Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar (2014)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Cain, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn 

I’ve always been interested in the far reaches of space, because to me, it’s out there where the greatest mysteries lie. Where does the universe end and what is out there in the vastness of space? And of course, the big one is: are we alone in the universe? I can go on and on formulating questions about space, because that’s all it is, one big question, one gigantic mystery. Which is why I love movies like Interstellar; they play with the idea that the universe begs to be explored. Why the hell isn’t an effort being made to truly explore the universe? Why isn’t a huge spaceship being built for humans to travel through space for long periods of time like in Star Trek or The Black Hole (1979)? I mean, I don’t think that idea is that farfetched. Instead, as of 2014, funding has been cut for NASA, so there’s less of an interest in space exploration, at least from the government’s point of view. Their logic is being that we have more pressing problems to deal with down here on earth; space exploration isn’t really a priority for the United States right now. Sigh. But anyways, at least we can toy with the idea through films like Interstellar.

On this film earth is being ravaged by dust, huge dust storms are engulfing the earth and its becoming mighty hard for humans to live here, everyone is getting sick, coughing, dying. But worry not! The scientists at NASA have discovered a black hole near Saturn. They've sent astronauts through it and discovered that said black hole can lead us to another part of the universe with 12 possibly habitable planets.  But all connection with these astronauts has been lost, and so NASA has decided to send a second mission to see if they can reconnect with these lost astronauts and at the same time explore the planets, to see if it is at all possible to start life in them. Their ultimate goal is to save the human race from extinction. Is this mission a one way ticket to hell? Or will the astronauts get to come back home to their families? Is humanity destined to disappear?

I’m a huge science fiction buff, and while watching Interstellar, I couldn’t help and notice how much the filmmakers borrowed from Arthur C. Clarke’s novels. You see, it just so happens that I’m a devout Arthur C. Clarke reader, I’ve read a lot of his work and well, I just couldn’t help seeing how the guys responsible for Interstellar borrowed heavily from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. They even borrowed a bit from the ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ novels, especially when it comes to a cylindrical spaceship that has an artificial sun and an entire community living in it. Landing on a planet made up of a gigantic ocean was seen in 2061: A Space Odyssey, the idea of a man from another era waking up years later to encounter an evolved humanity was swiped from 3001: The Final Odyssey. The robots in the film, which look like walking, talking monoliths are a big wink to fans of 2001; but this was all done purposely, it is quite obvious that Nolan has a hard on for Arthur C. Clarke and his works, so when you watch Interstellar, expect a film with Arthur C. Clarke’s DNA engraved deeply into it.

And it’s not just from Arthur C. Clarke’s books that Nolan borrowed heavily from, he also took a bit from  Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), both films are similar in structure. We have super intelligent computers able to think for themselves, we have astronauts going up into space to explore a mystery, we have that whole idea that we are going to be entering and exploring a place never before seen by humanity, “boldly going where no man has gone before”. We even get a scene like the scene in 2001 in which David Bowman goes inside The Monolith and the film turns into this visual trip. So yeah, both of these films share many similarities, there’s even some visual references to Kubrick’s film, but I’ll let you guys spot those.

The biggest mystery in Interstellar is of course, the black hole which the astronauts must traverse. Black holes have always been a mystery to me as well; at one point I started to ask myself, are these things real? I mean, sure we've all heard about black holes, and most of us believe they exist, but has anyone actually ever seen an actual black hole? No, we haven’t. We simply have an idea of what it could be. Much like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where we have this strange and mysterious monolith floating up in space, we also have a strange space anomaly in Interstellar: the Black Hole. From what I hear, Nolan enlisted on the help of a physicist in order to get the whole concept of black holes and worm holes as accurate and scientifically correct as possible. From a visual angle, the whole black hole/worm hole thing looks fantastic, it is obviously a highlight of the film. On the other hand, when the film starts talking about fourth and fifth dimensions, relativity theory and multiverses, things might get a bit convoluted for some, but you won’t be able to deny that visually, it’s stunning. I did manage to hear an “I don’t get it” from the audience.

As far as entertainment value goes, well, there’s lots of spectacle here, but let me tell it to you straight, this films emphasis is on teasing your brain, it’s more of a cerebral picture, it likes to explore ideas hardly explored, it likes to go places we haven’t been before. I mean, sure we’ve seen movies that depict black holes before, for example The Black Hole (1979) and Event Horizon (1997), but none of these movies have shown us a scientifically accurate portrayal of one, and here we got Interstellar to do that. The movie is a love letter to Arthur C. Clarke, and really there’s no better sci-fi author that Nolan could be ripping off from. What I would like for Christopher Nolan to do, because it seems to me after seeing Interstellar that he’s one of the most qualified to do it, is direct a film based on Clarke’s Rama novels. Now those movies really do tackle the mysteries of the universe! A movie based on ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ has been planned for years now, but as I type this, it’s still in development hell. So anyhow, what we got here my friends is one of the best films of the year, if you enjoy films that dabble in philosophy and the mysteries of the universe. Me? I’m a sucker for the mysteries of the universe because if you ask me, it’s those big mysteries we should always aim to know more about. 

Rating: 5 out of 5


Mette said...

YAAAY 5 stars for my favorite film of the year!

Franco Macabro said...

It totally deserves it! I'm going to be writing up my "Best of 2014" article this week and you can bet Interstellar is going to be on it!


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