty much it. If you’ve seen the trailers for Gravity, which were seemingly everywhere in the months leading up to the film’s theatrical release, you knew that this was A) the most extraordinary depiction of life in microgravity ever put on film to that point (including Apollo 13) and B) that a lot of stuff in orbit gets completely obliterated. The technical term for this is Kessler Syndrome. Believe it or not, it’s a very real danger that NASA worries about more and more these days.

Now, I’m not especially fond of movie reviews in which the critic’s experience is placed front and center, but I really have no other way to discuss this film without doing so. The thing to know about me here (which longtime Bits readers probably already do) is that I’m something of a spaceflight enthusiast. Also, that’s something of an understatement. More accurately, when I’m not working on all things Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD related, the wonders of the universe (and humanity’s place in it) occupy nearly the whole of my imagination.

Given this, Gravity should have been right in my wheelhouse. But the first time I saw it (in perfect IMAX at the then newly-renovated Chinese Theatre in Hollywood) I didn’t much care for it. To be sure, the 3D presentation was brilliant and the film’s imagery was extraordinary. I was put off by the thin story, however, and by the lack of metaphoric subtlety. And while the film is wildly accurate in terms of the way things look in space, not to mention the moment to moment experience of spaceflight (and credit for this goes in part to my friend Kevin Grazier, who was the film’s science advisor), it’s actually wildly inaccurate in almost every other way (which was an intentional creative choice made by the filmmakers themselves).

But whatever—it’s a movie, not a documentary, right? It turns out that my biggest issue with Gravity was this: As someone who’s enthusiastic about manned spaceflight, the act of watching virtually every single achievement of the last three decades in space get completely and utterly demolished in ninety minutes was brutal. And I’m not the only person who felt this way. I know for a fact that a number of actual NASA astronauts and cosmonauts felt a little squirmy watching this film. In any case, I’ve personally revisited Gravity multiple times now on Blu-ray, and will happily do so again in 4K Ultra HD one day. And while I still don’t love the film, I’ve come to like it a great deal.

Gravity was captured mostly digitally in the ARRIRAW codec (at 2.8K) by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men, The Revenant) using Arri Alexa cameras with Panavision Primo, Zeiss 765, and Zeiss Master Prime spherical lenses. A little bit of footage was also shot on 65 mm photochemical film using the Arriflex 765 camera. But nearly everything you see (save for parts of the actor’s performances) was enhanced or replaced with CG in a workflow that resulted in a 2K Digital Intermediate framed at the 2.39:1 scope aspect ratio. The 1080p HD imagery on this Blu-ray (a BD-50) is nicely-detailed and pleasing, with lovely textures and decent refinement. It’s clear that a wash of simulated film grain has been added to the image, but it appears organic at all times, and it does enhance the cinematic quality of the image. Black levels are good and highlights are bold, each retaining a nice amount of detail, though in both cases I wonder how 10-bit color and HDR could improve upon them. There’s a little bit of compression artifacting visible here and there, with data rates averaging only about 28-30 Mbps, so really the main issue here is that less compression might have enhanced this image even more. Nevertheless, the colors are accurate and well-saturated. This is an excellent Blu-ray image that was essentially reference quality back in 2015 (if somewhat less so by today’s standards).

While the original Blu-ray included 5.1 English audio in DTS-HD MA format, this edition offers the same English Dolby Atmos mix that was found on the later Diamond Luxe release. The soundstage is incredibly big, wide, and enveloping, with lovely and immersive use of the overhead channels. Clarity is exceptional, with clean and well-positioned dialogue. The dynamics are truly impressive, from the absolute hush of an astronaut’s breathing to the incredible bluster of the score by Steven Price. What’s remarkable here is that you’re never hearing explosions and the like early on—most of the audio during the spacewalk scenes is exactly what you’d hear if you were there yourself: com chatter and muffled sounds that can be heard within a spacesuit. You do get a little bit of subtle directional cues that move, pan, and twist around the listening environment, but it’s mostly via the score. Later on, there’s far more environmental sound effects aboard the ISS, Soyuz, Tiangong, and Shenzhou capsule. And the re-entry sequence is impressive indeed, a sonic tour de force that utilizes every channel and features tremendous movement and immersion. Bass is pleasing and robust. It really is a great Atmos mix—one of the first that genuinely dazzled. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, Quebec French, French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, and Portuguese in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, and Portuguese.

There’s one other audio option unique to this release: The ability to essentially turn off the score and watch the film with dialogue and sound effects only. It’s called the Silent Space version and I actually quite like it. It’s not better, just different. Without music the film doesn’t have quite the same degree of tension, but it’s a more realistic experience. Even if you don’t watch the entire film this way, it’s worth trying for a few minutes. Note that this Silent Space audio is included in English 5.1 Dolby Digital only.

