by Doctor Science
Over the weekend, many fanpeople went to see Pacific Rim. Consensus review: AWESOME -- I'll try to write about it at some other time.
One of the trailers frequently played before "Pacific Rim" was for Gravity, an Alfonso Cuarón movie about a space shuttle accident, starring Sandra Bullock.
Here's the trailer, but be warned: I have heard of at least two people who had panic attacks from it, in the theater.
Direct YouTube link
This trailer was *much* more frightening and anxiety-provoking than any of the giant monsters in "Pacific Rim" itself. Partly, of course, it's that the scenario in “Gravity" is closer to reality, especially in scale.
But also, you know how a lot of people say Jesus take the wheel about being in a vehicle out of control? Before I ever heard that expression, I called things like hitting black ice "Sir Isaac Newton took the wheel". It's that feeling of being in the inexorable grip of Newton’s Laws of Motion, when you're sliding toward a collision and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
"Gravity" is bound to be a lot about Newton Takes the Wheel, about humans confronting absolutely impersonal physical forces. Not to mention the ultimate combination of claustrophobia (you're in a very little box! and there's not enough air!) and agoraphobia (you're in the biggest possible open place, the one that makes you very very small). One of the people who had a panic attack from the trailer is claustrophobic, and boy howdy I can see how that would happen.
The other person has some PTSD from a car accident, and I believe the "Gravity" trailer was triggering because it really evokes that Newton Takes the Wheel feeling. In that sense, the movie may be too realistic for some people to take: most of us aren't ever going to be on the Space Station, but Sir Isaac is everywhere, and being in his grip is seriously frightening.
I'll be interested to see if "Gravity" has anything of the feel of the classic science fiction story The Cold Equations, which is also about Newton Takes the Wheel. Though it's a calmer and colder (heh) mood, more of Newton Just Sits There and Judges You Silently Until Someone Dies.
But I do predict that, when "Gravity" is released, there will be incidents where unprepared audience members have panic attacks in the theater. I don't get the impression Cuarón thought he was making a horror movie, but he seems to have effectively tapped into a primal fear. And horror movies can make a *lot* of money.