Review: Interstellar

I’d been hearing about this movie since it came out back in 2014. I saw the short clips of the black hole and knew about how the creation of this effect helped publish a legitimate scientific paper. Various images of cornfields and astronauts crossed my path for years while I traversed the internet, luring me in, but keeping me away due to how little information about the actual story was provided with these images. What’s the cornfield about? Why are they heading into a black hole? What the hell is this movie about?

I had nothing to watch last night, and saw this film was now on Netflix – elating me, since I’d tried previously to find it on there to no avail. Almost three hours long? Jesus. This better be good.

Holy sweet mother, it is.

First Impressions

Interstellar is nothing at all like what I expected it to be. My idea was that it had something to do with Matthew McConaughey being an astronaut and going out into the universe to discover a new source of water for earth. Not even close.

It’s a haunting story about what life means in both a metaphorical and literal sense. It’s a cautionary tale about how destructive humanity is, and provided a rather scary glimpse into what we could become if we continue on our current path, and after what’s happened between 2020 and 2021, it’s even scarier.

Earth is depleted of water, and even though it looks similar to how it does now, complete with schools, baseball games, and working society, it’s ravaged by dust storms that force people to hide in their houses, shutting their windows and praying. A new crop is killed off each year by a blight, leaving only corn as a growable food source. Interestingly to me, near the beginning of the film, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is called into a parent-teacher conference, where he’s told that the education system has altered history textbooks to suggest the moon landing was faked as a form of propaganda against the Soviets. That hit me a little. What’s happening right now in our real world? Maybe some misinformation being spread? What if that misinformation and spread of conspiracy triumphs over truth? This movie is shockingly accurate.

Cooper, after a sequence of strange, “supernatural” events, is led to NASA, where he learns that an expedition is being planned to find a new planet for humanity to move to. That’s all I’ll say about that, because you have to see this movie in order to understand the full breadth of its brilliance.

Acting

My God. This is a combination of great writing, directing, and acting. It all comes together in a rollercoaster of tear-jerking interactions between characters and endearing moments of attempted playfulness and joy amongst astronauts who know they may not survive their trip.

Matthew McConaughey is the real star (not just because he’s the lead). His performance as a father pained by the reality that leaving his children in order to save both them and the earth’s population means he may never see them again is gorgeous acting at its very finest. As the trip progresses, things go wrong that quite literally ensure that his children are getting older and older by the second, losing faith that he’s still alive and going on with their own existences. Cooper eventually comes to terms with the fact that he’ll never see his children as he left them, if he sees them again at all, and the emotional toll of this unimaginable experience is portrayed beautifully and heart-wrenchingly.

Anne Hathaway becomes her character – the nerdy daughter of the scientist responsible for the expedition. Her performance is more measured and subtle than her co-star’s, but you can see the inner turmoil in her head as she either screws up, or begs for her crewmates to appease her in deciding which planet they should investigate with fuel enough to visit only one. She’s haunted by her father’s legacy and decisions, and has to live with them, along with her own.

There’s too many characters and actors portraying each character to talk about them all, but each and every one was incredibly believable. This is how to act in a film – especially a sci-fi film – in a way that grounds the story and suspends the disbelief of the audience enough to convince them that what they’re seeing is possible. Because to be honest, a lot of the story probably is (minus the worm-hole)

Writing/Story

Written by Christopher Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, this film draws heavily from 2001: A Space Odyssey in many ways, while also twisting its ideas into something unique. I’m going to spoil the end, so stop reading if you’re looking to watch it first.

Why do I draw comparisons? If you watch, you’ll probably understand immediately. Numerous scenes of space ship docking in complete silence, paired with Hanz Zimmer’s almost classically inspired musical score, really make it hard not to think of Kubrick. Cooper is an astronaut heading into the unexplored parts of the universe, faced with cosmic horror like you’ve never seen, and eventually coming out the end as a fifth-dimensional being able to transcend time and space in order to save the earth’s populace. Kind of similar, don’t you think? Minus the saving earth bit.

Every scene with Murph, Cooper’s daughter, was either interesting or unbelievably sad. Near the mid-point, Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway) touch down on the first of their scheduled planets to explore, and are struck by an enormous wave that washes out the engines on their ship. Every second on this planet is a year passing on earth, by the way, which means they were trying to be rather speedy. They were forced to wait for the engines, and upon returning to their ship in orbit, their crewmate had aged twenty-something years and there were hundreds of messages waiting for Cooper from his family.

This scene was incredible. Why? Because he sat down and watched his children, who were now around thirty-years-old, grow up on a computer screen. It was a fast-track to their maturation, along with their loss of hope for his return. Twenty minutes during a mistake on a foreign planet cost him decades of his family’s life. I can’t quite explain why that struck me so intensely, but it did. Maybe it made me realize how fleeting life is.

Cinematography

Most of it is pretty typical, though when it decides to look good, it looks stunning. I wish I had the chance to see it in the theatre. This is a theatre movie.

Also, GIF’s are a much better way to communicate the visuals of this film, so expect some more.

Look to your left and tell me you wouldn’t shit yourself watching that in the theatre.

There are shots in this film that are beautifully composed, and others that are so incredibly terrifying, I audibly let out a gasp of breath when I saw them. The wormhole, which is shown above in the GIF, was mesmerizingly scary. Now that could just be me, since I have a frightened respect for galactic monstrosity; black holes freak me out.

And for someone freaked out by black holes, this movie was the perfect source of fear.

Music

Hanz Zimmer is one of the best composers of this generation – I think everyone knows that already. His work is always brilliant, and it was especially brilliant in this film. He wrote a theme for Interstellar, which he uses as a leitmotif (recurring musical phrase, for those who think I made up a word) throughout the movie in key scenes. This ensures for maximum emotional impact. Why? I don’t know. I’m not a composer.

Also worth noting. In the scenes on the ocean planet, there’s a ticking in the soundtrack. Every tick is a second, and on that planet, every second is a year on earth. It gives you perspective on how fast time is passing, and again, how fleeting time and life really is.

Rewatchability

I would absolutely watch this movie again. Just to witness how incredible it is a second time. Though it is just ten minutes away from being three hours long, it’s a good three hours that pull you in and give you the feeling of being on the adventure with these astronauts. If you’re going to write a three-hour-long piece, it has to be good and you have to know what you’re doing. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan know what they’re doing.

Final Thoughts

I saw and read an article while searching for pictures called: Interstellar is a Dangerous Fantasy of US Colonialism. Not sure how the hell someone watched this and took away only the fact that there’s an American flag plastered on screen a couple times. I think this illustrates an interesting point, though. Science-fiction is a hard genre for some people to understand, and to enjoy. You either love it, or you hate it. You either get the impression that this film is about life and humanity’s destruction of itself, or you see baseball on screen and decide that Christopher Nolan is a Jingoist.

To me, this film is a masterpiece that examines our current society and shows us the realities of what may very well happen, even if we don’t like it. It shows us that the universe is so incredibly large and monstrous, and that humans are infinitely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It shows us that science can be wrong, but you should never disregard it, and that you should probably call your dad from time to time to see how he’s doing. He may be called upon to go through a wormhole at any moment.

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