For those of you wondering, Warner’s new Gravity Blu-ray release is a 2-disc set that—for all practical purposes—is identical to their 2015 Diamond Luxe Edition Blu-ray release (reviewed here on The Bits). Near as I can tell, the only thing that’s different is the packaging, which in this case is a standard 2-disc Amaray. For example, if you put the Luxe movie disc in your player and watch it for a bit, then swap it out for this one, your player will recognize them as identical and continue playing the film from the same point.

Now, here’s the thing: I happen to know for a fact that Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment has been working on a new 4K Ultra HD release of this film, but there’s been some back and forth with the filmmakers about the HDR grade. Hopefully, that version will see the light of day sooner rather than later. In any case, it’s very nice to essentially have the Luxe Edition back in print for those who missed it the first time. Here’s what the package includes…

Disc One – The Film (BD)

  • Gravity (HD – 90:58)
  • Gravity: Silent Space (HD – 90:58)
  • Introduction to Silent Space by Alfonso Cuarón (HD – :44)

Disc Two – Special Features (BD)

  • Looking to the Stars: The Evolution of Space Films (HD – 41:58)
  • Gravity: The Human Experience (HD – 11:05)
  • Sandra’s Birthday Wish (HD – 3:21)
  • Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (HD – 22:28)
  • Aningaaq: A Short Film by Jonás Cuarón (with optional introduction – HD – 6:53)
  • Gravity: Mission Control (HD – 9 parts – 106:36 in all)
    • It Began with a Story (HD – 16:21)
    • Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G (HD – 10:12)
    • Previsualizing Gravity (HD – 11:38)
    • The Hues of Space (HD – 10:41)
    • Physical Weightlessness (HD – 7:48)
    • Space Tech (HD – 13:03)
    • Sandra and George: A Pair in Space (HD – 9:37)
    • Final Animation (HD – 15:01)
    • Complete Silence (HD – 12:13)
  • Shot Breakdowns (HD – 5 parts – 36:48 in all)
    • Behind the Visor (HD – 6:50)
    • Fire in the International Space Station (HD – 5:42)
    • Dr. Stone’s Rebirth (HD – 7:54)
    • The Sound of Action in Space (HD – 7:55)
    • Splashdown (HD – 8:24)

As you can see, those special features are identical to the previous Diamond Luxe Edition, and it’s actually great material. The content starts with a behind-the-scenes documentary called Gravity: Mission Control that takes you through the process of making this film from conception to sound design. It runs about 106 minutes in 9 parts. Therein you will learn that nearly 99% of what you see in this film—from stars and planetscapes, to spacecraft, floating pens, teardrops, fabric spacesuits, even Post-It Notes—is all digital animation. Essentially, only the actors’ faces and the scenes shot inside the Soyuz and Shenzhou capsules are mostly real. You’ll learn that the illusion of microgravity was achieved by filming the actors on a tilting/rotating platform inside an LED light box (inspired by Peter Gabriel, of all people), that allowed the actors to see and be lit by the actual film environment, with cameras mounted on robotic arms programmed in advance to move together in such a way as to make the recorded image look real. That’s an achievement of sheer, brute-force, visual effects geekery worthy of NASA itself.

Next up are 37 minutes of Shot Breakdowns allowing you a closer look at the effort to create particular scenes, along with Jonás Cuarón’s 10-minute short film Aningaaq, which is essentially the other side of the conversation Sandra Bullock’s character has over the radio from the Soyuz capsule in the film. There’s also a great 22-minute piece called Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space on the real Kessler Syndrome. It’s narrated by actor Ed Harris, who also serves as the radio voice of Mission Control in the film (a nod to his role in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13). That encompasses everything from the original 2014 Blu-ray release (reviewed here on The Bits).

But then you get the Luxe Edition content too, which begins with the Looking to the Stars: The Evolution of Space Films documentary. This is a terrific piece that reflects on the history of the genre, from Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Moon (1929) to more recent films. Along the way it covers such classics as The Right Stuff, Destination Moon, Marooned, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13, Gravity obviously, and even Star Wars. It features interviews with Ron Howard, John Dykstra, Douglas Trumbull, Dennis Muren, and a host of other filmmakers and historians as they discuss the way the cinema has depicted manned spaceflight, sometimes fantastically, sometimes accurately. You also get Gravity: The Human Experience, which features veteran NASA Shuttle and Space Station astronauts talking about the real-life sensations of traveling in space. Finally, you get Sandra’s Birthday Wish, which is a goofy and deliberately “low tech” birthday greeting that Bullock recorded and sent to Cuarón. So what’s not included? Well, you don’t get the 2014 Blu-ray 3D version of the film. So if you have that, you may wish to keep it. There’s also no Digital Copy code here—this is a disc-only release.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, more than any other film I’ve seen in some time, is like a symphony. Performance, visual effects, lighting, sound effects, score—it all works together in perfect sync from moment to moment to create a feeling of simplicity, of effortlessness. Bullock is at her finest here. And whether you love Gravity or not, it’s a pretty unique piece of filmmaking and a gripping ride… even if the Cuaróns do send human spaceflight back to the Stone Age in the process. But what the hell; it’s only a movie... and a Blu-ray experience that’s highly recommended.

- Bill Hunt

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