We’ve been asking ourselves this same question for decades: what is humanity’s and the earth’s future? As much as some passé, clueless members of society continue denying the evidence of global warming and other detrimental environmental changes, science shows that Earth won’t be able to sustain itself with the selfish manner in which humanity chooses to live. Then again, the fact that we act without further thought beyond our own self-interests is no revelation, but Interstellar herein shows the years ahead of heavy dust storms that riddle individuals with lung diseases and asthma (rising reports of asthma among people nowadays isn’t news either)–reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl, only to a considerably more dire extent.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) discovers that this planet will eventually die and that humanity will have to travel into the vast depths of the universe for a new home in order to survive. For humanity to continue, we need new discoveries—new pioneers. And so, Cooper is forced to leave his children behind in hopes of preserving their futures and thus launches into space as one of the best pilots left with a group of NASA explorers (including Anne Hathaway) to test the fascinating possibilities of space travel on a search for potential habitats where humans can continue their existence. In the meantime, his son and daughter (Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain in their later years, respectively) longingly wait for the chance that their father will perhaps one day return.
This monumental and optimistic tale is about the utter capability of mankind and the necessity for human progress. Sadly, with the way modern generations behave and also considering the mentalities of even older ones, Interstellar could’ve easily been a cynical view of our prospects, but nonetheless, this human curiosity and aspiration that has gotten us this far into the future—the myriad stupendous technologies and the astonishing discoveries—can only inspire us to carry that attitude forward. “We must think not as individuals, but as a species.”
As we see Cooper’s face inside a space helmet and a reflection of space’s vastness on the glossy visor, we’re immediately transported back to the ahead-of-its-time Stanley Kubrick classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Walking out of the movie theater with a brain currently under repair, I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that this generation now can proudly say they have their own 2001. On that note, it’s also fair to say that you’re intellectually helpless at that moment, and that Christopher Nolan’s latest insane conception has left you entirely perplexed. Interstellar is so compacted with abstract, intricate scientific theories and thought-provoking philosophical themes that it’s nearly impossible to wrap your mind around the film on a first viewing. Like 2010’s Inception (only to an even greater degree), while the first time wildly impresses you with grandeur and ambition, it will probably require a few more viewings to truly appreciate the sheer depth and genius of the package.
Unlike A Space Odyssey though, Interstellar is thankfully a lot friendlier to the mainstream crowd, and this is what I’ll always admire about Nolan as a filmmaker. His films are never just plodding visual treats that primarily exist to present a broad idea after idea. Those complicated concepts are also supported by an incredibly gripping narrative with an actually intelligible, generously scripted plot. It’s very well possible to sufficiently understand the overall story, the character’s motivations, and the conclusion here; it’s just the overly audacious and complex details behind and in between those plot points that truly open up the film to analysis years from now. The same way we scrutinize many Kubrick pictures even to this day, Interstellar might likely follow in that same vein with the probable release of numerous think pieces and fan videos that believe they finally have the full explanation to the movie’s events and ideas.
This surely being Nolan’s most divisive film, among critics and audiences alike, certainly might support that notion—like with so many classics, Interstellar could just be ahead of its time, only to be enriched in the eyes of many people years later. Beyond a narrative of incredible scope and ambitious structure, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s breathtaking cinematography immerses us that much more with real footage of the sky above and the camera’s movement that perfectly responds to the perilous, tremulous events that follow one another on this incessantly tense journey. We see wide beautiful shots of glaciers and the menacing, yet wholly alluring, sight of that constantly imposing, threatening nature of space (from the black holes to the gargantuan planets).
Hans Zimmer’s epically harmonic score (tamer/more minimalistic than his previous work with Nolan, yet more emotionally resonant) excellently establishes that grand wonder of space exploration but also the frightening thought of the sheer danger that makes the universe’s immensity. The reverberant sound effects and psychedelic visuals that accompany this grandiose adventure make for an unbelievable cinematic memory that will unlikely be replicated for decades to come. On the other hand, the film does face frustrating sound mixing issues—many moments feature loud music or sound effects that lengthily drown out dialogue. Especially given McConaughey’s nearly-whispering diction, this unfortunate technical element clearly doesn’t alleviate moviegoers’ confusion with the story in the first place.
Possessing a firm understanding of time dilation, or the theories of time relativity and quantum physics in general, will definitely assist the viewer for a more digestible experience. As many may know by now, Nolan avoids blatant fantasies and implausible science fiction, which means that—spoiler alert—you won’t be seeing aliens and laser guns here. No, what we have instead is an entertaining, extensive story that has a whole lot of elaborate science behind it—an actually intelligent blockbuster, imagine that! (Of course some aspects can be nitpicked by scientists and smartasses who’re simply looking to berate the film; just please remember it’s a film and not a science documentary.) Essentially, not only do the scientific theories within need further dissection but its themes and narrative components desperately do as well. This rare motion picture is a mind-blower in every sense of the word, but it also comes with questionable attributes.
The cast that exclusively boasts big, recognizable stars somewhat takes you out of the film, especially a surprise cameo later in the film. Instead of focusing on the characters and the disparate ideas they represent, the audience is most likely paying attention to the A-list actor who’s portraying them. In addition, some of these individuals also suffer from one-dimensionality that might appear too evil or too benevolent without moral complexity. At the end of the day, however, Nolan might’ve simply been too concentrated on personifying various ideas through these characters instead.
Interstellar’s emotional sincerity and poignancy (the sentimentality here is totally earned, though the profusion of crying might turn off some viewers) coupled with its uncompromisingly intelligent premise makes the film one of those stimulating experiences you’ll keep contemplating, reading up on science articles for assurance, and then anxiously going back for another viewing.