It was a nearly surreal day at the local movie house when Sand and I went to see Interstellar. It seems that a group of women from a group dedicated to the fair and ethical treatment of Matt Damon had chained themselves to urinals in the men's restroom and were chanting "Hell, no, you can't go." A somewhat flustered theater manager was trying to redirect people to the restrooms at the other end of the building, while his assistant was trying to handle an altercation between members of a group of doctoral candidates from Buckley Theological Union and an undergraduate class of physics majors from Pacific State University. After a physics major had suggested in an overloud voice to his giggling classmates that theology students were sufficient proof that there was no such thing as "intelligent design," and one of the ABD's (All But Dissertation) suggested that the "Big Bang" was the nickname given to the physics major's mother by the campus jock frat, a minor physical altercation occurred. The offended physics major attempted to intimidate the ABD with a display of chest-bumping much like a major league baseball manager who rushes out to protest an umpire's questionable call only to have his entire box of recently purchased popcorn knocked from his hand and spilled on the floor. The beginning of the movie was actually delayed by ten minutes until everything had been sorted out and everyone was seated in the theater.
Once the film got started, we were told the story of the End Times: the earth is dying. The climate is becoming intolerable and the food crops are being destroyed by blight. Cooper, once a NASA test pilot, is trying to farm, but he struggles against the blight, the weather, the memories of a crash that ended his flying career, the decaying society that has turned in upon itself and stopped reaching for the stars, and not insignificantly, he is dealing with the death of his wife, a death he feels could have been prevented by the technology that society has turned its back on.
Against this dire setting, Cooper's young daughter believes that there is a poltergeist, a ghost, in her room, and that it is trying to communicate with her. Cooper, ever the scientist, pooh-poohs the idea of supernatural anomalies, but discovers that there is something strange going on and that in fact there is a message, one that leads him to a super secret base where the now covert remnants of NASA are working on a plan to save mankind. The plan includes exploration of the universe by traveling through a wormhole that appears to have been intentionally created near Saturn. Cooper, the old test pilot, is the perfect man for the job. Cooper must agree to go off on a years-long mission with the beautiful Anne Hathaway, two other guys, and a wise-cracking robot.
There is one catch: if he goes, the physics of space travel mean that he will age more slowly than those left behind, and his young daughter, who would have to grow up without her dad, hates the idea. She hates the idea so much that she accuses her dad of abandoning her to pursue his own dreams, and in a heart wrenching scene, Cooper must go off to save the world knowing it is destroying his relationship with his daughter.
So with a dying world, a tantrum-ing daughter, and a rocket built in the government's basement, Coop sets off with the voluptuous lipped (but cool because she loves another) Anne Hathaway for a journey down a cosmic rabbit hole that even the curious Alice might be hesitant to enter.
As the story unfolds, the audience was tossed about. At first, as the tale of the dying earth unfolds, everyone is drawn in, except for the old fat Republican guy in the back row who kept denying that global warming existed and that things would be fine as long as we stopped wasting his money on Obamacare. Then, the physics majors nodded approvingly at the presentation of scientific theory while the ABD's tossed popcorn at the screen in protest of Coop's pigheadedness in refusal to accept that there were things beyond the reach of science. These same ABD's would later be weeping appreciatively into their popcorn as the ruby-lipped Hathaway holds forth on the mystery of the power of love despite her scientific pedigree, and the physics majors hooted and moaned in frustration as the film looses its grip on scientific fact and enters the realm of speculation.
I make light of this story, but do not be misled -- this is a very, very good film. It is ambitious and well written, it is visually arresting, it challenges the audience to think not just about cosmic possibilities but also about the human condition, and it is never boring.
I don't happen to think that it is director Christopher Nolan's best film. It is, in the final analysis, a time travel story, and time travel stories are inherently dangerous to tell. Since the resolution of any such tale relies entirely on speculation, for the story to work the story teller must convince the audience that their own particular vision of space-time is real. It is like the chef who prepares a lasagna -- he is competing with the diners' preconceptions of what is good. Being different is not enough, because being different simply means it is not what was expected. Instead, the chef must convince the diner that his own vision of lasagna is what lasagna was meant to be.
Nolan's film Inception succeeded brilliantly in presenting a fresh idea in a way that contained a flawless internal logic. If the actions depicted in the movie were even remotely possible, they would unfold according to Nolan's laws of physics. In Interstellar, it is possible to walk away from the movie with the feeling that maybe it might not really have occurred that way.
The cast was great. Matthew McConaughey was brilliant as Cooper, Michael Caine seems simply to improve with age, Hathaway and Chastain perfect for their roles. Hans Zimmer's music continues to reach into the soul of the story as well as into the listener's heart.
This also happens to be one of those movies whose scale and power are best experienced in a theater on the big screen and through the big sound systems. You'll appreciate it on your television in the future, but I would recommend that you don't miss the opportunity to see it now. It is definitely worth the price of admission.
And Matt Damon, he did good, and there were no Matt Damons harmed in the making of this film despite what you may hear in the Men's Room.
When I first saw the movie poster for Interstellar, I figured it was going to be another cheesy sci-fi mess that Hollywood likes to churn out, so I wasn't very keen on seeing it. But then Jessica Chastain's name popped out at me from the list of actors at the bottom of the poster. I'll go see just about any movie she does, so Interstellar went on my list of must-sees.
I certainly wasn't disappointed with any of the acting; as Bernie has pointed out, the cast was wonderful. And visually, Interstellar is a stunner.
But the greatest impact on me was the movie's portrayal of solitude, of emptiness. You know how you imagine another world -- aliens, strange plants and creatures, new technology. And yet we don't have to imagine how another world looks -- there are plenty of pictures of the Moon and the planet Mars. Look at them: there is nothing there, except for the junk we've thrown at them. Interstellar captures that barrenness, where as far as you can see, you're alone, with no resources to help.
What does that kind of alone-ness do to people? Interstellar gives us some pretty grim scenarios. And it's something to consider in our world today: people are already signing up for a one-way mission to Mars.
I felt Interstellar was a terrific movie, so deep in layers that it's going to take many viewings to get a grasp of all of it, so I will own this one on DVD as soon as it comes out.