Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Cult-Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) is one of those outer space movies in which human astronauts travel to the end of the universe -- and existence itself -- but are confronted not with incredible alien life, but rather with themselves; with the affirming aspects of human life.

Consider: a psychologist, Kris Kelvin was faced with an inscrutable, unknowable alien world in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), but he re-shaped that question mark, that unknown, to be a “mirror” of his Earthbound, family home.

Instead of facing fear, darkness and the existence of the unfathomable, Kris retreated to what he desired: the comfort and familiarity of the known, the quantified.

Or remember Robert Zemeckis’s Contact (1997).

There, Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) traveled through a cosmic wormhole subway system but her final, distant destination was not a strange alien realm…but a postcard physical representation of a Pensacola, Florida beach. There, on the shore-line, an image of her dead father (David Morse) awaited her and spoke to Ellie in soothing, comforting tones.

Again, the alien -- or cosmic experience -- was rendered recognizable and familiar. From fear came recognition, and then catharsis.

Even Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) follows this organizational pattern to some extent.

Astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) undertook the “ultimate trip” -- beyond Jupiter and the infinite -- but spent his final days in a Renaissance Room, a Victorian sitting room where he waited to die, living a mundane human existence before finally “evolving” into the Star Child. The (unseen) alien acted on him, changing him into something new, but Bowman knew not how or why.

From his vantage point, death was a realm of Louis XIV furniture and fine dining.

In one sense, this very particular style of science fiction filmmaking might be regarded as a failure of real imagination, a direct acknowledgement that, as human beings of the planet Earth, we can’t truly envision something alien or different, merely a human-centric representation of the alien or unknown.

Yet you can’t blame anyone for adopting this you-don’t-see-the-aliens approach to filmmaking, either. 

How can anyone truly imagine something outside the totality of our experience?  

Even the word “alien,” to us, implies something within the human context or natural world, not something of another world, or another reality. We might imagine a creature of three heads and ten arms, perhaps.

But why have heads or arms, at all, if the creature is really and truly alien?

So instead of trying to conceive of the inconceivable, the filmmakers behind these cinematic works of art provide no real answer to the mystery of alien life, or about the meaning of life itself.

Instead, those concepts are left vague; ambiguous. The directors paint over the ambiguities in vivid colors of human emotion and human concepts (like love), hoping that they will substitute for the real, unseen nature of the aliens, or cosmic verities. For the unknown, for the bizarre, they substitute things and symbols that we recognize; things like a beach, a house, familiar furniture, or in the case of Interstellar, one girl's bedroom

The no-aliens approach in 2001, Solaris (both versions), Contact, and Interstellar runs the risk of disappointing some viewers in the same way that one of my all-time favorite horror movies,  The Blair Witch Project (1999) may disappoint some audiences.  

When you undertake a journey of the mystical and the awesome -- or even the horrific and supernatural -- you don’t want it, necessarily, to be a shaggy dog story. Instead, you desire to be rewarded with the money-shot: an establishing view of the being behind the curtain, to use a movie metaphor. 

Yet, contrarily, look at what happens when you do meet “God,” head on, in a science fiction movie. 

The imagery runs the risk of not living up to your imagination, or being shabby, silly, or somehow clichéd.

Similarly, and in spite of its myriad good qualities, there’s something quite facile about Interstellar’s approach to its narrative. Here, the mysteries of the universe can be boiled down to one phrase: “all you need is love.” 

Love can help us climb 5-D canyons, create wormholes, and send messages in Morse Code, Binary language, or gravitational waves across time…

Love can save the human race.

By reducing the majestic mysteries of the cosmic unknown to a simple Hallmark sentiment, the movie ends up ignoring many of the complexities it raises in the first place. 

At the film’s end, you can wrap up the whole story into a neat and comprehensive tale of two not-fully understood forces -- gravity and love -- being responsible for the infinite wonder of the cosmos.  

