Interstellar, Christopher Nolan 2014 – My Review
Well, first up you can’t say Nolan isn’t ambitious – he has a crack at solving the problem of the ‘unified theory’ – the mismatch between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics by planting the answer out of our reach, in the unknowable region of the inside of a Black Hole and then goes off to find it.
We also get a lot of stuff which I’m sure is fairly fuzzy relating to Relative Time which allows the journey thru a wormhole out by Saturn without all the problems of everyone being dead if they get actually make it back, but since Theoretical Physicist, Kip Thorne was scientific consultant on the movie, I should probably let him have the last word on that.
Having said that though – I have to hand it to Nolan to even attempt to address these ideas with scientific rigour – in the settings of a multiplex movie so – well done, sir!
However – back to the story, there’s a point to all of this and, as usual it’s about saving the world and everyone in it.
We’ve ruined the planet – crops keep failing faster than we can fix them and the dusty world that’s left and is on the brink of despair. Cooperation between countries seems stalled, history and exploration are dangerous luxuries in a world concerned only with survival.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) was a test pilot and engineer but now he’s a farmer dealing with rampaging dust storms and his daughter Murph thinks she’s seeing a ghost that’s trying to tell her something important.
I won’t spoil the plot points but as you can probably imagine pretty soon there’a ‘damn fool’ mission, Cooper is out of retirement and has to leave his family behind to go save the world – cue the part you were waiting for – spaceships!!
Nolan’s affection for NASA and the Apollo Missions really come through in the shots of the launch, the separation and the docking sequence and there are little nods toward a certain Kubrick movie throughout which when you’re trying to make another of those proverbial, ‘good science fiction movies.’ is understandable.
To give you the quick gist of it and maybe spoil some of the plot – a wormhole opened up a few years ago near Saturn that can take us across space to a few different Galaxies which have potentially habitable worlds in them and it’s quite obvious this wormhole was put there for us to make use of – if this all sounds a bit hokey then hang in there because everything it’s not what it at first appears.
Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway’s moody scientist) along with a couple of others go check out these planets as fast as they can because, due to the relative timescales (a few of the planets are near a giant Black Hole) years will pass back on Earth for every minute they spend on the surface – why they need to go down to the surface at all is a mystery…
We get a white knuckle entry sequence in the incredibly, svelte-looking ‘Ranger’ vehicle, some interstellar almost-surfing, some tough decisions, a star-cameo, some Star Trek-esque wrestling.. a whole lot of stuff.. the story covers so much time and space – it’s hard to see how it’s even possible to make it all of it work.
A couple of subplots don’t make a whole lot of sense and this didn’t sit well next to the precise nature of the science, visuals and design but let’s face it there are few science fiction movies you can’t say that about.
By the sheer nature of this movie and the size of it’s ambition the final section almost has a duty to parallel the “Beyond the Infinite“-section of 2001 and whether that final section ties it all together for you might simply be a question of whether your bladder could make it that far.
It was pretty intriguing and showed the ‘supernatural’ elements at the start of the film in a new light although I felt that visually this part could’ve been approached differently.
All in all though, this movie displays all of the usual formalism of Nolan’s movies but has a lot of the same ‘problems’ that 2001 had – namely it’s got to cram in so much hard science and wow factor that humans get a bit lost in the mix.
I do find myself wondering though, how it could’ve been done differently – maybe the sheer immensity of the subject matter and the unique problems that come with that mean that it’s nigh impossible to do anything other than take a noble shot at it – Nolan definitely does though and it’s worth seeing at least once – on an IMAX screen if you have one at hand.
I do wonder sometimes though if actors in science fiction movies such as this shouldn’t really go back to the drawing board when it comes to things like stepping onto the surface of another planet for the first time or seeing a Black Hole – I still felt that the requisite wonder was far from being communicated.
Regarding the music it seems that Hans Zimmer watched that ending scene of the rocket falling back to earth from Koyaanaqatsi and tried to riff around using that organ sound that in the hope some of the indelible poignancy of that Philip Glass sequence would rub off – I personally didn’t think so.