Interstellar written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan and directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, PG-13, 169 min)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, and Matt Damon.
What Would You Do for Love?
Certain research posits kinship as a powerful actor that compels people outside of self-interest. If I unpack this idea a little bit, these people suggest the standard setting for human beings is selfishness. We act out of interest for the things that provide the most pleasure to us. When it comes to presenting a positive or helpful demeanor to other people, there’s a chance this person will recognize the common humanity in the other, but if it’s a random person, it is doubtful altruistic actions follow.
But, if the other represents a family member, or most applicably a son or daughter, that bullet gets taken for the team every time.
Some suggest this reason coincides with our desire to see our children and our children’s children live on. Some say this physiological response is a love that surpasses understanding. Interstellar forces us to consider such questions of love and sacrifice.
Sci-Fi in Three Acts
Interstellar tells the story of humanity’s search for a new home in three acts. At some time in the future, Earth has suffered from a catastrophic parasite called the blight. In the wake of this issues, humanity finds it exceedingly difficult to grow crops.
Act one finds our main character and former NASA pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) toiling in subsistence farming with his family. His young daughter feels haunted from an unknown force in her room and during one of the many debilitating dust storms that plague civilization, Cooper discovers this poltergeist is a gravity anomaly that provides him coordinates to an underground NASA bunker.
Upon visiting this bunker, Cooper discovers his old teacher, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) and learns that the earth will no longer sustain life within a generation.
As luck would have it, however, an alien wormhole opened near Saturn 48 years earlier. Knowing extinction awaits, NASA sent 12 astronauts through the wormhole in search of habitable planets. 3 of these volunteers have sent back positive data about their planets.
Meaning in the second act, it’s time for a mission with a Plan A and Plan B. Cooper, should he choose to accept, will pilot a ship, Endurance, with Dr. Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and a couple other scientists. They are tasked with tracking down the astronauts sent ahead of them and confirming the possibility of habitable planets. If done quickly enough—the relative aging from traveling at near light speed will mean these travelers will age slower than those on earth—the expedition will return and bring the rest of humanity with them, provided the science can progress quickly enough.
If time is not on the travelers side, Plan B comes to fruition and 5,000 frozen embryos will be cultivated on this new habitable planet.
As a third act, Christopher Nolan goes philosophical, exploring the power of love through a scientific lens. Will the bond between a father and his grown daughter (Jessica Chastain) be what it takes to save humanity?
The Best and Worst of Nolan
Stunning visually and somewhat cardboard in its character development, Interstellar, bets on the auteur qualities of its visionary, Christopher Nolan. Much like his previous work, Interstellar contains a vast amount of good elements coupled with a handful of questionable or odd elements.
The name of Nolan’s dialogue game is exposition and that always cuts away the potential for truly human characters. Additionally, the science feels very akin to a high school physics class.
And worst of all, Nolan’s insistence on the ethereal power of love feels a bit odd given the genre.
But Nolan has moments that shine as well. As always, the film provides incomparable aesthetic pleasure. And certain scenes contain emotional wallop, like the time Cooper sits down to watch twenty years of messages from his family, even though he’s only aged a couple of hours.
What will we do for love? Interstellar wants you to answer that question.
Sadly, Interstellar will not represent Nolan’s gesumtkunstwerk but it’s an enjoyable film nonetheless.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5