Film Corner: Interstellar


image of a small planet outside a massive black hole, from the film Interstellar

So, I saw Christopher Nolan's new film Interstellar this weekend, and I wanted to open up a thread for anyone else who saw it and would like to talk about it. And let me be very straightforward about the fact that it's definitely a polarizing love-it or hate-it kind of film, and I've already seen huge flamewars (!) over this film in other spaces, so let's all go into the discussion with a resolution to respect opposing views.

I fell into the love-it camp. The film is very weird and very beautiful. I saw it in IMAX (not 3D, because no thanks), and it was visually one of the most epically stunning films I've ever seen. I also liked the story, for the most part.

Which is not to say the film is without its flaws: It's US-centric; there are no major roles filled by women of color; it just barely, and not meaningfully, passes the Bechdel Test (I'll come back to that); some of the science is flawed; some of the plot is implausible; there was no Tom Hardy.

That last criticism is not one I'd normally make of any old director, but Tom Hardy was in Christopher Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, so I feel it's important to note that Nolan missed one of the most crucial scientific equations in making this film, which is:

Hardy > McConaughey

Anyway! Like Gravity, there's a potential that Interstellar might trigger people who get motion sickness with hand-held camerawork and/or very immersive shots of sweeping or spinning movement. It's not as intense as Gravity, but it's definitely something to consider. Seeing it in 3D likely enhances this effect.

Also: There were parts of the film during which the mixing was off, and the score obscured some important dialogue. I have a slight hearing impairment, but Iain also had trouble with certain scenes, and I've read that this is a problem with the IMAX print particularly. So that's another thing to consider, if you're trying to decide which version to see.

Although, for whatever it's worth, the occasional struggle I had to hear dialogue was worth seeing the film in IMAX for me.

Following comes plot spoilers, at least one of them a major spoiler, so you might want to stop reading here, if you don't want any spoilers.

Also like Gravity, Interstellar highlights the limitations of using the Bechdel Test exclusively to evaluate the importance of female characters. As I said, Interstellar does just pass the test, but blink and you'll miss it. Still: The entire film is centered around a male protagonist and his relationship with his daughter. (Dads, take your daughters to see this film!) And, unlike most father-daughter stories, she is not an only child. She has an older brother, with whom their father also has a good relationship, so this is not yet another variation on "daughter as surrogate son" story.

[Here comes a spoiler] One of the central theses of the film, which I have seen dismissed as a bit of fluffy silliness by countless (and usually male) reviewers, is an observation about humanity and love, delivered by Anne Hathaway's character. And McConaughey's protagonist is rather unreceptive, but she is ultimately proved right.

[Here comes a major spoiler] And, at the end of the film, McConaughey finds himself in a place that shares his name. He believes it was named after him, only to be informed that it is, in fact, named after his daughter.

YES. Yes.

I always seem to find progressive messages in Nolan films, where other people find conservative stuff, but it seems to me that Interstellar is a film about (US) humankind's history and our potential future. If McConaughey's character represents our past, our curious and adventurous and exploratory history, then his children represent our two possible futures. His son represents the desire to cling to an unsustainable way of life, even as it literally kills his wife and children. His daughter represents the desire to find new technologies and a new way of survival, even if that means leaving traditions behind.

There is more to say on this theme, but I don't want to give away too much.

We often see in films what we want to see. I saw in Interstellar a story about the importance of faith in our fellow humans, as a means to progress. Like!

Also: A really gorgeous film with tons o' space porn and amazing cartwheeling robots. Thumbs-up.

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