|Copyright Warner Bros. 2014|
As a theatrical experience, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is quite spectacular. This film has been compared by reviewers to Gravity. I would say that in some ways the experience is better and in others not as good. Gravity is such an amazing movie, that even falling short of it, Interstellar holds its own. Interstellar is about an astronaut named Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey whose given the responsibility to lead a crew of astronauts through a wormhole to search for a habitable planet for the whole of humanity to move to and survive as the planet earth's resources disappear. This adventure takes us on a visually and audibly awe-inspiring journey that only Christopher Nolan can take us on. Several shots reminisce of Stanley Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey including a shot of a silent explosion. The cinematography and visual effects wrap you up in a type of science fantasy that is indescribable.
As I mentioned in the intro, action films must be good because they require a small investment from the audience. The characters, story, and plot come together to make a screenplay that the audience is thoroughly invested in. I walked into the movie hungry. I walked out suddenly remembering how hungry I was because during the film I had completely forgotten! Almost every moment keeps you on the edge of the seat. Once again compared to Gravity, many aspects of story and character are weaker in Interstellar. No character is as compelling as Sandra Bullock's, but the story in Interstellar is much more complex with several storylines going on at once. The robot characters are even compelling and interesting to watch. Another nod to Kubrik's 2001 is the robots who assist the astronauts are mobile monoliths. The story is full of twists and turns that keeps you wondering what will happen next with several surprises, good and bad, along the way. Story wise, I would say Christopher Nolan's Inception is probably a better story, but Interstellar is on par with his quality of writing and directing. Not only do the visuals and audio keep you invested in the film, the screenplay keeps you emotionally and psychologically invested.
Some of the criticisms for the film is many of the weird science. Some of which most likely is impossible. I have to say, though, the characters are able to explain the science and it remains consistent. It is Science Fiction, so the science does not need to be realistic. The viewer does not need to understand specifics in order to follow the story because everything else is simple enough to follow.
Every good movie has a message that the director communicates to the audience. Interstellar is one of those thinking movies. I'm still trying to analyze it, but I will give you my best assessment. The movie portrays a very humanist-centered idea of humanity and our place in the universe. It is actually quite narcissistic. I will not delve too many details, but it presents the idea that humans are ultra-beings with superior intelligence. Almost God-like. Actually, it is the humanist philosophy that humans are gods. Despite this, the film actually has some good things to say about love. Nolan presents love as a powerful force in the universe beyond science and our actions should be out of love. Cooper's motivation for anything he does is love of his children. Some of the characters try to present that as a primal survival instinct and try to place survival of the species above survival of those we love. Nolan rightfully presents the question, why save the species if we cannot save those we love? Nolan places a high emphasis on family and human dignity with one major caveat. Some of the ideas he presents are uncomfortable and quite sickening. The professor who creates the mission and sends Cooper into space is named Professor Brand played by Michael Caine. He presents Cooper with two plans to save the species. Plan A involves shipping the entire human population to the planet that Cooper's team deems habitable. Plan B, however, is thousands of embryos. Using an incubator on this planet, in the event humans are unable to arrive at the planet somehow, Cooper and his team are to place these parent-less embryo's on the planet to keep the human species going. Cooper is naturally aversive of this idea but not for the right reasons. He is sickened by the idea of not being able to save his family and those on earth. What is actually sickening, is that the children are frozen in petri dishes and moved around like cargo rather than being treated with the dignity that humans deserve. Nolan's pro-family message is muddled by his treatment of these poor, innocent children. Another disturbing instance that is not so much sickening as uncomfortable is the lack of any mention of God. Ann Hathaway as Professor Brand's daughter has a big speech about the power of love, but nobody at any point of the movie mentions the source of love. One would think that when faced with the end of humanity, people would begin to question their relationship with God. Without God, Nolan's ideas about love and family all seem superficial and meaningless.
Interstellar is an amazing film on many levels. Even with the few disturbing aspects I mentioned, one is able to enjoy it as long as you buy into this fictitious world. When you're deciding to spend $17 a person on a movie this weekend, the three hour suspenseful and visual spectacle that is Interstellar is worth every penny and every minute. As imperfect as the message is, Interstellar is a secular man's one step towards holiness despite his two or more steps backward.