Interstellar

Interstellar
Review by Ashley Chapman

Film: Interstellar (2014)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Script: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain and Michael Cain
Released: November, 2014
Production: Syncopy and Lynda Obst Productions
Details: 12A; Sci-Fi; 169 min

Day 1: I actually watched Interstellar twice as, first time round, the Computer Exchange DVD was kinked, developing into a full-blown play challenge as we hit the worm hole sequence. Time literally came to a noisy, slow-time, juddering freeze-frame stop, as I tried to navigate through the wormhole sequence and into the beyond, but had to abort mission…

Day 2: New DVD.

–>

Interstellar directed by Christopher Nolan was quite a movie exploring as it does notions of time, environmental catastrophe, and father-daughter relationships across time dimensions. Betrayal is also a theme, providing the movie’s Ying/ Yang duality: parent and child; love and treachery; and science and spirituality. Then splicing this into a Christian narrative brought up-to-date through popular science.

Basically, like of lot of big budget movies, Interstellar, borrows prodigiously from science fiction novels, especially the 1970s, so that Joe Haldeman’s Forevever War (1974) gets a line lifted straight out of the book about taking a ‘slingshot’ around a black hole in a spaceship, and more significantly, with its time-lapse theme. Another key Haldeman reflection on space-time travel in which loved ones are separated irreconcilably by light years, eventually meeting again, but only once the vicissitudes of time have ravaged them.

It’s good too, in the sense that it deals with, in a theme park mannerly way, our fascination with escaping the destruction wrought by consumerism on earth’s natural resources. It does this by taking us on an exhilarating ride to the event horizon of a black hole. Not that it’s ever even remotely honest about the causes of earth’s demise, attempting instead to redefine uncomfortable terminology. ‘Climate change’, for instance, becomes ‘the blight’ presumably to ensure box office receipts remain high. Even more bizarre is how it attempts to keep reactionary American audiences on-side, by suggesting that environmental catastrophe will lead in the future to a bland liberal revisionism of history, as in this exchange when Cooper, our hero, played with verve and charisma by a well-cast Matthew McConaughey, attends a school meeting regarding his daughter:

Ms Hanley: Murph is a great kid, but she’s been having a little trouble recently. She brought this to show the other kids about the Lunar Landing. (Passes over book)
Cooper: It’s one of my old text books…She loved the pictures
Ms Hanley: It’s an old Ferderal textbook. We’ve replaced them with the corrected versions.
Cooper: Corrected..?
Ms Hanley: …Explaining how the Apollo missions were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union.
Cooper: (Indignant) You don’t believe we went to the moon?
Ms Hanley: I believe it was a brilliant piece of propaganda. The Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines…

Obviously, the film went through some interesting funding loops, as its premise, that rampant consumption, ‘six billion people who wanted it all’, led to an environmental catastrophe. The notion that the causes of this were environmental, leading to mankind evacuation to another planet, was a bit too much for the grey men in suits to green light, unless a little liberal side-lining was thrown into the mix to lighten anti-consumerist politics.

Nonetheless, the theme park ride is thrilling, taking us to peek, although it does not quite deliver, at the singularity at a neutron star’s core, the impenetrable denseness which distorts time at the heart of galaxies. This achieved, it then sentimentally, and unapologetically, reverts back to Christian mythology. Its loud Love Message, which, with the help of gravity transcends dimensions and mathematical challenges, and plot difficulties, to square every possible anomaly, both real and fictional, including how quantum and astronomical physics don’t actually coalesce. Spoiler coming: the twists and turns in this film are quite dizzying: (hold on to your seat) so that, our hero, Cooper, separated by lifetimes, from inside the all-consuming depth of a black hole, manages to escape the Gargantua black hole only then to wake in the conveniently altered reality of a hospital bed. Here, reunited with his loved ones (a strangely alien soft-focus slow motion sequence), his daughter has become his mother, yes, seriously, and where he gets his girl; and is, in the same way, reconciled with the daughter he had tear-jerkingly abandoned in the film’s introduction. A salvation ending with mother and daughter, as long-suffering Mary, forgiving our lovable had-to-be-bad boy to save us all. To summarise, he  gets to eat his shortbread here on earth.

The film tries bravely to deliver some science culture, even if worm holes are improbably placed at our disposal by kindly aliens only, as it later turns out (patience, please!) from inside the third dimensional paradigm of a fifth dimensional paradox — to not actually be aliens at all — but we humans. These distant ancestors talk to us with of  relativistic hindsight, through the convolutions of a back-to-the-future warp-time continuum. Though it tries to be Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Interstellar falls somewhat short of the mark. That said, it’s an enjoyable film – with a great music score by Hans Zimmer — even if it’s essentially neoliberal Christian propaganda on CS Lewis proportions, and lacks the brutal honesty of Alien or Blade Runner, or even the upbeat humour of Independence Day, all less lofty and more unashamedly entertaining.

Suggestion: How about a big-budget science fiction film that begins with a space ship disappearing over the event horizon and reappearing out the other end of the paradigm of Capitalism? Why does Christian fundamentalism always intervene to save our current economic system’s red-roasted thorny hide?…

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8 thoughts on “Interstellar

  1. I enjoyed the first three quarters of interstellar where it was a science film, but by the end of it when he’s in the library and talking to his daughter as ‘the ghost’ it gradually starts to become more of a fantasy film. A great scientific setup but once we get into the black hole we need something filled in and that leads to the realms of the unscientific and more back to faith. It was a little too convenient. I walked out of the theater wondering if I liked the film and the more I thought about it, the less fulfilling it felt. In many ways it reminds me of the film ‘Contact’ as well as ‘Signs’.

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  2. Yeah, exactly. It does not quite deliver. The film was suggested by a dear friend so I had high expectations so when it flopped, I was a bit disappointed. The problem for me is that concept wise there are some great ideas out there to do with time-lapse so any of those would have been more pleasing than the histrionics on offer here. I love, for instance, Old Man’s War. Now that would be a great vehicle for a science fiction movie.

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  3. In a nutshell then: I love this film, the reason being I come from a long line of Engineers – both my Grandfathers were engineers, and I loved the idea expressed in this film that through engineering we can engineer a better world, a world free from the shackles imposed on us by the Society we happen to find ourself born in. I sometimes feel before my time, and that annoys me. That is why I felt a deep connection to the female character Murph in this film, I saw in a sense myself, reflected through 4 dimensions of space and time….

    Regarding the Christian allusions – I’m fine with them, and think they eleveate the story, a little storytelling does no harm. I believe in the majesty of the Cosmos, and storytelling is essential in that.

    For now though I must sleep soon, past 4 in the morning, and I am tired… at last I am tired.

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    1. Hey, Broadly, I agree. I mean, I did enjoy parts of the film, even if I found some of it irritating. For the restrictions, well, that’s in the review. The engineers. I remember it was you who turned me on to that programme about Russia where the engineers take a lead to create a social program…Fascinating.

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