Understand those two things, my friends, and the five dimensional world shall be your playground (just watch out for spaghettification…)

Yet while some of us may groan at the sentimentality, mawkishness and simplicity of that message, in terms of drama, this idea feels true and right because it re-affirms, in a sense, something that we feel and internalize on a daily basis: that love possesses a pull like gravity, and is responsible, in some shape or form, for the flow and direction of our reality. 

The idea is simple, basic even, and yet, who can argue that it doesn’t resonate in the exact same way that the ending of Solaris resonates?

It may be egotistical of us, but when we travel (cinematically-speaking...) to the end of the universe and confront the mysteries of Creation, we want to be rewarded with the answer that humanity -- its struggles, its emotions, its loves and losses -- is part of the solution.

Interstellar, like Contact (1997), or Solaris (1972) or the Solaris remake (2002) concerns that very idea. No matter how far we travel, the things that make us human are the things that we carry with us, and impact our destination. We don't want the alien, to quote Stanislaw Lem, we desire a mirror.

If you can swallow that notion -- of love as a galvanizing “force” of Existence itself -- then more than likely, Interstellar will succeed for you as a thoughtful work of art.

If you don’t enjoy seeing the mysteries of the universe reduced to a sound-byte or bumper sticker, you may have additional questions about the work, and the ways it attempts to manipulate or mis-direct audiences.

Let me be clear about my own feelings and reaction to the movie. 

First, I adore movies of this type: about heroic astronauts meeting their fates in space, trying to understand the mechanisms of the universe.  

Give me a Prometheus (2012), an Alien (1979), a Solaris (2002) or even Event Horizon (1997) over a swashbuckling space fantasy any day, and I’ll be quite happy.

As someone who grew up with stories of this type on The Outer Limits (“The Man Who Was Never Born”), The Twilight Zone (“Death Ship”), and especially Space: 1999 (virtually any Year One episode…), I’m especially pleased to see Interstellar adopt a more or less hard-science veneer while explaining the dangers of space travel, even if draws a mushy conclusion, finally, about the forces that shape our destiny and our very reality.

So, I enjoy the film, and feel it is a worthwhile work of art.

How can I accept the relatively pedantic and facile “all you need is love”story line?

Well, that’s my second point, I guess.  The "love conquers time and space" subplot is merely one element of a finely crafted, intelligent science fiction film. When you cut through the surface bells-and-whistles, the film expresses beautifully another quality of human life.

Basically, the emotional truth of Interstellar is a haunting one, and it doesn’t require any understanding of quantum mechanics at all.

Interstellar tells and shows us -- throughout its running time -- that we are all losing the race with time every single day. 

Every minute of every day we are being forced to choose how we spend time, but we get only one shot, and one selection.
For everything we choose to do (like writing a review of this film), there is something else that isn’t getting done, like spending time with a daughter or son, a wife or husband. Like gardening. Like going to the bank. Like watching another movie, even.

And as Interstellar points out in one of its very best scenes, time can’t travel backwards. You can't re-litigate what you choose. You don't get to start over. In every moment, there is a winner and there is a loser (at least one) for your attention.

You don’t get a second shot to raise your children, or succeed in your career. You have to choose, and time keeps flowing, regardless.  It keeps moving forward. It is a “resource,” and when you use it up, it’s gone.

Accordingly, the movie captures beautifully the feeling of time’s slippage.  

One moment, the film’s hero, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is kissing his ten year old daughter goodbye. The next time he sees her, she’s a thirty-something year old woman. 

He weeps watching his children grow older because he has not been there for them, and he knows there is no going back.  He made his choice, and must now live with regret and self-recriminations. 

Time is relentless and unstoppable, and when Interstellar focuses on the fall-out from “slippage” (or relativity) it manages, at least for this reviewer, to earn its sentimental message about love. 

The last act of the film, in which we learn that there are no aliens creating wormholes for us, only mankind attempting to reach back and save his future, resonates, in some sense.  We can begin to accept the idea that love continues not just in our presence, but in our absence too;  that when we are away from our children, we are still with them as the "ghosts" of their memories, of their thoughts.

