Leonard Maltin’s Thrilling “Gravity” Actualizes the Review-in-Brief Form
By Rochus Pomponius, Adjunct Critic
Leonard Maltin’s “Gravity” review packs a wallop in six very brief paragraphs, exemplifying the review-in-brief form and demonstrating to the rest of the reviewmaking world that more words are never preferable to better ones. It’s the rare work that doesn’t merely cause its competition to pale in comparison—it launches them into the obscurity of the ersatz.
Movie as metaphor, metaphor as art, art as entertainment: the entanglements that many reviewers spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to unpack are viewed from the outset as givens, and Maltin takes all of it (and the contradictions, too) and declares that it works.
The ensuing review is a minimalist thrill-ride that steadfastly chooses to conceal. Like a note unplayed to dramatic effect, Maltin focuses rather on the immediate, leaving readers to determine conclusions for themselves. Whole movements are summed up in tight phrases—and audiences will trust Maltin enough to know that superlatives like “moving,” “immersive,” and “knockout” tell the story they want to hear.
It scratches an itch, and its conclusion creates more itches the reader can delight in scratching as he or she desires.
Long-form reviews are often born out of the desire to prove something of their creator, and they succeed and fail with equal frequency. It’s much more difficult to pull off what Gravity by Maltin does—to prove in as few words as possible that the auteur knows precisely who’s listening, and how to speak directly to them.