Interstellar– Lots of Stars, not so Stellar

There is a difference between a sci-fi movie, and a science future movie. The former does not need to be concerned about the actual constraints of reality or science as we know it, it can just let its imagination run wild. But a science future movie on the other hand is supposed to have a certain degree of plausibility to it, like something that can barely be seen on the horizon, but is nonetheless within reach in the not so distant future. In some ways, ‘Interstellar’, Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster, is more the latter than the former, with some imaginary sprinkles. For those not given to a deep understanding of quantum physics or the theory of relativity, or black holes, or worm holes and the like, this movie can alternately be confusing, or enlightening, or equal measures of both.

This movie has the look of humans in space much like that of the last hit movie of this sort— Sandra Bullock’s ‘Gravity’. But it tries to strike a deeper more philosophical tone by repeatedly reciting bits and pieces of Dylan Thomas’ most famous poem which begins— ‘Do not go gentle into that good night/rage, rage, against the dying of the light’. But in striving for ‘gravitas’ this movie over-reaches and turns out to be a less satisfying film than ‘Gravity’.

For one thing, it is much to long at 2 hours and 49 minutes. The story could have been told in a much more svelte and compelling form. And what we have, according to all reports is an ‘edited down’ version of the film! For another thing, it relies too much on human star power (Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway) and not enough on the power of the real stars, the allure of space. And some of these human stars play only bit parts. Jessica Chastain who plays an adult version of Murphy, Cooper’s( i.e. Matthew’s) daughter enters the film too late to really be given a role big enough to display her considerable skills. Matt Damon comes across almost morose and definitely unlikable and we are glad to see him off the screen by the time he disappears into space. Even the irrepressible Michael Caine turns out to be not as advertized. And then there is the convoluted plot.

Here is the basic summary the website gives you:
“With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.”

In other words, this is a survivalist sort of film. We have ruined the earth which is turning into a dust bowl and the only thing that will still grow is corn. The moral seems to be ‘if we don’t continue to reach for the stars we will all be left in the dust’. So, there is the big gamble to try and rapidly find an alternate world to live on, only there are none in our solar system, or even in our galaxy, so travel to another galaxy is required—- through a worm hole that opened up near Saturn. But even at the other end of that non-rainbow there seems little to choose from in terms of inhabitable planets. Things look bad for team ‘Earth’.

The movie has some powerful scenes, and at its core is a powerful father-daughter relationship which does stir up some emotions. Father Cooper has promised to go into space and come back for his beloved Murphy….. and a promise is a promise. Only he discovers she will be older than him if and when he returns, and indeed he might not return at all. I will not spoil the ending of the film for you. There is about an hour of excellent content in the film, and it has a power and beauty to some of it that make it worth seeing. But it is not the finest hour for any of these human stars, and in the end it doesn’t make exploration of real stars all that appealing.