If we could conquer the mysteries of space and time, of the cosmos, we would harness what we learned, it seems, to buy ourselves the most valuable commodity of all: time.  

The idea here is that man is a fragile, sometimes short-sighted creature, but one who -- powered by gravity and love will “rage against the dying of the light,” not for himself; not for mere vanity’s sake.  

But to have one more minute to spend with a beloved child, or a spouse.

So I do fully understand why Interstellar has its critics. The movie suggests it is going to be about something big and incomprehensible -- the survival of the human race, and the conquest of space and time -- but it is actually about something really small, or more accurately, really intimate: a father’s crushing regret at not having spent enough time with his daughter. He must weigh that loss against a net-good: saving her entire generation.

Is that a fair trade off? 

It’s a very long and complex odyssey for Cooper to find his way home again, and some audiences may feel disappointed that more questions about wormholes, black holes and time travel aren’t satisfactorily answered.

But Interstellar remains noteworthy and remarkable because it reminds us, at the very least, that distance and time don’t change, finally, the things that matter most to us.

“You don’t think nature can be evil."

In the near future, Earth is dying. A blight is eating up the air, and killing crops.  Within one generation, man will not be able to survive there.

On a small farm, a former astronaut and pilot, Cooper (McConaughey) lives with his son and daughter, and young Murphy believes that ghosts are inhabiting her bedroom, living behind her book-shelf.  

This weird supernatural event or "anomaly" transmits a message that Murphy and Cooper decode, and sends them to a nearby NASA installation at the old NORAD facility.

There, they learn that Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) is preparing a mission to the stars, one that can give mankind a final hope.  

A wormhole has been discovered near Saturn that makes a solar system in another galaxy accessible to them.  There are at least three planets in that system capable of supporting human life.

Brand wants Cooper to fly the mission through the wormhole, in hopes of learning which of  three planets (already visited by scientists Edmunds, Miller and Mann...) offer the best hope of human colonization.

Murphy doesn't want her father to go, realizing she may never see him again. But her very future rests in his hands...

“Time’s gonna change for me.”

Credit Christopher Nolan with knowing exactly what type of science fiction film he desires to make here.  Interstellar is rich with allusions to previous cinematic works of similar form and shape, so that scholars and watchers can categorize it correctly. 

For instance, analyze Nolan’s choice of poets. 

Several times in the film, we hear Michael Caine’s Dr. Brand recite the poem I excerpted above, Dylan Thomas’s (1914 – 1953) “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” The work was first published in 1951, but the important thing is the artist himself.  

Go back to Steve Soderbergh’s Solaris (2002), and you’ll find that a poem plays a role of tremendous importance there too, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”

It’s author? Dylan Thomas, of course. 

Thomas is, apparently, the go-to-poet for metaphysical science fiction films. 

In all seriousness, his work is used in both films to chart the protagonist’s existential journey. 

In Solaris, George Clooney’s Kelvin labors with a suicidal lover (Natasha McElhone), and loses her. Kelvin imagines again and again, through his recitation of the poem, a world where death shall have no dominion, and the lovers can be rejoined, in Eternity.  

At film’s end, Solaris “gifts” that very universe to Kelvin. He is reunited with his lover in an after-life where death has no dominion, no purchase. They will exist together forever.

In Interstellar, the Thomas poem suggests the nature of the journey again. Specifically, it suggests that one cannot give in to death, to the inevitability of it. Rather, death should be raged against, fought against at every single turn.  

This is precisely the act Cooper undertakes in the film, fighting death on planet after planet, in space (during a terrible space station accident), and finally in the black hole. He rages against the possibility of death each time, and conquers it, though the odds are great.  


He is driven to see Murphy, his daughter again, and to save her generation. In a sense then, the movie is about him raging against the dying of the light not just in terms of his own experience, but his daughter’s as well. He can’t fail, he can’t let death take him, because it will also take Murphy, and the people on Earth.  And then the sacrifice of all his time with Murphy will have meant nothing.

