As it turns out, not everything presented in "Gravity" -- a fictional tale about a pair of astronauts, who look like Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, lost in space -- is accurate. That's the word from Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who used his Twitter account on Sunday night to dispel some notions presented in Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster new film.
Warning: Some spoilers about "Gravity" are ahead.
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.
(As BuzzFeed's Adam B. Vary pointed out, that is explained within the film's first 10 minutes.)
Mysteries of #Gravity: How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another.
Mysteries of #Gravity: When Clooney releases Bullock's tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together.
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why anyone is impressed with a zero-G film 45 years after being impressed with "2001:A Space Odyssey"
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.
Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west
Mysteries of #Gravity: Satellite communications were disrupted at 230 mi up, but communications satellites orbit 100x higher.
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space
My Tweets hardly ever convey opinion. Mostly perspectives on the world. But if you must know, I enjoyed #Gravity very much.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 7, 2013
No one from Team "Gravity" has responded to deGrasse Tyson's tweets just yet, but in an interview with HuffPost Entertainment before the film's release, Cuaron addressed at least one of the astrophysicists nitpicks: Clooney's drift away from Bullock.
"What happens is she's grabbing the tethers and he comes with his momentum. His momentum pulls her," Cuaron said. "They're moving together. There's a wide shot that shows they keep moving and you can see the background keeps on moving. What happens is, if he lets go, his force stops and the force of the tether takes over."
In that same interview, however, Cuaron acknowledged that the film was "not a documentary."
"We took certain liberties [where] we would stretch the possibilities of certain things," he said. "But what's great is that I received an email this morning from French astronaut Jean-François Clervoy -- he's seen the film already twice. He said, 'I used to tell people that if they want to get an experience of what it is like to be up there, they have to see one of those IMAX documentaries of footage shot by astronauts. But now I can tell them to go and see 'Gravity.'' The vision and the sound is what he says are so accurate." (Owing to the fact that there is no sound in space, Cuaron used the film's composer, Steven Price, to convey a lot of the action. "You'd hear stuff within their spacesuits," Price said to HuffPost Entertainment. "If they touched something, you'd hear the vibration that they'd hear, but you don't hear any exterior noises. We kind of knew the music would be responsible for all the other things. I was asked to try and tonally represent things that would ordinarily be sound.")
Cuaron echoed his own sentiments about taking some creative license with "Gravity" in another interview with New York magazine:
The astronauts [who served as consultants] saw bits and pieces of what we were doing. They were exasperated [for instance] about why [Bullock and Clooney’s characters] are not bringing their solar shields down! [I said,] "Well, you won’t see their faces then, so I’m not going to do it." No, [the consultants said], they would go blind from the sun, they could not see, it is impossible. The funny thing is that you tell them something like, There’s a special polarizer on the shield, and they’re like, Oh my! In the [Russian spacecraft] Soyuz, I added one window. Why? Because I wanted to see the Earth in space! One of the toughest things in the film was the cause and effect of microgravity and no resistance, and you ask them, How does a tether react, you pull one, how does it go? -- and they would be like, “Yes, but that window is not there.” I know; we talked about it. What do you think about the tether? “Fine, but that window, I’ve been in three missions, that window—” I know, I know, I’m very aware that window is not there, it was a conscious decision! [laughs] But they just … On the other hand, we invited them to the set, and they were just so in awe of everything we’d re-created, and we were like, Well, we changed this, and they said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” They were in awe. Those guys are amazing.
"Gravity" broke box office records over the weekend, earning $55.6 million, the biggest debut for any October release ever. (That opening also represents a high-water mark for stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.)