Monkey status: There are no monkeys in this film
Critics lauded it as a roller-coaster ride when it appeared in cinemas. George Clooney claimed that the experience making it was “out-of-this-world”.
There were a lot of good words orbiting this film, but looking back begs the questions – does Gravity hold up? And were there any monkeys in the film that we forgot about?
The first question is easier to answer than the first. The answer is yes, as a pure thrill ride and spectacle it still packs a punch. I think it may be even better on rewatch for a few simple reasons. Firstly, when I watched this film I had to see it on one of those ridiculously over-sized IMAX screens. I had to crane my neck up into the sky for the duration of the thing and I was frightened when I saw Sandra Bullock the size of a four-storey building. The guy next to me kept offering me chocolate. I didn’t even know him. Who needs it?
When I saw the film for a second time in order to write this review, I was able to view it much more comfortably on my iPhone screen while sitting in the disabled toilets at work. No more ushers telling me to stop whistling! No more strangers sitting right next to me and asking if they can make a call on my phone. The movie is served by this more comfortable viewing experience and I think it really helped me to overlook some of the film’s flaws.
Chief among these is the answer to the second question. No monkeys appear in this film. No gibbons, no chimps, no gorillas. The only primates that appear at all are Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, the corpse of a cosmonaut, and a Russian guy who has a voice-only cameo on the radio. The Russian fellow was played by Ed Harris I think. His character also had a dog that can be heard barking in the background. Oh and a frog is briefly seen right at the end of the movie but that is even further from a monkey than Ed Harris and so isn’t worth mentioning. (Please deal to that as you see fit, editors-in-chimp).
Thinking back I could have sworn that there was a monkey or an ape of some description in this movie. I had a memory it trying to grapple onto Sandra’s space suit before floating away into the void, ending with a close-up of its face through its oversized bubble helmet, a single tear rolling down a furry cheek. Or maybe that was just a fever dream I had around that time. 2013 was a strange year.
The lack of monkeys is a missed opportunity. There is a precedent for monkeys in space. We all know of Albert the rhesus monkey, the first ever primate astronaut.
In 1948, he flew to a height of 63 km in a rocket before lamentably suffocating. Monkeys were up there before any of us! We can’t just humanwash all of this history. I saw it happen with Apollo 13 and now I’ve seen it here. (Oh, Apollo 13 – that’s why they got Ed Harris to play the dog…)
A monkey would have added some heart and humour to a two-actor play that relied a little heavily on a trudging and to be frank mopey performance from Sandra Bullock. Levity from a primate sidekick would have given this space flick at least a pinch of the dynamic.
So that’s another missed opportunity. Until we get an Albert movie, I’m boycotting any space travel. That’ll show them.