Interstellar black holeChristopher Nolan’s Interstellar is out, and it is ambitious. It aims to be a blockbuster movie, but it is also about big ideas — really big ideas — and it succeeds on almost every level. It is entertaining, but it forces anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity to leave the theater with a lot to think about.

On a cursory level, Interstellar is about a group of astronauts who go on an expedition to find habitable planets for humans to colonize. The earth is dying, and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), must leave his family behind, knowing that he may never see them again.

On a deeper level, Interstellar is about what we seem to have lost as a species. Cooper says early on in the film, “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

There are two types of people: There are those like Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway), and then there are those like the Orwellian teachers early on in the film who try to brainwash Cooper’s child Murph, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Foy.

Teacher: Murph is a great kid. She’s really bright, but she’s been having a little trouble lately. She brought this in to show the other students. The section on the lunar landings.

Cooper: Yeah, it’s one of my old textbooks. She always loved the pictures.

Teacher: It’s an old federal textbook. We’ve replaced them with the corrected versions.

Cooper: Corrected?

Teacher: Explaining how the Apollo missions were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union.

Cooper: You don’t believe we went to the moon?

Teacher: I believe that it was a brilliant piece of propaganda. That the Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines.

Cooper: Useless machines?

Teacher: And if we don’t want a repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th Century, then we need to teach our kids about this planet — not tales of leaving it.

Cooper: You know, one of those useless machines they used to make was called an MRI. And if we had any of those left, the doctors would have been able to cut the cyst in my wife’s brain before she died, instead of afterwards. And then she would have been the one sitting her listening to this instead of me, which would’ve been good because she was always the calmer one.

Are we merely meant to run around in the dirt like ants, or are we meant to explore — to constantly seek out new horizons — physically, mentally, and spiritually?

Intersellar Cooper

What are the limits of science? What does it mean for science that the human body might not have the hardware necessary to perceive realities that exist outside of its five senses?

Cooper: You’re a scientist, Brand.

Brand: So listen to me when I say love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something.

Cooper: Love has meaning, yes. Social utility, social bonding, child rearing.

Brand: You love people who died. Where’s the social utility in that?

Cooper: None.

Brand: Maybe it means something more — something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it. All right Cooper. Yes, the tiniest possibility of seeing Wolf again excites me. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Cooper: Honestly, Amelia, it might.

It’s hard to comment much more on Mr. Nolan’s film without giving away key details. In short, it’s a touching,  momentarily terrifying, beautiful labor of love by a man who is clearly a master of his craft. Han’s Zimmer’s score is fantastic and all of the primary actors involved did a superb job.

If you get a chance to see Interstellar before it leaves theaters, then I highly suggest making time on a Friday or Saturday night. Then, let me know what you thought. I would love to hear what you have to say.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

8 comments

  1. I agree with what you have said here about the message of the film. but personally I found the film underwhelming and unoriginal.

    Hard to say why without spoiling anything so I look forward to being able to discuss it at a later date

    1. No harm, no foul. I be surprised if we agreed on all our favorite movies.

      What films would you say it’s a derivative of, then? Or, put another way, what films conveys its message(s) better?

    2. I actually felt that the message was lost by the end. The whole film set itself up as being about the message when it was really about getting to the last half hour.

      I found parts of the film reminiscent of Alien, Terminator, 2001, Elysium, Wall-E and even Inception.

      I have also seen time dilation handled much better in a comedy book basebased in the tv series Red Dwarf.

      So many characters were there just to explain what was happening or were underdeveloped.

    3. I found parts of the film reminiscent of Alien, Terminator, 2001, Elysium, Wall-E and even Inception.

      It is a science fiction movie…so there are going to be aspects that are reminiscent of other films — especially if some parts were obvious homages to sci-fi classics. That seems like a weak argument to me, but to each his own I guess.

      I have also seen time dilation handled much better in a comedy book basebased in the tv series Red Dwarf.

      I think if the greatest handling of time dilation you can think of outside Interstellar is a random British comedy series, then Christopher Nolan will be quite happy with that.

      So many characters were there just to explain what was happening or were underdeveloped.

      I honestly don’t know how some exposition could not have occurred, given the complexity of the science involved. Regardless, I think history is going to treat Interstellar very, very well.

      Side note: a pretty good point by another critic:

      But do see this movie. It’s deeply flawed but also wholly absorbing, and it marks Nolan as one of our most ambitious, go-for-broke directors, unafraid to attempt Sistine Chapel ceilings while his fellow filmmakers are working with Crayolas. To be sure, Interstellar is no cosmic masterpiece like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but when a movie can for whatever reason be mentioned in the same breath as Kubrick’s landmark undertaking without inciting giggles, then clearly there’s something noteworthy afoot.

    4. I will take your points and concede my time dilation one. I felt that the issue could have been handled better in the film but at the running time I can see why it wasn’t.

      We will have to agree to disagree on the unoriginal/homage point of view. While I agree that it is very difficult to be original in science fiction I stand by the view that this film takes homage to a whole new level.

      I didn’t say that the exposition wasn’t needed, I said that some characters only function in the film was to info dump and nothing else.

      I know I am going to be in the minority in regards to my opinion on this film. I’m ok with that. The world is too big for everyone to like the same things.

    5. One of the more original films in the past decade. The movies you gave for comparison are reminiscent only because they are also sci fi. Outside of that there really is little likeness to any of those movies. The idea that 2001 comes to mind is interesting however as it only speaks to how effective Interstellar was in its execution. And the more time that has passed since it came out has shown the movie to be even more worthy of the continuing universal praise it has received. It is good to have differing minority opinion, however in this case the majority has rightly recognized the originality and wealth of interesting ideas the film presents while being thoroughly entertaining all at once. And yes how one likes a film or not is a subjective matter with every opinion worthy, yet as time goes by it will not be surprising if Interstellar continues to be widely recognized as a stellar piece of work that I think will find itself to be an iconic member of sci fi film history.

  2. Haven’t seen it, but interestingly enough, I had a teacher in sixth grade that was very much like the one in Interstellar. He was a nutty Moon Landing Truther and sh owed us a documentary he claimed “proved” his theories.

    1. I didn’t run across the blog until today, but I enjoyed Jordan and Eddie’s take on Interstellar. I thought the author was spot-on.

      “I was starting to question the power of modern day movies to engage in an entertainment sense, an emotional sense and in a thought provoking manner but Interstellar has wholeheartedly showcased to me once more the power the medium holds when produced in such a splendid manner. Sure Anne Hathaway can be annoying, yes no doubt some of the dialogue may clunk and do we really need our movies 100% scientifically accurate? These criticisms of the film are valid to a point; but they’re also criticisms of a film that do not in any way, shape or form matter. Put your prejudices aside, allow yourself to be carried away on the Endurance and Nolan’s cinematic treat will take you on a movie trip unlike any other (even when paying homage to Sci-Fi greats that have preceded it).”

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