This week I saw a movie called Interstellar. You may have heard of it, because they have been running the trailers on most major networks. It is a movie about space, and farms, and love. I’m going to let you know right now: there will be spoilers in this article. That’s why it says “spoilers” right up at the top. I think people use that stupid, “Spoiler Alert!!” joke too often, but in this case I’ll try to be a good steward of the Internet and just tell you to jog on if you don’t want to read about the plot points, themes, and cast of Interstellar.
Note: #1, #3, #4, #9, #12, #13 are not technically spoilers. If you have time to figure all that out you’re a better murder-clown than me.
Now let’s kiss the sky!
There are 22 stars in the Paramount logo that appears right before the film starts. Keep that in mind, because it will be important later on.*
The closest recent comparisons to the movie are Prometheus and Cloud Atlas, while dipping back into the past you could see some 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of the ginormity of the shots. You might want to add in just a skosh of Solaris (which sucked –[FALSE! -Vince]) or a tiny bit of Benjamin Button. More on that later. Oh, and Contact because Matthew McConaughey says, “You’re telling me you’re willing to die for what you believe in?”. Not really, but you get the idea. They are both space movies with Matt.
People, random people I’m using as a straw man, have said this film is a “failure” or “confusing” or “inconsistent”. If you’ll allow me, for just a moment, to react to their reactions, then I will say they are a bunch of clowns. And not the cool types that murder either. The film is pretty good because of the massive ambition involved. When Nolan messes up a scene, at least he follows it up with a dude bending the fabric of space and time right after. Give my man some cred.
I’ve heard more than one person say they dislike Anne Hathaway. Why? She seems perfectly pleasant, and she has hair like a little pixie elf. In this film she’s okay. Not amazing, but certainly not as painful as …
Matt McConaughey has some terrible line reads here. Like, laughably bad. I still loved the movie, mind you, but I wasn’t sure why they needed my main man MM to get all cheddar sharp cheese on us. At one point he basically says something to the effect of, “We were meant to explore the stars”, and then throws his doe eyes towards the cosmos. Off-screen, you can hear someone throw up a little. Love is mentioned a few dozen times, and just how great ol’ love is, as if Nic Sparks invaded the Nolan Bros. brains for a few minutes. The points they are making are salient, but they aren’t deftly made each time.
The concept of time is played around with throughout the film, especially as to how it relates to gravity. If you want to read all about the science there, sort of to get ready for the movie, then here’s a link to National Geographic. To me, they did as well as they could with things that are basically unknowable. See: Ambition, Christopher Nolan.
Regardless of the imperfections here, this is a film about everything, and that’s impressive. I’d rather keep seeing C-Nolan films that wander around, as opposed to formulaic superhero films that never quite hit anything other than the focus-grouped middle. The main theme here is how gravity warps time. If you want to break down the themes of Nolan real quickly, and why wouldn’t you, here’s my take:
Interstellar: Time stretched and pulled by gravity, the fifth dimension, our perception of time and the sacrifice of exploration.
Inception: Conscious vs. unconscious, obsessive love and loyalty, the burden of familial ties.
Dark Knight Rises: Power to the people and the people don’t stop.
The Dark Knight: We live in a surveillance state.
Batman Begins: Do you have to become a terror to beat terrorism?
The Prestige: I want to do a movie with Scar-Jo, twins are the dopest magic trick ever.
Insomnia: People need to sleep more.
Memento: Memory is a fickle beast.
The billion dollar question is: Will audiences like this in the way that they did Inception and The Dark Knight? My guess is hell and then NAH. This little ditty is all of 2 hours and 50 minutes, and it continually eats its own themes like a snake. It has about 42 endings in a row. If you want to really ponder, this is for you. If you want some crazy visuals that make Gravity look like playing with Tonka Toys, then belly up. If you want something “fun”, then I’m not so sure. There’s a lot going on here, and some of it might not make any sense.
Anyone who knocks the science and plausibility of this movie deserves to be horse whipped. Actually, no, I really like horses, so what I mean is to take away everyone’s riding crops and use them on people who quibble with the science here. Almost everything Nolan gets into here is massively speculative and unknowable, so at that point I give him carte blanche. Blanche away, bro, blanche away.
Movie Spoiler time? Movie spoiler time!
Matt McConaughey is sent into space to determine if any other worlds are habitable (because a plant disease called “the blight” is taking out all the food). Two of the worlds are the highlights of the film. The first one is this huge ocean type place with 500ft waves.
