Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Interstellar

2014, Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) -- cinema

I too often rag on trailers for being out of context caches of the best bits of a movie, often misleading and misdirecting. But the trailer for Interstellar was perfect, spot on, completely covering what the movie is about. The dust bowl of the future, corn farming and the dialogue of Matthew McConaughey  explaining how we used to be explorers, in his best car commercial voice -- it sets the tone of the movie. The world is dying and he is going to leave his family so he can save the planet, but not really, for he is going to save his family. Skip comparing it to 2001, it is its own device, its own view of leaving the planet.

Surprisingly the movie is not really about exploring the stars, nor much about the wonder of space. Its about saviours. The movie is not focused on new journeys via new technologies to unseen stars. That is an element of the movie, but not its focus. Despite the monologue, and how I just said it was spot-on, the movie focuses on even bigger pictures -- the survival and progression of the human race.

So, we have earth in a not too distant future. Or maybe very distant, as they have succeeded in creating and have already abandoned working AIs, because technology is no longer where its at. Growing food is. The blight has come along and wiped out just about every planet material, except corn and okra. Okra's on its last days. The soil is tainted and in the deaths of plants, all plants, said soil turns to dust and blows into our atmosphere making world wide dust storms reminiscent of those during the Great Depression. The world is winding down, most of its population gone and very little to look forward to.

Yet people live on. McConaughey is Cooper, a pilot, engineer now farmer. He keeps his neighbours robot tractors working. He steals solar panels from automated Indian surveillance drones to power his farm. He rails against his son being denied university, so he can become another farmer. He loves his kids dearly. They work, farm, drink beer (synthesized?) and don't ponder the long way off, just the next day. But circumstance and a bit of mystical intervention leads Cooper back to his old job, to pilot a starship. They are to check out three likely planets that previous ships have been sent to. Maybe one will hold life, one will take on the remainder of Earth's people. Maybe. But he has to leave his family behind, he has to travel for unknown years (space still is made up of long distances) and he has to go through a worm hole. His family is devastated. So is he.

The first act of the movie focuses on Cooper and his family and what he is leaving behind. The second act is the journey, the worm hole and the new planets. But unlike a solidly exploratative movie, it still plants itself firmly with Cooper's objectives. Sure, there are really cool AI robots, imposing distant planets and weird space-time anomalies and edge-of-black-hole time bending, but the movie rests itself on Cooper's goal to get this done and get back to his family. And love. I fell into this vortex, wrapped up in these emotions. But the purely logical part of me wrestled with some of the decisions the people make, that are solely based on emotion and not the reams of scientific data they are presented with. That is the point, the theme as you may have it, of the movie. Science only carries you so far; the rest has to be left to faith.

The third act is where all the 2001 comparisons come from as it takes a precisely mind-bendy turn into advanced physics and extreme science as magic. It does away with our reality and lets Cooper's emotions take hold of everything. And lead the entire planet along a path focused on love.

Yes, I loved the movie. It looked good, sounded good and drew me in. I highly recommend.