Despite all the awful reviews for Christopher Nolan's new film, Interstellar, I decided to give it a shot and watch it in IMAX. I felt that a movie about space travel really deserved to be seen on the really big screen.
While I'd have to agree that Nolan's film has it's problems, I was genuinely interested in what was happening on screen. The action scenes were very well done, the images very engrossing, and the science not completely Hollywood. Clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes, the movie's a hard sell to regular audiences, though, and I'd agree that most won't get as much bang for their buck as I did.
Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA test pilot who is grounded after a worldwide blight kills off most of the staple crops. Facing a serious food shortage, the world's focus shifts. As someone tells him, "The world doesn't need any more engineers. We didn't run out of planes and television sets. We ran out of food."
His daughter (later played by Jessica Chastain) stumbles on a mysterious message that gives him coordinates to a former NORAD base where the remnants of NASA are now based. They've found a black hole near Saturn and say there's another galaxy with habitable planets on the other side. They're going to colonize those planets, and Professor Brand (Michael Caine), tells him that they need a pilot.
Wanting to save his daughter and everyone else on the planet, Cooper agrees to lead the mission and pilot the ship through the black hole and survey the other planets. Meanwhile, Brand will work on the math that will allow them to pass back through the black hole from the other side and back into our galaxy.
It's a convoluted plot, with a lot of extra material, but the set pieces really keep you at the edge of your seat. Unlike Godzilla, I'm willing to wade through the filler material because when they get to that next action sequence, it's so worth it.
The part I love the most about Interstellar is the fact that it's another movie from a filmmaker who is of the opinion that space exploration is a good thing. It's made obvious through the script and through the fact that much of this is based on real science (though probably not as much as most people think).
When I watch it, I can't help of think of Buzz Aldrin's GET YOUR ASS TO MARS shirts and the mentality behind it. Space exploration was such a huge part of our goals when I was growing up but now it's fallen by the wayside. The space program was huge, every kid dreamed of being an astronaut and the guys who walked on the moon were heroes. We dreamed up stories about aliens and supermen, and wondered what was up there.
Now we just hear about moon landing conspiracies, and anti-vax propaganda, and intelligent design.
But here's a movie that actually rejects beliefs like that flat out. It's saying that there's stuff out there to see. There's a whole world above our heads. Billions of worlds. The entirety of creation.
And that's pretty cool.
As I've said, it's not a perfect movie. The script is at times really heavy handed, and at other times just plain terrible.
There are scenes that are just plain clunky (Anne Hathaway's love-is-the-key speech, and Matt Damon's I-can't-watch-this tirade come to mind) and characters that should have been removed entirely (Casey Affleck as Cooper's son is basically a plot device and can easily have been lifted out). The cutting between Team Earth-that-was and Team To-Infinity-and-Beyond can also get pretty tiresome.
The science is also not as sound as the marketing would have you believe.
Yes they were able to visualize what a black hole might look like if you were close enough to the event horizon (ooo, haven't watched that in a while) to see it, but a lot of the mechanics of time dilation and gravity wells, spaceship design, tidal forces, and planetary dynamics are just... messed up.
For instance, how the are THREE habitable planets blithely orbiting a fucking black hole closely enough to be within a few hours travel time away?
Look, a black hole sucks things in. Sucks everything in. From very very far away. If you've got a planet orbiting it, then it must be very very very far away. If it takes two years to reach Saturn by the movie's timeline, then it should be at least that long to reach the planet on the other side.
Plus, though they could orbit a black hole, and let's assume that the forces in the accretion disc gives off enough light and heat to put a planet in the Goldilocks zone, how is it not being bombarded by insane amounts of radiation?
Also, how is the black hole not eating Saturn? And not messing with the orbits of our own solar system? It's right there in the middle. It should have eaten Jupiter or something.
Or Uranus (insert immature giggling here).
But all that is beside the point. The movie is science fiction that is well informed by science, but not beholden to it. It's artistic license with the laws of nature. While the geek in me hates the fact that the science isn't "cannon", the geek in me also loves that they made this movie.
Watching it also reminded me of the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crash from a week ago. I hope that they don't stop trying to get there.
I hope that someday we'll all get to see what else is out there.