Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Void in “Interstellar”

I’ve had very little time to write or blog this week, but I thought I’d share some brief thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar. While I’ve avoided talking about any of the plot twists, there are some minor spoilers, so venture on at your own risk.

To begin, I wish I had time to write a more thorough review, but I don’t. If you’re looking for one, here are four reviews (from Salon, The Wall Street Journal, Grantland, and The Book Smugglers) that are generally consistent with my own feelings about the film. Also, let me briefly say that the movie is visually stunning and well-acted by Matthew McConaughy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Cane, and others. 

That said, I had two issues with Interstellar as large as the black hole at the center of the film. The first is the overly convenient plot that contains holes large enough to fly the Nostromo through. The world is dying for reasons only hinted at in the film. Whether due to overpopulation, climate change, or who knows, earth is ridden by violent dust storms and losing its capacity to grow food. Let’s just call it the Dust Apocalypse. During the Dust Apocalypse, science has become verboten, the Lunar Landings have officially been deemed a hoax designed to bankrupt the Soviet Union, and NASA has gone underground. Fortunately, a nearby corn farmer (McConaughy’s character) happens to live nearby. Also, before the Dust Apocalypse, he was a really good astronaut. Suffice it to say, he soon discovers secret NASA and they just happen to have a spacecraft that’s ready to travel interstellar through a wormhole near Saturn to find a new world for mankind.  

I can overlook certain things for the sake of plot, but I still scratch my head about this stuff. Who spends a gazillion dollars on an interstellar spacecraft without having a pilot, unless they intentionally built the secret NASA lab near McConaughy’s cornfield hoping he’d decide to leave his family and don his old spacesuit? It’s as if the rebels of Star Wars had built their secret base on Tatooine, hoping that Luke Skywalker might stumble onto it one day while taking his speeder for a joy ride.

Second, Interstellar is about saving the human race and going boldly where (almost) no man has gone before, but it’s virtually devoid of any notion or mention of religion or spirituality. Apparently, that died in the Dust Apocalypse, but I think the movie is emptier because of it. Contrast this with Contact, another film starring McCounaghy, based on a novel by Carl Sagan. That movie is filled with spiritual themes that concern the interplay (or conflict) between science and religion, and I found Contact to be a much more fulfilling tale. The absence of any talk of God or spirituality, when the whole point of the film is surviving extinction and exploring the great beyond, makes Interstellar a bit hollow in my view. There’s not even a hint of extraterrestrial life beyond the wormhole. Nothing but mankind trying to save itself, all alone in the universe. That’s not a future I want to believe in.

But this is just my short take. If you’ve seen the film, let me know—how did you feel about Interstellar?


Bill said...

I haven't seen it, but have other bad reviews. I think good science fiction - or any fiction - has to be at least plausible enough that the reader or viewer can buy into the premise. It sounds like this movie fails.

Joseph Finley said...

Totally agree, Bill. If you see the film, I'd be curious to know what you think.

Bill said...

When will it be on HBO? ;-)

Bill said...

Several of the reviews I've seen noted that the ecological disaster that has ravaged Earth is not attributed to "climate change" or "global warming." It's good in my opinion that the writers and producers have avoided what has become a cliche.