Interstellar: one of the best Sci-Fi movies of the 21 century

Cooper [Matthew McConaughey] in Christopher Nolans INTERSTELLAR Movie Poster

Review of Christopher Nolans Interstellar (2014)

Listen to the soundtrack while reading:

Synopsis

Humanity is on the brink of extinction. Wild sandstorms and bad harvests are making survival on planet earth even more difficult for the last humans. We don´t really know how many are left. Humanity has canceled all space exploration projects and doesn´t even teach the moon landing in schools.
But hope rises when a black hole appears at a reachable distance of our solar system and it seems that this gravitational monster was placed there by unknown beings. It could be the gateway to habitable planets, out of reach for the normal technologies of spaceflight, and could save the survival of humanity.
The former NASA pilot and father of two Cooper works on the dying planet on a farm on his fields, struggling with the drying soils and harsh winds. Suddenly his daughter leads him onto a gravitational distortion. His curiosity awakens and he finds a secure, underground base that contains the last representatives of NASA. They are working on a top-secret space program that will send people into the suddenly appeared black hole. Cooper, without having him contact earlier, is soon to be named head of this operation. It may have something to do with his backstory, apparently, but we don´t get a good answer on that.
Without having him trained properly, he finds himself leaving planet earth with a crew to save humanity. Every one of these gang of misfits is driven by their own personal history and is willing to risk his life for a better life.

There is also a second mission, a backup plan that will send a bunch of fetuses into a predefined goal in the stars to save humanity.

Cooper [Matthew McConaughey] and Murphy [Mackenzie Foy] in Christopher Nolans INTERSTELLAR
Cooper [Matthew McConaughey] and Murphy [Mackenzie Foy] in Christopher Nolans INTERSTELLAR

Interstellar shows what Sci-Fi looks in the 21st century

Starting from this momentum, Interstellar shows what Sci-Fi movies have to offer in the 21 century.
We are confronted with wormhole jumps, dark nebulas, space- shuttles and -stations androids, crazy new planets, and the human abyss. Christopher Nolan and his team are presenting the problems of the near future and interpolating them onto mankind of today. We get a glance behind the curtain of the yet unbelievable and unseen black hole, the wideness of the endless universe. Maybe even an answer to one of the big questions: „Are we alone? Why are we here? Will there be humans in the future on a distant planet? How can we manage today’s problems in the future? Is time travel possible?“
As versatile and extensive as this catalog of questions seems, as confusing the structure of the plot evolves.

The movie is produced on a large scale, filmed in classic 30 mm and 70mm film as IMAX format to show the interminability of space and time. Equipped with prized actors like Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, and John Lithgow, who give a familiar attitude to the journey to find a new home for humanity. They sail through space and time for us, they follow the core questions of our own existence. They have to find their own inner emotional motivation and realize the impact of their actions on the surrounding world and people. With a screentime of nearly three hours (169 minutes), it appears there is enough time for all this. Or isn´t it?
Especially the first half of the film is focused on the emotions and inner conflicts of cooper, not wanting to leave his family behind. We get camera shots of Cooper driving away for the rocket’s start, being unable to cope with his love for humankind and his own children.
Evening-filling masterpieces with more than 90 minutes of screentime have become more common in the last decade. Opera-like epics like Django Unchained, The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises, and Wolf of Wall Street are just a few which are breaking the 2,5-hour mark. But sometimes runtime can not compensate for slack storytelling. In this fashion, Interstellar takes up much time for close-ups and dramatic actions without using its dialogue time in a beneficial matter.

How interstellar tricks the curious mind

We as a spectator accepted the unclear marketing campaign of the movie. We followed the uncertainty of the crew interviews upfront as we knew that the movie will show something unique which should not be spoiled upfront. But sitting in the cinema and feeling the same vague explanations for the characters’ actions, the obscure statements of love being the only force traveling through space and time, and being left with confused interpretations of a 5-dimensional space-time control system inside a child’s cupboard, depicted on a 2D screen.
I understand it can be hard to keep up with my expectations as a viewer after I have seen the trailer. Another reason why I think movie trailers these days are not beneficial to the movie itself, but leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction was not what I was hoping for.
The curiosity of humankind cannot be stopped. It is what made us great, what made us into what we are today. The questions of what we will find inside a black hole cannot be answered yet. But this is what kept me enduring many of the not-so-scientific scientific statements of the scientists in the movie. I am curious, I want to be an explorer. So let me explore with you. It seems that the whole concept of the movie is based on this strong concept, but on the way wants to answer all the questions mentioned above. I felt confused about what the take-away message was and it is clear that this movie wants to transfer one.

