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Gravity (2013) Poster

(2013)

Goofs

Factual errors 

Stars do not twinkle in space. The twinkling we see from earth is caused by the earth's atmosphere. As they were above the atmosphere they should not twinkle.

Character error 

After the accident, when Ryan tries to communicate with Matt and then when he succeeds in making contact, she calls him "Lieutenant Kowalski". Lieutenant is a fairly low grade of officer in the military. As the Commander of a Space Shuttle, Kowalski would have the rank equivalent of Colonel. She would call him Commander Kowalski rather than Colonel Kowalski, but she should never be calling him Lieutenant.
On learning many communications satellites have been destroyed, Kowalski remarks, "Half of North America just lost their Facebook." The Internet doesn't use satellites but instead high-speed landlines and microwave relay towers, so Kowalski was either misinformed or making a joke, but either way the Facebook statement is incorrect.
Stone has not yet found the ISS hatch while Kowalkski continually talks to her. Despite knowing she is absolutely out of air, with CO2 poisoning beginning, she stops trying to save herself to listen, and doesn't resume until he finally stops. While he might have been trying to keep her awake, he almost certainly would have had her describe what she was doing in an ongoing commentary, so he could tell if she started drifting off.
The first time he mentions the Soyuz capsules, Kowalski pronounces "Soyuz" correctly. The next few times he says it, he pronounces it "SoyEZ."
Early on in the movie, Clooney's character mispronounces his own name at least once. The first time he says it he pronounces it "ko-AL-skee". The next time he pronounces it "ko-AWL-skee". NASA on the ground consistently pronounces it the second way. He also mispronounces the well-known name "Soyuz" as mentioned elsewhere here. No English-speaking astronaut would ever do this.
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Continuity 

Explorer is in a spin due to debris impacts. When Stone travels back to Explorer, it is seen almost stable. When arriving at Explorer, it is spinning fast again.
Early in the movie, the backdrop is the Nile Valley at night. As the sun rises, the Sinai, to the east, begins to lighten. Soon after, the Sinai is dark again.
During the scene where Ryan is moving towards the airlock of the ISS whilst under the risk of dying from CO2 poising in her suit, Ryan begins to close the hatch as she enters her way into the pressurisation chamber of the ISS airlock. but upon visual examination of this airlock in the moment she is blown back by its sudden opening, it appears to have the same chrome handle as it did on the outside as she cranks it open. when the scene changes upon closing the airlock. the airlock has visually changed, it no longer has a chrome crank handle.

And even more jarring is the fact it appears to be closed from the right side outside. but inside it is closed from the left.
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Errors in geography 

The sun is showing rising to the north of the Sinai, it should be to the east.

Factual errors 

It is hard for most people to understand the difficulty in being in orbit trying to reach another object in orbit. Accelerating an object in the direction of travel will actually not move you forward. Instead the energy is used up raising the object's altitude, where it will have a slower orbital speed and therefore actually move "backwards" in orbit. Accelerating "up," "down" or "backward" would have other results that most people wouldn't expect. For Stone to directly aim at the Chinese space station in its own independent orbit and accelerate in that direction would give results that are unpredictable given our lack of knowledge of both orbits, but most definitely would not result in her getting to where she wants to go.
The Space Shuttle Explorer is in the same orbit as the Hubble Space Telescope, which is being repaired. While both the International Space Station (and presumably the Chinese space station) are in orbit at the same approximate altitude (roughly 200 miles above the surface), they are most definitely not in the same orbit. At any one moment they could be over opposite parts of the Earth heading in opposite directions. Their orbits are specifically picked so as to never put them near each other, with one never directly in front of the other. Finally, since all objects in orbit circle the center of Earth's mass, they can't parallel each other, either, so the distance between them would be rapidly increasing or decreasing (given how close they were in the film the latter would have been true). In any case, the amount of energy required to travel from one object to another in independent orbits and then match velocities is probably well beyond even the Space Shuttle's ability, yet in the film it was done by one orbital pack with one astronaut pulling another.
When Kowalski asks Stone to let go of him because the rope will not them both, that could never happen because they are both in the same orbit around the earth. A short simple tug would have brought him back to her. Additionally, once they are drifting away from the ISS, disconnecting from Kowalski would not cause her to rebound back toward the ISS unless another force pulled her back in its direction. At most she would stop when the ropes reach the end of their slack, in which case Kowalsky would also have stopped.
Kowalski estimates they have 90 minutes before the debris field completes an orbit and threatens them again. That's not at all how things in orbit work. The original Russian satellite traveled in its own (presumably low-Earth-orbit). Assume it exploded with great force. The debris by definition would be sent into every direction, the density of objects attenuating by the cube of the distance the debris traveled. It would be very unlikely for any debris to reach the Shuttle, ISS or Chinese space station, or even other satellites. The film shows huge numbers of pieces hitting all at once, despite the debris being the result of multiple collisions separated by time, distance and original orbital track. No matter what, the debris would be in a completely different orbit from the ISS, and would not return.
Houston tells the astronauts that debris from a Russian missile strike on one of their satellites has caused a chain reaction, destroying other satellites, and a huge debris field is heading toward them at high speed. NASA: "Multiple satellites are down and they keep on falling." Kowalski: "Define multiple satellites." NASA: "Most of them are gone. Telecommunications systems are dead." There are a great many problems with this, made all the more important because point is so central to the plot. Communications satellites aren't in low-Earth-orbit ("LEO") like the Shuttle & Hubble Space Telescope. LEOs are at an altitude of roughly 200 miles, whereas communications satellite are in geosynchronous orbits (so-called "Clarke Orbits" in honor of SF author Arthur C. Clarke who first proposed them) about 22,240 miles above the Earth's surface. It is virtually impossible for a non-nuclear explosion to send debris 22,000 miles up even in airless space, never mind put pieces on an intersecting path with satellites that travel above the equator. Secondly, NASA didn't always use communications satellites to reach the Shuttle. If the Shuttle was above America NASA could use microwave, telephone and other methods to send voice to the appropriate ground station, which would then beam the signal directly to the Shuttle (and vice versa). Ground stations in Europe could be reached by NASA via the telephone & data trunk lines under the Atlantic Ocean. In the worst case Ham Radio could even be used to communicate between NASA and the various ground stations. Even if none of this was possible ground stations are manned by communications people during Shuttle flights, and they could have talked directly with the Shuttle even if they had trouble reaching NASA immediately.

