Small, water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals with eight legs, waterbears are really something.
One of the most complex of all known polyextremophiles, they can thrive in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that would be detrimental to most life on Earth.
They can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times stronger than pressures found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a person, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for more than 10 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.
But could they survive more than a single viewing of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, the astonishingly bad, but incredibly popular, space junk soap opera currently orbiting US and international multiplexes? I have my doubts.
Jane and I saw Gravity this afternoon. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in this superficial, clichéd melodrama, says or shows anything that wasn't expressed or implied more economically, elegantly and powerfully in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially beginning with the scene in that film where HAL 9000 murders astronaut Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) and astronaut Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea in his finest role) confronts and corrects the situation.
2001 is a brave, passionate, but unsentimental work, which like many of Kubrick’s films affirms the enduring nature of human dignity (however flawed the ultimate results of human efforts) achieved through determination, diligence and active intelligence. Character is revealed through action rather than over-explanation and gassy discourse and digression. To paraphrase Kubrick’s immortal Colonel Bat Guano from Dr. Strangelove, Gravity is a movie that went into combat with a lot of loose change in its pocket. George Clooney’s Rip Torn-as-Patches O’Houlihan (DodgeBall) homage is unintentionally hilarious Best Supporting Actor Oscar-bait, as they say. Rip was robbed in that department, giving a far superior performance as the Knute Rockne of dodgeball.
Space was integral to 2001’s drama, as it was to Forbidden Planet, the Alien series, and even to the less potent Star Wars sagas. Gravity is simply a kitchen sink potboiler that could just as easily been set in a tenement apartment building, at a business office or on a psychiatrist’s couch. Space and especially weightlessness are used as flimsy, overly-symbolic props, reminding me of the teary, vaprous Tennessee Williams dramas I endlessly endured in high school productions.
Poor Water Bear. Change the channel, little fellow. DodgeBall’s starting in a few minutes.