"Do not go gentle into that good night"
Dylan Thomas’ inspiring words fuel Interstellar‘s momentum. Michael Caine recites this poem frequently throughout, highlighting the responsibility of mankind to “rage against the dying of the light.” This is what Interstellar is all about, the tragedy of humankind’s near extinction and the determination in duty of a select few individuals to explore beyond the boundaries of our solar system in search of a habitable planet and light a beacon of hope for mankind’s survival. Utilising the discovery of a wormhole within our solar system four brave space explorers set out on a mission not to save the world, but to evacuate it.
Granted there are elements that could be picked apart for scientific inaccuracy or plot holes that could be sneered at but Nolan’s films are so epic in scope and scale that we are allowed the freedom to explore. To explore our own understanding of what is being presented in front of us without feeling patronised or embarrassed that we have no idea what he is talking about. None of us came out of Inception immediately identifying its weaknesses because to be frank its strengths far out weighed those pesky plot holes, and even if we could draw on its weaknesses why would we want to detract away from such an original screenplay. Perhaps only to make ourselves feel a little but more important and boast about understanding the complexities of inter-dream travel? No one but Cobb really knows what is happening.
What Interstellar achieves though should not be taken lightly or torn apart by theoretical physics, after all it is a theory and while not necessarily open to manipulation there is certainly room for imaginative embellishment (I’m sure ‘W.I.R.E.D’ or other such magazines will do the honours for me). A black hole may tear us apart in real life but without anyone knowing the true potential of what lies beyond the blackness we can never be fully certain, which leaves an excellent opportunity for a filmmaker such as Nolan to come along and explore the possibilities. For the sake of a movie spectacle I have no qualms with Nolan over the possibility or plausibility of interstellar travel nor the grandeur with which he pulled it off for that matter. Besides, for all its build up as a science fiction epic it only fulfills this necessarily to fit the genre casting. What it really presents are themes of love and tragedy. Combine these two elements with a 2001 inspired soundtrack and you have yourself one heck of a motion picture.
The references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey don’t stop there though. The centrifuge architecture of Professor Brand’s Plan A space station reminisces of Kubrick’s ‘Discovery One’ and it was revealed to Empire magazine that the robot assistants, TARS and CASE, on board the ‘Endurance’ in Interstellar were inspired by Kubrick’s mysterious cuboid monolith. In a way I’m glad Nolan hasn’t tried to create something truly original. It is clear how much passion and nostalgia was put into the production of Interstellar and while unorthodox for a film of this stature and anticipation to draw so heavily from the past it was refreshing to see the old science fiction greats reincarnated in the modern age.
On more than one occasion I caught myself with a smile of admiration on my face as I intercepted Nolan’s science fiction references. One shot in particular caught my eye. We see a little white dot travelling through the vastness of space with a planetary backdrop. This simple shot highlights both the magnitude of the underpinning theory of relatively whilst also capturing the burgeoning monumentality of both Cooper’s mission and the Lazarus mission before it.
Relativity is brought up on a number of occasions by the ‘Endurance’ crew and it is partially explained to an extent that satisfies on a need to know basis. As an audience we need to be made aware of the complexities of space travel none more so than relative time. Explained in simple theoretical terms we never really grasp the true physical nature of the beast until one startling scene that puts it into perspective. It has its moments of awe but a more nuanced approach was sacrificed for the sheer scope of Nolan’s vision. While some moments are captured effortlessly some of the more promising moments were poisoned by a spoon fed approach to storytelling, “here comes the train.” In a way the less ambitious a science fiction film is the more it has to play with subtle ideas, take Moon for example. Duncan Jones achieved an incredibly smooth and deep science fiction film on a budget of $5 million. Interstellar‘s budget comes in at a stratospheric $165 million.
For that money you’d expect a film of Interstellar‘s anticipation to deliver, but were we wrong to hold such high expectations? Absolutely not. I’m not sure why it has received mixed reviews, the lowest so far coming from The Guardian with a questionable 3*. I suppose if you aren’t a fan of science fiction then I would probably avoid it but simultaneously I can’t honestly bring myself to advise people to avoid this film, not without a meteoric cloud of guilt hanging over my head. It’s a marvel of modern cinema that finds its roots in the classic science fiction of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff and although not intimately original it still manages to launch Nolan’s reputation into a galaxy beyond explanation.
A modern epic on par with classical science fiction films is a Must-see modern marvel that deserves a suitably high rating. Matthew McConaughey is outstanding and the supporting cast put in an incredible shift to propel the ‘Endurance’ out of this world (a poignant name given the length of the film and the desire to extend mankind’s existence). As time ticks by I was pleased Nolan didn’t dwell on the unecessaries that some films focus on. For example, when Cooper leaves his family and his home Nolan ties it in nicely with his launch from Earth, both saving time and symbolising Cooper’s desire to return home as quickly as possible. My initial reaction in the cinema was that of disappointment with the editing which felt a little simple at times. But in hindsight the simple things achieve the greatest results. After all we were expecting a space epic but no one would want to sit through hour after hour of Cooper drifting through space.
This modern science fiction epic, a joint venture from Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, brings us back to earth with an honestly hard hard-hitting story of sacrifice and bravery that transcends both time and space to bring us as close as we will ever get to the tragedy of interstellar space exploration.
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