by Lily Hoagland
Christopher Nolan’s new movie, Interstellar, is a visual masterpiece. Where its spiritual predecessor, Inception, took place in cosmopolitan landscapes, this movie took out the “-politan” and left us with a trip to the cosmos. Well, there and the dry farms on Earth which, though the precise location is never named, brings to mind the black-and-white home turf of a spunky gal named Dorothy. When huge dust clouds start rolling across the fields, you had to fight the urge to yell, “It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”
The story is set in a hopefully-alternate reality where there had been a worldwide food shortage, forcing the majority of the population to become farmers. Anyone who knows about federal farm subsidies would be unsurprised to learn that the main surviving crop was corn. But Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper was meant for more. He could’ve been a pilot. He could’ve been an engineer. He could’ve been a contendah. So when a mysterious force (gravity – yes, really, gravity is treated as a metaphysical MacGuffin in the story) eventually sends him on a secret mission to find a planet humans could relocate to, he quickly abandons his family to shoot for the stars. It was supposed to seem heroic, but between his lack of interest in his son, his half-assed show of guilt with his daughter (Mackenzie Foy, a noteworthy new talent to everyone who missed her “turn” as a vampire baby in Twilight) and vague instructions for his father-in-law (John Lithgow, who in another film would be glad this environmental catastrophe meant that no kids will be dancing in his town) it comes off as a tad deadbeat-dadish.
“In space, there ain’t no parent-teacher conferences.”
But who cares! There’s beautiful space to look at! And yes, the fantastical scenes are worth the hefty IMAX ticket price. The characters start taking a secondary role to the imaginary planets and Nolan’s brilliant use of silence in space. Interstellar delivers what the title promises, and the audience gets to feel like they’re seeing between the stars. Naturally, the human frailty of the astronauts starts to build the driving tension because of their solitude and the importance of their mission. They have to decide, alone, how to keep the human race going. Luckily, there’s a couple of wise-cracking robots to lighten the mood, as every space opera requires.
When it comes to the science, suspension of disbelief is not a strong enough course of action – full expulsion is better, with a note on the movie’s permanent record. Gravity, black holes, tesseracts: everyone’s favorite quantum terms are trotted out and explained without the sense that any character could go much deeper than what a 10th grade physics textbook lays out. But the audience isn’t trying for a PhD, so it’s best to ask as few questions as possible.
Interstellar is a movie worth seeing, at the very least because everyone will ask you if you’ve seen it yet, and what did you think the ending really meant, and do you believe in other dimensions, and isn’t Jessica Chastain so great? There’s also the fun trick of an unexpected cameo that is cleverly built up from the beginning, which hopefully nobody will ruin for you. It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking movie that may have plot holes the size of wormholes, but, like most Nolan works, is gorgeous and immersive.