Solaris and Interstellar choose the same poet, and assign that poet the same purpose in the narrative structure. Dylan Thomas’s words transmit a leitmotif, an idea crucial to an understanding of the specific work of art.  But by choosing Dylan Thomas, Nolan also connects his 2014 work to another metaphysical space film in which the confrontation with an alien is really a confrontation with human nature.

Disney’s The Black Hole (1979) seems another obvious connection to Interstellar. The Black Hole features two comic-relief robots, V.I.N.Cent and Old B.O.B., and Interstellar similarly features two comic-relief robots, TARS and CASE. 

V.I.N.C.ent is notable, in particular, for reciting human proverbs at times of danger, whereas TARS makes jokes about his human qualities, and the percentage of those qualities he has activated.  He is 90% honest, for instance.  In both films, at least one robot journeys through a black hole, as well. In both films we come to think of these robots as being more than mere machines.  They become, essentially, beloved companions.

Similarly, both films suggest that inside the black hole are human constructs, created, perhaps, by those who travel inside it. Thoughts dictate the shape of reality.

In The Black Hole, the survivors of the Cygnus and the Palomino reckon inside the black hole with a Manichean world of Heaven and Hell, angels and fallen, doomed souls. Perhaps, these travelers have created -- out of their own thoughts -- this moralistic construct or hierarchy based on their human belief systems.  

In Interstellar, Cooper similarly encounters not the unknown or alien, but a 5-D representation of Murphy’s bedroom. That arena is a place that allows him, again, to “rage against the dying of the light,” and deliver a message to his daughter that can save her, and all of mankind itself.  There can be no doubt that Cooper shapes that construct, as well, based on his desire or need.

What we find in the infinite, therefore, is not something new and alien, but something familiarEither ingrained images of religious importance, or familiar images of a family house and a loved one.  

In both cases, the answer to the questions of the cosmos rests inside the human mind.

The visuals of the black hole, Gargantua, in Interstellar come closest, historically-speaking to the visuals featured in the Space:1999 (1975 - 1977) episode "The Black Sun." 

That episode of the series finds Moonbase Alpha falling into a black hole and encountering an entity there who recognizes what the humans, as yet, have not enunciated. And that is, simply, that the humans on the moon belong to together, to each other...that Alpha is home. The alien in the black hole rejoins the Alphans with a wayward survival ship, and allows their journey to continue.

Interstellar suggests, similarly, that Cooper's connection to Murph goes beyond time and space, and is the very thing that can save the human race.

In terms of structure, many critics have detected a strong similarity between Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

For example, both films seem to boast three-part structures. In 2001, we met the apes at the Dawn of Man, encountered advanced, 21st century man in the middle section of the film (on Earth, the Moon, and then aboard Discovery), and then traveled to “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.”  

Interstellar provides no title cards that separate one act or mini-story from another, yet it follows a similar track.  

The first part of the film, like Dawn of Man, is earthbound, on Cooper’s farm.  

The second part of the film involves the difficult space journey, and features multiple locations (Dr. Miller’s world and Dr. Mann’s world).

And the third film introduces the metaphysical or cosmic aspects of the tale: the journey inside the black hole.
The films differ mainly in terms of resolution. Bowman evolves into the Star Child, and casts his new eyes upon distant Earth at the conclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  

In Interstellar, Cooper is reunited with his daughter Murphy, now an elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn), and then heads back in space to re-connect with Dr. Amelia Brand.  

2001: A Space Odyssey has an ending that reckons with the future, and the possibilities -- but not the specifics -- of man’s future.  Will we all become children of the stars?

Interstellar’s ending -- the movie’s most questionable element, if you ask me -- continues Cooper’s journey after his relevant quest is complete. He finally meets Murphy again, and they forgive each other for harsh words and the separation.  

That probably should have been the end of it, but isn't.

Instead, Cooper steals a spaceship and heads back out, to find Amelia. 

On a purely practical level, relativity and slippage still exist, so won’t Amelia and Cooper be vastly different ages when they again meet?  

