Buddha, St Christopher, and Marvin Martian: icons in space

Three months ago, in my review of Gravity, I noted that the film does what a lot of Hollywood movies do, by looking to foreign cultures for spiritual inspiration while suggesting or assuming that American culture is somehow secular and non-spiritual by default. As I put it at the time: “The Russian cosmonauts bring icons into space, and the Chinese taikonauts bring a smiling Buddha into space, but the Americans, as far as we can tell, bring nothing more than a Marvin Martian toy.”

A friend of mine reminded me of this observation on Twitter the other day, and it occurred to me that I now have a DVD screener of the film, so I figured I’d illustrate the point with a few screen captures. Check them out below the jump.

Here is the small Marvin Martian toy that floats out of the American space shuttle cockpit when the protagonists go back to inspect the damage:

Here is the icon of St Christopher that the Russians left behind on the International Space Station, from the scene where Sandra Bullock’s character begins to “pray”:

And here is the Buddha that sits atop the console on the Chinese space capsule:

Gravity, which is expected to be a strong contender at the Oscars this year, is returning to theatres January 17, so you’ll have another chance to see these images on the big screen then. In the meantime, you can still check out my review.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).