So it’s taken me rather a while to get around to seeing Interstellar.
I missed it when it was in the cinemas, mainly due to it being a stonking (Unnecessary? -Ed) 170 minutes long and simply being unable to find the time to spare to go and see it. But thanks to the wonders of home DVD, that has now been rectified.
When it came out I recall competing voices branding it either the triumph of modern science fiction cinema, or a waste of time. In my experience, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
But who knows? Maybe it is the best thing since 2001…
At some point in (Probably…. -Ed) the late twentieth century, the Earth is dying from crop blight. A one-time pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is enlisted into a last-chance mission through a nearby wormhole, to another galaxy, to find a new home for humanity.
Welcome to the McConassaince!
This, if we’re honest, is another vehicle in Matthew McConaughey’s rise to glory, hot on the heels of the Dallas Buyer’s Club. Here he’s a hotshot pilot relegated to farmer by the impending collapse of civilisation, given a second chance to make a difference.
We’re in pretty deep with the harder side of science fiction here, with wormholes, time dilation and the like. In fact, I think that’s one of my favourite parts of Interstellar. Rather than zipping around the universe merrily at warp speed, travel takes time. Both in that it takes Coop and co to reach Saturn, and in the effects of skirting close to a black hole on time relative to on earth.
Which also gives it the emotional heart. The separation of Coop and his daughter Murphy (And, presumably, the son who he doesn’t seem to give much of a damn about -Ed). Leaving her as a child, she grows rapidly older as he labours through his mission. The sacrifice he makes for the greater good gives the main motivation and conflict for the film.
But actually, the human side goes deeper. When they encounter one of the scientists who went before their mission, as pathfinders for the new worlds, we run up against the harder side of survivalism, and how far an individual will go to survive themselves. The battle between individual and collective survival is one of the more fascinating aspects, which forms part of the running theme throughout.
And visually, conceptually, imaginatively, the scope here is grand. And in that respect, you can clearly see the influence of the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ultimate fate of humanity is the subject here, with whether we will thrive or succumb in the face of an existential threat to our existence. And even in the brilliantly monolith-esque design of the robots the influences are clear.
So far so good. So what lets it down?
In a nutshell, the ending.
Now, I can buy the inside of a black hole nonsense, because we don’t know what’s beyond the black hole. This is still science-fiction, and you’re allowed to make things up. Rather, what got me was the saccharine way in which it ended. Now, there’s nothing wrong with happy endings. I like a happy ending. What I prefer is a realistic ending, and “everybody gets what they want” isn’t that.
The film is good. It is bold and visionary, saying a lot about the human spirit and the will to survive. It could probably do without a selfish, individualistic character called Dr Hugh Mann, but the rest is fairly well balanced. It is good, and if it could have resisted the Hollywood ending for just a few scenes more, then it could have been something great.