The ending of the film -- a suggestion that Amelia and Cooper will reunite (and fall in love?) -- under-cuts Cooper’s very journey, and the fact that time is a resource that can’t be replenished easily. 

The lesson of the film is that he had to give up something to get something. To save Murphy, Cooper had to leave Murphy. Time wouldn't let him be both a father and a pioneer, so he had to choose only one path.  He chose to leave his daughter, but save her life.

By suggesting, suddenly, that Cooper can go out and find Amelia -- and they can live happily ever after -- seriously scuttles that message. It's a disaster so far as being a relevant and coherent conclusion to the film.

Interstellar and 2001 have many differences in tone and approach, but it is clear they do arise from the same school of sci-fi thought. In both efforts, man confronts the cosmos, and man defines (or re-defines) his understanding of himself and the universe.

Uniquely, Interstellar makes a case for emotions and for the inherent value of traditional humanity, even navigating the hazards of space. This film, unlike 2001, does not make the case that, at some point, he must evolve and think differently, or be different.  

In this case, love is the critical factor in the human gestalt. Consider that Cooper braves all the dangers of the film because he loves Murphy, because he can’t let her generation on Earth die.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg so far as “love” is concerned.  

Mid-way through the film, Amelia relates her feeling that they should choose to visit Dr. Edmund's world...and that love is again the reason why. She loves him, and wants to be reunited with him.  She feels that love is the very thing -- a force -- drawing her to that world, and not to Dr. Mann’s world. 

For the first and only time in the movie, Cooper acts against emotion and love. He doesn’t see love as a possible factor in determining which planet to visit when resources are dwindling, and time is running out.  '

He overlooks Amelia’s sense of love, and the results are catastrophic.  They visit Dr. Mann’s world and his environmental readings are a sham. Mann has lost his mind, and nearly kills everyone and ends the mission.  

If Cooper had listened to Amelia, had honored her “love” argument, the mission might have succeeded sooner.  (On the other hand, he likely wouldn’t have traveled into the black hole and been able to save Earth…so there’s that to consider too.)

The other Dr. Brand, Caine's character, is another example of someone who does not honor love. He lies about Plan A -- getting Earth’s population into space -- and gives up what Dr. Mann calls “his humanity” in the process. 

He refuses to honor the idea that rescuing Murphy is the thing that will drive Cooper to succeed, and then betrays Cooper on his death bed, outing himself as a liar. His only purpose was to “not think of the individual,” but “as a species,” and that goal in itself is...inhuman.  

Interstellar informs us that the only way we survive as a species at all is by thinking of the individual, and the concerns of the individual, of rejoining and rescuing family.  

Right or wrong, “love” is what generates action, and it is the very force that creates Cooper's “reality” inside the black hole: his consuming need to save Murphy and the survivors of Earth.

The other side of the equation, simply, is that anything that destroys love, or drives families apart, is evil.  

Murphy and Amelia share a conversation in which he asks her if she believes nature can be evil.  She doesn’t think that it can be.  He does.  He knows, from difficult life on the farm, that nature can drive people apart, and can destroy lives.

Likewise nature -- the tidal waves of Planet Miller, or the Ice Clouds of Planet Mann -- are indeed “evil” in the sense that they keep Cooper separated from Murphy, and keeps him from saving the planet Earth.

Anything -- including nature -- that steals the resource of time from Cooper and his family is, by definition in the film, evil.

In some way, Interstellar is a bit schizophrenic in its approach. Much of the film is about how human connection drives the human race to “rage against the dying of the light,” and how emotion -- love -- is the key factor in humanity’s survival.

And yet, by the same token, the film expresses well how emotions, when out of control, can’t be trusted. The first portion of the film very much involves a continuation of the (largely stupid...) national discourse right now.  

People are divided and, worse, believing ludicrous conspiracy theories conjured by dangerous, deranged men. The history books have been rewritten, in Interstellar, to suggest that the Apollo moon missions didn’t occur;  that the government made them up so as to bankrupt the Soviet Union. 

