Is Gravity a science fiction film?

Image

I was surprised by some of the online reaction to my recent blog entry “Could Gravity be the first science fiction film to win the Best Picture Oscar?” It wasn’t so much that people disagreed whether it would win or not. Indeed, I am not really expecting it to win myself (12 Years A Slavery currently looks like a safer bet). I was more surprised that some disagreed that Gravity was even a science fiction film in the first place.
This seems odd and my initial thought was that respondents were exhibiting the odd sort of snobbery which often bedevils the genre. Even Canadian author Margaret Atwood has in the past denied that her futuristic novel Onyx and Crake. Even though, it is.
Definitions of science fiction do vary quite dramatically, however, so let’s think about this.
Gravity centres on a major accident in space. In this, it resembles Ron Howard’s film Apollo 13. But Apollo 13 is clearly not science fiction as it is based on real events. The same goes for the film of Tom Wolfe’s astronaut themed The Right Stuff. The fact that both are also set in the past does not matter. Science fiction can be set in the past. Consider the early scenes of The Time Machine or even the Star Wars films which are all set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”
In the loosest sense then Gravity is constructed around a fictional science themed scenario. It is not clear whether it is in the future or the present. However, it also features astronauts dying in space. This has never actually happened, thankfully. A total of seventeen people died in the Apollo 7 fire and Challenger and Columbia explosions but none of these were actually in space. It seems likely that had any Cold War Soviet space missions ended in fatalities, we would now know about them.
This pushes Gravity further into the realm of sci-fi. One respondent cited the fact that the film is “all too plausible” as evidence against it being science fiction. This is silly. Much of the best sci-fi, such as the recent film Contagion, depicting a devastating apocalyptic plague, is very plausible.
One thing my blog totally failed to anticipate, however, was that another science fiction film Spike Jonze’s Her, would also get nominated for Best Picture. Good luck to them both.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Is Gravity a science fiction film?

  1. Of course it is. Saying something is not SF when it is obviously so demeans the fact that SF is often obsessed with character, realism, bigger themes… SF is not a science textbook. I despise when people are so desperate to demean something by calling it SF or saying that it isn’t SF because they happen to like it…

      • I know you’re not. Your observations simply queued a rant — haha. The same thing happened when Inception came out. It’s SF without a doubt, futuristic technology allows the entire movie to happen…. THere’s an opinion by people who don’t know the genre (films of texts) that human concerns are not present. Which is ridiculous!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s