One of the most anticipated science fiction adventure films of the year, Christopher Nolan’s new film, “Interstellar”, is about space travelers who travel through a wormhole in search of a new habitable planet. But really, it’s about more.
For decades, science fiction has been warning us about what would happen if we keep using the planet up. Eventually, we’ll have to leave. This is the future that is waiting for us in “Interstellar”. The Earth is dry and dying. Food is scarce, many have died. But this isn’t a post-apocalyptic future where we’re living in caves. This is a very plausible scenario where we still drive around, collect and trade money, etc. until we exhaust everything, starve, then die off.
In this future scenario, space exploration is absolutely not a priority. So much so, that the entire history of the space program is dismissed as a military hoax. Which is news, of course, to the story’s main character, Cooper, a widower ex-NASA test pilot turned farmer and father of two.
Cooper lives on a farm with his kids and his father in law. He sets the tone for the first half of the movie in the following lines: “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” Cooper never stopped looking up, even as the world got lost looking down. This adventurous spirit, while wasted on his son, is embraced and taken to the next level by his daughter, Murphy.
Cooper and Murphy discover that messages are being sent to them via altered gravitational waves. Specifically, in books that are knocked off of a shelf, and from organized piles of dust on the floor.
Murphy believes it’s a “ghost” visiting her. Most of the audience knows what’s going to happen in a bout 2 hours, and we’re right.
The “ghost” sends them coordinates to the remainder of NASA, an underground organization at this time building something massive. It’s a second wave of a mission to send Earth’s population to live on another world.
Lots of elements of this story are based on stories we’ve heard before. But they look great.
Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway deliver solid performances. John Lithgow, who is now everybody’s dad in science fiction now, makes this role his own. David Gyasi is great as Romilly, and of course, Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain are great choices to play Cooper’s kids all grown up. I have to say that it was very refreshing to hear Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart’s voice work as robots TARS and CASE, respectively. The voice of robots in movies have improved tremendously.
Much of what has been written about this film is about the visuals. They are spectacular. This is a big and beautiful film, with a wide range of visual representation of ideas and The Universe.
Enjoying or hating this film will depend greatly on your understanding of some scientific concepts. Relativity, Wormholes, and Space Travel, mainly. Failure (or lack of attempt) to embrace any or all of these ideas will result in your feeling as if you are sitting through 2 hours and 49 minutes of absurdity. The science in this science fiction film is mainly for science fiction fanatics. But it is sort of explained with a straight face for then purposes of telling this story. So, the best way to enjoy this film is similar to watching original Star Trek episodes: have a general understanding of things, then suspend that understanding so that a make-believe story can be told. To look for scientific accuracy in this film can be fun, but not really the point.
What makes “Interstellar” a great film is that outside of the visuals, outside of the pseudoscience, this film offers an honest representation of humanity. This is not a film about Starfleet, organized and driven by high morality and advanced technology.
“Interstellar” is a film about people: the best of us, and the worst of us. Faced with death, or faced with immortality – this is a study in how you and I face those possibilities. It’s about how we often refuse to see our own great potential. And it is about what it takes to make the leap to realize that potential. It’s about our choices. Our fears. Our failures.
Oh, and then, another complex geometric pattern for you to wrap your mind around.
If you’ve watched science fiction films lately and felt that they were driven by effects and previously existing franchises, “Interstellar” is a refreshing return to form for the genre. It’s one of the better science fiction pictures of 2014, because it’s as flawed and incomplete as its audience.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
– Daryle Lockhart Founder of SciFiGeneration Conference 2015