In other words, Interstellar occurs in a future directly in line with our own present, in which government is always the worst bad guy imaginable (forget about corporations, okay?) and our leaders are sinister conspirators, not people doing their (admittedly fallible) best to serve our country. 

Yet such conspiracy theories and beliefs about government are almost wholly emotion-based not logic driven.  Indeed, watch Cooper totally undercut Murphy's high school principal using logic, not emotions.  

Perhaps Interstellar is trying to be even-handed by including this aspect of human existence; revealing that emotion can be our greatest strength and our greatest weakness at the same time…

From Strange New World (1977).

From Interstellar.

If you sense any diffidence or ambiguity in my review of Interstellar, you’re not entirely wrong. 

I truly admire the film’s visuals, particularly the landscapes of Planets Millar and Munn. I also love the concept of a documentary discussing a new “dust bowl” here on Earth from a future perspective. There are some great details in this look at life on an environmentally-ravaged Earth, like how the denizens have to turn over bowls and cups on kitchen table so that dirt doesn't get inside them. 

And I very much how the film depicts the mechanics of space travel, and suggests that mankind can tame the stars.  

What I’m not certain about, truthfully, is the way all the specific lines match up. I'm not certain that every detail is reasonable and fits together coherently with the others, and I've now watched the film twice. 

A lot -- nearly three hours -- hangs on a theme that can be expressed in three words (love conquers all), and I find this to be a characteristic flaw of Nolan's work (especially Inception). He overloads his films with so much material (not to mention time...) that the foundation beneath them starts to crack from sheer weight before the film is even over.

For example, why did Cooper -- the man responsible for it -- open up a wormhole 48 years before the events of the film?  I understand the purpose of the wormhole (a necessity to reach Gargantua and travel back to Murphy’s bed room…) but why that date? Why 48 years?  Why not 52 years?  Why is this number meaningful to Cooper?  Since he is the engineer of the wormhole, he would pick a time that is relevant, right?

Similarly, I have questions about NASA and how it operates in the film.

Cooper does not know of NASA's location at NORAD as the film commences, but is led to it by a series of coordinates delivered by the ghost in Murphy’s room.

He is that ghost, we learn, so why is he both typing out the word “STAY” (warning himself not to travel to space) and the coordinates to NASA, which prevent him from staying and which generate the whole time line?  

Which is it Cooper?  Would it be better to stay with Murphy, and never know of NASA and its missions?  Or is it better to initiate the time-line and send those coordinates? 

I don't think the film is able to make Cooper's state of mind in the black hole very clear, so that we understand precisely why he sends two very mixed messages home to Murph.

Similarly, NASA is within a day’s drive, apparently, of Cooper’s farm, and NASA knows Cooper from his previous space mission (and crash).  So why did they never contact him to begin with? 

Why do they have to rely, in this instance, on the ghost’s interference?  

In short, I find it hard to believe that even a diminished NASA would not realize that one of the few remaining astronauts in the world is living on a farm less than a day’s drive away from its primary installation.

I can accept and forgive a lot, however, because of the film's through-line about time and “slippage.”  

The early scene in the film, wherein Cooper describes parents as being present so as to be “memories” for their kids, grown up, is masterful and powerful.  Cooper describes parents as “ghosts of your children’s future,” and that description feels true, and meaningful.  It rings true, at least to me.

Children grow up, grow old even, and their parents are always present in their minds, even if they have died.  Their voices are always there, consulting and advising, even criticizing.  Interstellar takes the idea of parents as “ghosts in children’s future” and literalizes it. 

Cooper isn’t physically present to guide Murphy and save her, but he is there, in some sense, -- consciously or spiritually -- within the 5D construct of the black hole interior to impact her destiny.  

After watching the film, I confess, I wondered about my own life, and those who had left us, and those who will leave us.  

Are they mere voices in our heads, or a resonance of a presence beyond death, of the mystery of “love” infiltrating our presents from some distant future, or from another sense of reality?  From cryptic space-time, even?