These waves take out one of the crew, he’s too slow when they are trying to vacate the area lickety-split. One odd part is the use of tech here, there are a couple of robots who talk to the crew, do math, you know, the youj robot action. However, during Ocean World, they send one of the robots into action to save Anne Hathaway who is about to get crushed by a wave. And this thing rolls! But this leads to the question … why not use the robots in the first place to do all the physical work? Why send Anne Hathaway out into Thunderdome when you’ve got a perfectly serviceable go-bot? Curiouser and curiouser.
Did you know Matt Damon is in this movie?! I sure as hell didn’t. He shows up in the second world, the one with ice clouds. They’ve got this crypto-freeze water body bag system that suspends animation, and when they wake him, there he is, plain as day, Matt Damon. Doing Matt Damon stuff. In truth, he plays a deranged coward who just wanted to be rescued (which is why he sent word back to Earth that the planet was habitable like a jerk). Anyway, I’ve always thought that Matt D. as a villain really works. He did it in Talented Mr. Ripley, True Grit, and We Bought a Zoo.
I wish everyone could see this on the biggest screen possible. It is crazy in true IMAX, the six-story kind. There’s a scene where they ride through a singularity that’s basically like the better aspects of Star Fox. I might see it again. I haven’t been drilled that hard since grade school.
Only two people could have gotten this film made. Nolan … and … any guesses? Yeah, Jimmy C. Avatar-man could get a ham sandwich made by a bonobo in 30 minutes flat if he felt like it. But Nolan is in that class now too. Once you make a couple of billion dollar films people start cutting checks real quick like. Focus groups are for the other guy!
That said, there’s a slight homage to Titanic here as Matt McConaughey’s daughter, played by Jessica Chastain, eventually ages right past him (she’s like 120 or so, he’s still a pristine 40-something). She does that old lady scene where she says, “It was so long ago … so long ago”, while holding his hand. Brutal.
Casey Affleck is in this too, Good Will Hunting reunion up in this mug! But my guess is they never saw each other on set because Casey Affleck plays Matt’s son, all grown up, he’s a hardscrabble farmer (such hard scrabble, this one) who is doing his best to grow corn against the blight. Affleck’s character is problematic here as well, mostly because he’s asked to play a stump of a human. The job description here is “look whiney, but also not capable of moving your face”. Again, I did love this movie, but it’s weird where the blind spots are.
The huge problem is the McConaughey daughter, Murphy. Before she’s all growed up to be Jessica Chastain that is. She’s basically the worst example of a little human possible, crying over “daddy leaving” in a way that would make Italian soccer player blush. It’s not a good situation. The movie later does a pretty amazing job of tying it all back together, to play a redemption song, but that initial beginning arc still really stings. It could have been underplayed AND still been awesome at the end.
There’s a huge “Grapes of Wrath” element rocking here too. The film is set in the near future (surveillance drones exist) but everything is dusty. Dusty storms, Dusty from G.I. Joe, and people eating dust. The dust causes people to get messed up lungs. You get the idea. It’s not a nice place to live, and that’s why our intrepid explorers were sent forth to find us all a new place to live.
The central theme of the film, which you will be pummeled with, is the Dylan Thomas poem:
Do not go gentle into that good night /
Old age should burn and rave at close of day /
Rage, rage against the dying of the light /
It comes up four separate times, each meant to be sort of a “win one for the Gipper!” moment. It’s not a real tough message to decipher, it’s basically the idea that we all need to get mad and fight back. Against the dying of the Earth.
So now we’ve reached the point of no return, where we’re actually going to talk about the ending of the film. Do not proceed further, seriously now, if you have yet to see the movie or want to maintain any semblance of surprise.
#19 & #20
So, here’s the basic plot: The Earth is dying, the crops are dying. A mysterious gravitational force spells out coordinates that Matt McConaughey and young daughter figure out. This “force” will become a primary question mark throughout the film. Who was signaling? Why? Why in her bedroom? They call this character the “ghost” but the reveal here won’t happen until the end of the film.