How directors loosen their density in storytelling

In this piece of art, it is once again experienced, that great directors tend to explore much more abstract concepts as their acknowledgment advances. Maybe even losing something of their conciseness and true grit which made them into these great storytellers. As an example, we can explore the progress of George Luca´s Star Wars Saga Episode 1-3, Peter Jacksons’ dwarf comedy The Hobbit.
The same can be seen in Christopher Nolans Interstellar, who has shown the world what a true superhero noir thriller has to look like (Dark Knight Rises). Now exploring some more unstructured forms of cinema which doesn´t really know where it should put the main focus on.

Hans Zimmers amazing music for Interstellar

Supported by the hammering, earbuds exploding organ sound of fantastic mastermind Hans Zimmer which shoots us into space right at the beginning. His music helps to let time and space float and supports the scenes, by containing its own existence, separated from the movie.

Is the science of interstellar realistic?

Christopher Nolan hired scientist Kip Thorne to create the most accurate depiction of a black hole ever shown in a movie.

Spaceflight and a black Hole Gigantua in Christopher Nolans INTERSTELLAR
Spaceflight and a black Hole Gigantua in Christopher Nolans INTERSTELLAR


Black holes are so dense that even light cannot escape their gravity field, which makes it impossible to take a picture of an existing one. (Except scientists did.)

And since not even light can escape the attraction of this gigantic hole, a spaceship getting into the reach of its horizon would be spaghettified. (Compare Subpoint 5)

The science in interstellar is not completely false, but it is also not correct.
Like Alfred Hitchcock said: A Movie is not a slice of life, it’s a piece of cake because otherwise, it would be boring.
In my opinion Interstellar breaks at that point of slipping from real science into movie science. This could easily be done as we have seen before in Sci-Fi series over the last 3 decades like the beam in Star Trek or the vague explanation for the upside down in Stranger Things. “Thank you for smoking” puts it to the point when our main character Nick Nailer tries to figure out how to be capable of smoking in zero gravity. (1:15 – 1:30)
A great way to have viewers not wondering about the physic stuff in science fiction movies is to not really use real physics and to explain complex things by inventing an explanation. Thank you for smoking shows this quite eloquently.

To me, a movie has to decide which path it is going to choose. Is it a Sci-Fi movie, that shows us how the world could be, or does it want to be a slice of life?
Maybe Interstellar was too good in interpolating the now into the future and describing a world that is possible. But since it seems so realistic its unnatural parts shook me off and dragged me out of the story itself and here I am nagging about the accuracy of the physics. No one would talk about the crystals from the planet Ilium that powered the lightsabers of the Jedi in Star Wars, because it is fictional and we all know it.

Conclusion

Christopher Nolans Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway is by far one of the best Sci-Fi dramas I have seen in the last years.
Well, you wouldn´t have guessed my good opinion about this movie.

Despite everything I have said I remember coming home after I saw the movie in the theatres and starting to write this review.
I was so baffled by what I had seen that I could not sleep until my thoughts were laid out on paper. Was it the best movie I had ever seen or was it the worst? Am I going to recommend it, or just tell everybody it is crap and they have to see it because it is so bad?
In the end, I talked to many many people about it, I read and wrote reviews, I rewatched it several times, and listened to the soundtrack a lot.
What makes a good movie good? In this case, it is bringing people together. Connecting them through time and space by letting me call my friends the next day to ask them if they have already seen it.
My life was moved by this movie. In some way or the other, and who knows I would have been married to my wife if I had not seen interstellar that night…
Of course, I would!

Stay curious,

Benedikt

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