Film Reviews

INTERSTELLAR

By • Nov 8th, 2014 •

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Dazzling, frightening and thrilling. But the philosophical points – love and survival – are contradictory. Is the power of love always right? Is man’s evolutionary nature to live wrong if it is selfish?

I just finished reading Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality by MIT physics Professor Max Tegmark. Tegmark’s hypothesis is that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and an ultimate multiverse. The book unknowingly supports – in theoretical terms – my 14 years exploring reality with ayahuasca. Our multiverse supports many realities.

INTERSTELLAR begins in the Midwest, once called “the nation’s breadbasket”. That has changed. A global apocalypse – a Biblical dust storm – has destroyed all crops. Society is collapsing and governments can do nothing to feed their people. Out of the six billion people on Earth, only a few are still living. Soon they too will die. There is no science to stop the destruction. INTERSTELLAR does not address what is happening with Earth’s oceans and marine life, but human life is in the throes of going the way of the dinosaurs.

Let’s ignore the fact that countries would be going to war over grain warehouses. There will always be food to feed the rich.

This could happen. Like the Irish Potato Famine, the one facing us is called Ug99 and it threatens the wheat crop worldwide.

Ignoring the true socio-economic structure of humanity, INTERSTELLAR focuses on former NASA pilot Cooper (Mathew McConaughey), now a corn farmer. Corn was strong enough – up to now – to resist the dust storm so while everyone is dying of hunger, widower Cooper, his 10 year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), son Tom (Timothée Chalamet), and his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow), are living in a ramshackle farmhouse with comforts, books, school, and the Internet. But corn is losing its battle with the storm and life on Earth is coming to an end.

In an event that Murph considers miraculous, she finds a Morse-code signal that leads to Cooper finding a monolithic NASA underground base. Construction of this massive underground city went unnoticed. Who paid for it goes unanswered. They have been waiting for him. Ten years ago 12 teams visited 12 possible home planets – a sacrificial one-way trip for all the teams except the one planet that could be transformed into a ideal destination for Earth’s mankind.

Running the scientific work at the NASA underground base is Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who has a solution – leave Earth for one of the three planets explorers have deemed possible substitutes. Professor Brand is willing to sacrifice his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), to journey into space carrying frozen embryos to repopulate the host planet.

The space ship Endurance team faces a conundrum. Which of the three planets to visit?
Along with Cooper and Brand are two other astronauts, Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley). They are accompanied by TARS, a robot (voiced by Bill Irwin) that will make you yearn for HAL 9000.

Professor Brand keeps being obtuse by quoting Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. (Thomas uses the poem to address his dying father’s loss of health and strength and encouraging him to fight the inevitability of death. He wants his father to wage a war against death, using all his strength and power as long as he can, even when things are completely hopeless – humankind be damned?)

There is a clue in there, something about “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

The journey would take thousands of Earth years, but if the team, with Cooper piloting the Endurance, can harness a – wholly theoretical – wormhole, they can make it to other galaxies with ease.

Cooper’s daughter is furious that her father is leaving her. She is going to hold on to this grudge for decades while he suffers in the Endurance metal can.

Cooper joins the mission anyhow even though a message from a ghost or alien super-race – using Morse code – says “STAY”.

The Endurance goes to into the wormhole and when they come out of it, they are in a massive black hole. Then comes the hypothetical “singularity” and the absolute force of gravity.
Then there’s that pesky problem of “time.” Every hour they are on the other side of the wormhole, seven years have passed on Earth. Over two decades pass and Earth is still inhabited by humans. I thought mankind had just a few months left.

Murph (Jessica Chastain) as an adult is a scientist working with Professor Brand and still bitter and angry at her father even as she now understands why he went into space. Tom (Casey Affleck) is a stubborn farmer with a wife and children.

To discuss the rest of INTERSTELLAR is to delve deeply into spoilers. All I will say is that the plot twists and turns. INTERSTELLAR asks the questions: Do you follow your heart or your head? Yes and No. Do you follow your evolutionary purpose by living or is it better to die for others? YES and NO.
The film is devastatingly beautiful and thrilling. Directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Nolan and his
brother Jonathan, the screenplay has flaws.

The science, promulgated by Kip Thorne, one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity and an executive producer of the film, may be as accurate as any “theoretical” model can be, but INTERSTELLAR sags under the weight of the father-daughter imbroglio.
When Amelia Brand makes a crucial, important choice based on the power of love – that transcends space and time – over science, she is overruled. Does love win out? Sadly, not for Amelia. For Cooper, love triumphs.
When Cooper finally understands that he is on a one-way trip into space but will help save mankind, he is furious. He wants to go back to Earth even if it means a tragic end for everyone he loves. So self-sacrifice for humanity is trumped by Cooper’s need to get back to his children – he doesn’t care about the mission to bring homo sapiens to another planet.

I saw INTERSTELLAR in IMAX – the only way possible to experience the dazzling creation of a wormhole, black hole and a singularity. The worlds that Endurance visits are breathtaking thanks to the work of Hoyte van Hoytema, the director of photography, production design by Nathan Crowley, and the visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin.

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