Coordinates firmly in hand, they race off to find a clandestine NASA facility that’s working on PLAN A (getting the humans off the planet Earth to another habitable planet) and PLAN B (getting a bunch of fertilized eggs to a habitable planet). This is where Anne Hathaway joins the fray, she’s the lady scientist daughter of the main scientist heading up the research (Michael Caine, pronounced “my cocaine”). Caine sips some Fernet Branca and then discusses his plan with Matt McConaughey, to go check out some new planets. They’ve launched twelve people through a wormhole that “someone” has provided. Aliens? Maybe. Future humans? Possibly. Not really the point though, the goal is to take Anne and Co. through the wormhole to check out the potential planets. Matt McConaughey is a pilot from way back in the day who worked with Michael Caine in what would be the largest coincidence in history if it weren’t for the underlying theme that this all seems to be part of some larger plan. MM agrees to pilot the shuttle, and his daughter Murphy is super pissed with him. He throws the truck keys to the kid who will grow up to be Casey Affleck and tells him to “farm on, farm long”.
They launch the shuttle, shoot through the wormhole (which is awesome), and head to the first planet where a scientist has her beacon on saying “habitable”. Unfortunately, as it turns out, this planet is right next to a black hole … which will cost them seven Earth years passing for every hour they spend on the surface. This, as you can imagine, is a nightmare of a choice. They decide to head down and cost themselves the years, but they find out the planet murdered their scientist and the beacon was accidentally left on. The planet is basically composed of the nightmare scenes of The Perfect Storm, just giant friggin’ waves crashing down on your head. They scramble out of there, losing one crewmember in the process. Oh, and TWENTY-THREE FRIGGIN’ YEARS. Yep, they stayed on the planet so long that the scientist they left behind on the shuttle is sporting gray beard. He is very sad about the whole thing.
Then they’ve got a choice, as two more beacons say “habitable planet”. One of the planets has a former main squeeze of Hathaway’s on it, but he stopped broadcasting a while back. The other one is Matt Damon’s planet. There’s an argument about following your head (Matt Damon, still broadcasting) or your heart (Anne Hathaway’s F-Buddy). Matt McConaughey wins, and they head off to see Matt Damon. When they get there, the signs are great, Damon says he was super lonely but happy to see them, and the planet has air and water for humanoids. BUT HE’S LYING LIKE A RUG. McConaughey decides he’s going back to his family on Earth now that they’ve found the planet, so Damon takes him out for a little walk and tries to kill him because he wants to go home instead. McConaughey survives, with the aid of some quick thinking by Hathaway, and they engage in what is the greatest chase scene ever as they try to catch the last ride out of town that Damon has stolen.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, it’s become apparent that there never was a plan A. Michael Caine was just trying to give people hope so they’d help him build his shuttles and whatnot, his plan all along was to just have his daughter settle a new planet with the eggs. He confesses this on his deathbed, which makes Murphy, McConaughey’s daughter who is now all grown up and a lady scientist, extremely angry. There’s a lot of attention paid throughout the movie on how to reverse time, or change gravity to be able to bend time, and so on and so forth, this mystical formula that’s always just out of reach that the aliens (or future humans) want them to have.
Finally, it’s decision time for the sole survivors (the older guy was blown up by a robot). Do they head home? Or head to the Hathaway’s lover planet? Well, the decision is made for them as they don’t have enough fuel to go anywhere other than ex-boyfriend land. Unfortunately, to get there, they have to jettison weight which includes, you guessed it, Matt McConaughey. He sends Hathaway off to her destiny, much in the same way Clooney did for Bullock in Gravity.
Only THEN the true bonkers action commences. As he’s breaking apart in space McConaughey is taken through the singularity, or black hole, honestly it’s tough to keep track of the terms, when he’s delivered, through space and time, to a million different versions of his daughter Murphy’s bedroom. He’s the ghost. Whaaaat? The aliens (or future humans) are trying to rectify time and space to teach the humans how to evolve. Or survive? Tough to say. McConaughey feels like he’s stuck in hell, watching himself leave Murphy again and again. Finally, he figures out how to tell her the secret of survival through time travel by giving her binary commands through a watch he gifted her before he left. That probably reads a lot crazier than it comes off in the film. Then Matt wakes up in the hospital, and Murphy is old and wizened. With nothing left to accomplish, Murphy tells papa bear to head off to the Hathaway planet, maybe to see if she wants to bang. End credits. Whew.
So there you have it, the highs and lows of Interstellar. I’ll be interested to see what other folks think of it, I enjoyed the hell out of the film, but I can see where people are going to roll their eyes. Vince reviewed it here, and he’s at least 80 percent smarter than me, so check out his take too for the full GAMBIT OF EMOTIONS.
That’s all for now.
Laremy is on Twitter and has never met a sausage biscuit he didn’t like.