In a way, Interstellar is all about the impact Cooper has on his children, even after he is, more or less, dead.  The film is thus about our desire to become immortal, and the only way we can achieve that aim: by living on in the memory of others.

The critical response to Interstellar is sharply divided. Some love it. Some hate it. Some see it as brilliant and imaginative. Others see it as simplistic and obvious.  

Beyond the powerful visual presentation of other-worldly environments and space, I find the film worthwhile in the ways I have outlined here. Christopher Nolan's film reminds us that time is a resource, and one that, for the living, is not endless. We are mortal creatures bound to other mortal creatures, and time seems to escape us, to seep away.

There’s no way not to use up time, but Interstellar reminds us that we must use that resource well, and that as the ghosts of our children’s futures we will be held accountable for our choices. 

Like Cooper, we will reach “far beyond our lifespan” and impact the generations yet to come. Certainly, this point seems relevant in terms of how we handle environmental resources, or tackle issues such as war and peace, or  even climate change. Our choices regarding how we use time now will impact, indeed, the future.

With that kind of responsibility, one hopes for some sort of Dylan Thomas-esque wisdom about the importance of "death and entrances..." But in lieu of such poetry, I'll merely state that Interstellar works hard to share shelf-space with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Contact, and ultimately, it earns that real estate.

Like those films, it finds that -- at the end of the universe -- the answer to all our questions can be found in who we are; the qualities we bring with us on the journey.  These films may evade true knowledge, denying us information about the physical appearance of an alien being, or the truth about the meaning of life. 

But they approximate knowledge by showing us how the small things -- a beach, a house, or a book-shelf -- can mean an awful lot in the human scheme of things.


  1. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Great review.You capture a lot of my own feelings regarding Interstellar. I don't think that I've ever been quite so conflicted about a film.On the one hand, there is so much to admire about it: the stunning visuals, the solid acting (McConaughey is quite outstanding), the immersive nature of the dying Earth, etc.But, on the other hand, you have that ending.....

    Incidentally, I'm sure that you've heard this from other people, but seeing this film on the big screen (I saw it in IMAX) is a mind blowing experience.


  2. Great insights as always! I saw "Interstellar" three times and found it very emotionally affecting. I think it is a masterpiece - a visionary work and the best science fiction film since the criminally underrated "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), another even more polarizing and controversial film.

    I find it infuriating that every time a movie has the courage to make us care and feel something, it gets viciously attacked for being "mawkish", "sentimental", "saccharine" etc. Sometimes I think these attacks say something about the critics who make these accusations, that they are terrified of a story that might make them feel something and make them cry.

    The "Contact" (another one of my all time favorites) comparison is so spot on and this movie reminded me of that 1997 film in so many ways. "Contact" also was attacked in the same way and remains an underrated film and like "Interstellar" is at its heart, a moving father/daughter story. As a matter of fact "Interstellar" feels like a Robert Zemeckis film. What impresses me about Chrisopher Nolan more than anything is the warmth he was able to bring to this movie, along with the sense of wonder.

  3. 'Every minute of every day we are being forced to choose how we spend time, but we get only one shot, and one selection...You don’t get a second shot to raise your children, or succeed in your career. You have to choose, and time keeps flowing, regardless. It keeps moving forward. It is a “resource,” and when you use it up, it’s gone.' - & other quotes.

    i think this point is why the epilogue works & is even in its way necessary despite your objections - Coop & Murph are granted one last moment together to say goodbye, & that's the film's nod toward a miraculous happenstance, its 'gift' for its heroes; but time has passed & there're other things to do, more life left to live - time to move on. i don't particularly care if Coop & Brand end up happily ever after, i don't think that's the point. what matters i think is that they're both moving on toward the future that they worked so hard & lost so much for, together, & they're keeping on keeping on.

  4. For all its sci-fi trappings...Interstellar comes down to one thing, and one thing alone: the notion of following your heart. Yes, it really is that simple.

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