Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Does the movie ‘Gravity’ play it fast and loose with scientific fact?

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Handout

Is there more fiction than science in the box-office blockbuster Gravity?

The 3D sci-fi thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney topped last weekend's box-office, but some factions of the scientific community itself appear to be unimpressed.

Entertainment Weekly reports that noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spent a good portion of Sunday night on Twitter to patiently deconstruct the film.

Story continues below advertisement

A major draw at last month's Toronto International Film Festival, Gravity casts Bullock as a doctor/scientist shipped off on a space-shuttle mission with a veteran astronaut, played by Clooney. While out on a space walk, the pair are detached from their ship and left stranded in space.

Best known for his PBS science specials and his current role as director of the American Museum of Natural History, Tyson systematically pointed out how Gravity's makers got a great many things wrong in the storytelling process.

Starting with the title, apparently. Tyson's first tweet came at 6:35 p.m. ET and took immediate issue with the movie's name: "The film #Gravity should be renamed "Zero Gravity,'" he said.

Five minutes later, Tyson tweeted: "The film #Gravity should be renamed 'Angular Momentum,'" which presumably meant something to hardcore science buffs.

Soon after, he began picking the movie apart with his tweets, including, "Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope."

And for the next few hours, Tyson steadily disassembled the story with his logical comments. Like this one: "Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head."

And this: "Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed east to west."

Story continues below advertisement

Or this: "Mysteries of #Gravity: When Clooney releases Bullock's tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together."

And this rather pointed tweet: "Mysteries of #Gravity: Why anyone is impressed with a zero-G film 45 years after being impressed with '2001: A Space Odyssey."

But for all his educated commentary, Tyson wrapped his Twitter science lesson on a kindly note: "My Tweets hardly ever convey opinion. Mostly perspectives on the world. But if you must know, I enjoyed #Gravity very much."

Well, he could have fooled us.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