Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interstellar

You should watch Interstellar. Because I’m going to write a follow-up article that will be full of spoilers I thought I’d get a quick non-spoiler review out there. 



Christopher Nolan has created one of the biggest and most encouraging movies of the past decade and this work, flawed though it might be, should absolutely be watched and appreciated on its own terms.

For starters, this is a beautiful film. That in itself should be all the recommendation the average person needs. Why should you listen to Beethoven, or see Michelangelo’s David ? Because they bring a certain amount of aesthetic enjoyment. For three solid hours, this movie creates arresting, mind-blowing imagery. 

Interstellar also represents a serious exploration of realistic science. While I’m not totally convinced that all of the science checks out, enough of it does to have kept Kip Thorne on as a scientific consultant. The parts that aren’t realistic are defensible in terms of extrapolation from existing science. In other words, this is not Guardians of the Galaxy (as much as I enjoyed that movie), and this is not a fantasy film. This movie does what I think Jurassic Park did, take a certain set of ideas percolating unseen in the scientific world and popularize them for the general public. Say what you want, I think that represents altruism. People passionate about paleontology knew about the warm-blooded dinosaurs and fleet-footed velociraptors for years before Spielberg ever put them on screen. But once that movie came out an entire generation of movie-goers began to view dinosaurs in a way more harmonious with modern thinking. 

In a similar way, Interstellar incorporates ideas such as time dilation, wormholes, and exoplanets that have been staples of science fiction for decades. But to have them displayed, framed and elevated upon an IMAX screen is another experience entirely. I refuse to be one of those sci fi fans that treats this art like some sort of walled private garden. The insights of speculative fiction and science in general should be shared and discussed by as many people as possible. Interstellar takes the concerns of hard sci fi and makes them accessible and real. 

Finally I would say you should watch it because the movie plain works. On a storytelling level. On an emotional level. I’m not sure it’s my favorite Nolan movie, but I do think it represents a step forward in his powers as a movie maker. Unlike his typical hermetically sealed puzzle-box style of film-making (Inception, Memento, and the Prestige), this movie opens up, offers characters unafraid of suffering and agonizing over decisions in a messy, complicated, human way. 

As I suggested, this movie is not without serious problems. Leaving discussions about the science to other more knowledgeable folks, I'd just focus on the quality of the ideas presented. While I enjoyed the rumination about individual survival versus the continuation of humanity, I think in places it could have been better handled. I don't have an issue with the sentiment as much as the periodically clunky dialogue. 

Also, parts of this movie feel retrograde. The world Christopher and Edmund Nolan created deliberately rolls back the technological development of their future, because of war and the hazily described Blight. Fair enough. But, compared to recent space opera such as Peter Watt's "Blindsight," I'm not sure enough was done to really explore the ramifications of artificial intelligence like the show-stealing TARS and CASE. The societies seem basically the same as  today. I guess what I'm trying to say is, Nolan's take on future humanity isn't weird enough

But those are quibbles. I'm sure if you watch it you'll find a few things that don't sit right or bother you, but the point is - watch it. We, as fans of science fiction, have a say on what is produced in Hollywood and beyond. If Interstellar is a success, more films like it will be produced. Who knows, that might just allow the creation of that Platonic ideal of a hard science fiction movie that pleases every single science fiction fan without reservation.

In the meantime, Interstellar is here and it's spectacular.
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