Interstellar – review & initial thoughts
I’ve seen a few reviews suggesting it’s too long, too loud, too pretentious, that it’s just an homage to 2001. But I don’t think that’s fair, as the movie caters to an audience that wants to more than cartoonish robots and Yet Another Superhero Movie. There’s also a generation of us that grew up watching people go up into space, and seeing the last Space Shuttle landing felt like we’d lost something that motivates our drive to explore.
On the surface, it’s about a dying earth prompting a need to get back on that space saddle and find a new home. This is enabled by the discovery of a wormhole hanging around Saturn, which leads to a new galaxy and all kinds of adventure. But the core story is much simpler and probably more profound than any meaning that was extracted from Kubrick’s movie.
When we had our first daughter, my first thought after the initial joy and relief was a sense of responsibility and protectiveness. An inkling of all the things she would face in her life growing up, including the struggles due to her being born a girl rather than a boy. A couple of days later, my wife asked her Dad, “When do you stop worrying about your kids?” “Never.”
This is what Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer have described as the the core fable at the heart of the film, and it’s what made me weep in the cinema, that still makes me tremble as I listen to the soundtrack. Everything else doesn’t matter, even the apparent plotholes. It’s about our fear of death and what drives us as parents, and as a civilisation. The crushing force of knowing that, as we age, we get both closer and further away from our children, and there will be a singularity we must face from which we can’t communicate back to them. This resonates more with me than perhaps your typical movie reviewer for a couple of reasons. There are days when I can’t resolve arguments with my daughter before we go our separate ways. And the notion that there could be some freak accident that means we never see each other brings a great pain. My Dad died (drowned in a freak wave, no less) when I was a kid, so the emotional scenes tear me apart by two powerful forces: knowing how he must have felt, knowing he wouldn’t see me or my brother grow up, and my sense of loss that he’s not here to see his granddaughters and all the marvels of the world we live in.
The rest, the spectacular models, the attention put into rendering the wormhole, black hole, accretion disk and the planets, the handheld IMAX camera work, the costumes, the robots, all of this is scenery to this fable. The soundtrack is crushingly loud, drowning out the dialogue at times and I think it’s supposed to make you grab your ears, draw arms and legs in and beg for it to stop.
Go, see the film, and in full IMAX if you can. Cover your ears when you need to. Scoff at the plot holes. Perhaps the whole story is just a dying Cooper on 75% honesty.