I do not know about you, but to me, about 90% of the movies you can see in cinemas nowadays are dull. I know that it is mostly about popcorn and soda, hanging out with friends, and having fun, but in my 30s, I still cannot get rid of the idea that a movie should be not just about visuals and the wow-effect, but also about deep emotions and contemplation. I believe movies should be thought-provoking, dramatic, even hard to watch sometimes. Okay, I know that I am sounding like a grumpy grandpa, and I do value entertaining movies, but I hate the fact that it is difficult to find a serious and dramatic film.
Anyways, today I am reviewing a movie that has been living in the warmest and coziest corner of my heart since 2014: Interstellar. Although there are hundreds of reviews written about it and thousands of lances broken over its scientific credibility, I still feel like there is something more to say. This review is going to be more of a reflecting glance, a contemplation, rather than an overview of well-known facts.
I remember the impression I got from seeing the movie’s poster for the first time. It felt like Interstellar was going to be about a great discovery, an epic voyage. From the first glance, it was evident that Nolan was not about making a “pew-pew laser spaceship” film. I felt interested, but somehow I missed the whole Interstellar hype train—so all the fuss about Kip Thorne’s participation in the production process, scientifically-credible visualizations, and other advertisements passed by me. I had more of a benevolent but neutral attitude—something like, “Well, I hope they make a nice story out of it.” On the premiere night, I had better things to do, and even two weeks after it, I remained the last person among the people I know who had not seen the movie yet.
I swallowed the bait when one of my friends posted on Facebook: “Interstellar is like Kubrick’s Odyssey, only filmed in 2014.” In my book, I would not compare Nolan’s work to Kubrick’s masterpiece, but I liked the movie. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched it three times: twice in two days, and once more a week after.
Interstellar gave me the same feeling I had when I was reading Asimov or Bradbury in my teen years: a powerful romantic sensation of conquering new, unknown frontiers. I love the word “frontiers”—to me, it is always about distant and uncharted places, and this is exactly what Interstellar is about. It is about almost reckless courage, self-denying dedication, and a desperate search for a better future. It is a movie about love and seeing all your hopes crumble. It is about revealing a truth so grand that one’s mind cannot grasp it.
And in the second turn, Interstellar is about black holes, gravity, and crying Matthew McConaughey in space.
Perhaps you already know the plot, but if you do not, skip the following two paragraphs.
Due to the emergence of a malicious bacteria, Earth is slowly dying. People cannot grow enough food, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is gradually decreasing, and the world is gradually plunging into dust and ruin. In a situation like this, scientific research aimed at anything but humankind’s survival is considered unnecessary and gets banned. The main characters, Cooper (McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, and his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) live on a farm, struggling with dust and growing crops. Murphy is regularly witnessing strange things in her room: weird dust patterns, books falling out of a bookshelf on their own, clock hands acting unnatural. She tells Cooper about dust patterns; they discover that these are coded geographic coordinates. Following them, Cooper and Murphy find a secret NASA facility headed by Cooper’s former supervisor, professor John Brand. Brand tells Cooper about his plan to save Earth; he says that NASA discovered a wormhole near Saturn, which leads to another galaxy. In this galaxy, there are several planets humanity could colonize, thus saving itself from extinction. Three expeditions sent to the wormhole sent reports proving that at least one planet is suitable for life. Brand wants Cooper to participate in the expedition on Endurance spacecraft. This spacecraft will be carrying 5,000 embryos in criostasis; with their help, Brand hopes to colonize distant worlds and save humanity. The crew will consist of Cooper, two robots TARS and CASE, Dr. Amelia Brand, and two other specialists, Romilli and Doyle.
The planets Brand sent previous expeditions to are located on the event horizon of a gigantic black hole. Due to its enormous gravity, the time on these planets runs differently: one minute on the surface of a new world equals several years on Earth. Due to various misfortunes which I will not describe, the Endurance crew spends about 20 years exploring planets. Two of them are not suitable for life, despite the reports, and the ship does not have enough fuel to reach the third one. In order to reach it, Cooper offers a dangerous maneuver: using the black hole’s gravity, he hopes to give the Endurance enough velocity to get to it. The only setback is that Cooper and TARS have to jettison themselves off the Endurance, otherwise it will not be able to reach its destination. Cooper and TARS fall into the black hole. In it, Cooper finds himself in the fifth dimension, beyond the boundaries of space and time. He sees his little daughter Murphy in her room. Cooper is trapped. Desperate, he tries to call her, but she cannot hear him. He then realizes that he can affect matter across time with the help of gravity, so he leaves her messages in the dust. He suddenly realizes that it was him who was moving books in her room. He also realizes that the wormhole was opened by humanity in the future to help humans in the past. Cooper contacts Murphy (who is, in her time, a leading NASA physicist working on professor Brand’s equations), and with the help of her wrist watch, transfers her the data TARS collected in the black hole, and which she lacked in order to solve Brand’s equations. With them solved, humanity is able to invent gravitational propulsion engines for spaceships, thus making space colonization possible. In the end, Cooper meets Murphy, who is on her death bed.
End of spoilers.
To me, the movie was not about science at all. Yes, the visualization of the black hole looked beautiful, as well as the icy clouds and mile-high waves on the planets explored by the Endurance team. However, what truly touched and amazed me was how people managed to maintain connections with their loved ones despite enormous distances and distorted time. When Cooper returns to the spaceships after landing on one of the planets, he learns that those three or four minutes he spent on the surface equaled 23 years on Earth. Shocked, he views all the messages his family sent him during this time. Imagine how it feels: you leave your daughter when she is twelve, and in a couple of months (of your subjective time) you suddenly see her become a 40-year-old woman. McConaughey crying in front of the screen with his daughter talking to him—this is one of the best scenes in cinematography, in my opinion. Despite anything that happens to him, despite being trapped in an interdimensional…something, he still fights to see his daughter, because he promised he would return to her—and he does, if only to see her die.
The last time I cried when watching a movie was when king Theoden led his cavalry in a desperate attack against orc armies in Minas-Tirith (it is from “The Lord of the Rings”). Interstellar gave me the same feeling of witnessing something epic and eternal: the force and strength of the human spirit, hope, and love. I do not care about scientific credibility or factual mistakes made in the movie; I care about a beautiful story—and this is what Interstellar delivers in full scale.
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