However, the array of TRDS comsats, used to free the shuttle from constantly having to be in sight of a ground station, are in LEO to reduce the signal power needed to transmit to them. In fact, it is because they are in LEO that there have to be so many of them, instead of just three.
When Stone removes her spacesuit it is missing two parts, one of them being the Liquid Cooling & Ventilation Garment. The LCVG is what keeps astronauts from overheating and cannot be left out. It also deals with sweat. Without it Stone would risk a heat stroke. She'd also be soaking wet considering her extreme exertion earlier in the movie. We see none of that.
In reality all the space stations are at different altitudes; but the film depicts them being at the same altitude.
At one point Dr. Ryan uses a fire extinguisher to propel herself through space. Even if all laws of orbital dynamics are ignored, using a propellant this way would not work as the character intended. Unless perfectly aligned, each blast of the extinguisher would produce a moment of inertia about her center of gravity in addition to the directional push. Within two or three bursts she would be tumbling violently.
There are no side hatches with portholes that open on the descent (re-entry) module in either the Soyuz-TMA or Shenzhou spacecraft. It has three hatches: The ingress and EVA hatch, which is the only way of entering the spacecraft at launch; The internal transfer hatch through the docking port (not installed in all Soyuz crafts), and; The hatch to the descent module. Crew ingress takes place by the crew entering first the orbital module and then climb into the descent module. This is necessary as the descent module is simply too small to allow more than three hatches.
After Stone emerges from the water, she looks up and sees additional debris streaking across the sky. That debris could have only been from the Chinese space station she inhabited last and it would have all already landed along with her, in fact before her since she parachuted part way down.
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During the re-entry sequence, Dr. Ryan (Bullock) is oriented in the wrong screen direction (facing forward, right to left) relative to the position of the Shenzhou's heatshield facing backward, left to right).
During re-entry, debris is shown zooming past the capsule. However, it's all part of the same Chinese space station and should be re-entering at the same speed.
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Incorrectly regarded as goofs 

After Stone passes the panel where the fire is starting on board the ISS, her hand strikes a drinking pouch of water. The blobs of water are mistaken by some as a stream of air bubbles, as if the visual effect of weightlessness was created using a water tank. That was not the case in this movie. The water drops are computer generated.

Plot holes 

When Kowalski asks Stone to let go of him because the rope will not them both, that could never happen because they are both in the same orbit around the earth. A short simple tug would have brought him back to her.

Revealing mistakes 

As the Shenzhou capsule re-enters the atmosphere, the resulting drag would cause not only the burning on the outside, but terrific G-forces as the capsule decelerates from orbital speeds. Yet a ballpoint pen is seen still floating weightlessly in the capsule, when it (not to mention Stone) should have been pinned to the forward bulkhead.

Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Continuity 

At the end of the movie when Ryan blows the hatch of the Chinese capsule the hatch opening can be seen to be well above the water line. But as soon as it blows the capsule starts filling with water.

Factual errors 

At the end, when Ryan is escaping from the Chinese capsule, she spends more than 30 seconds struggling underwater; but when she finally reaches the surface, she takes only one big breath instead of panting after such a long effort.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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