Getting to Interstellar today was itself an event,
as I was determined to see an Imax print on the widest screen possible. Traffic around Tyson's Corner, VA wasn't too
bad for pre-Black-Saturday, but the 4-level garage next to the super AMC had
zero spaces, with cars cruising helplessly.
People were getting mean about parking spaces when someone left. I've never seen it like this. I finally found a space a quarter-mile
away by Bloomingdales, on an upper level.
Good thing I gave myself an extra hour to get there. And the lines inside the AMC Tysons were the
longest ever, as they were in concessions and food court and Friday's. Good thing I brought a printed ticket from
home (couldn't get the Stubs account to work on their website) and ate
The seat was too close to the curved screen, but no
matter. The presentation was interesting. Some scenes were the usual Cinemascope with
top and bottom cropped, but the most critical scenes, especially those in outer
space or on other planets, filled the entire screen top to bottom, so the
aspect ratio varied.
Now, since I published a sci-fi short story in my
DADT-III book ('The Ocelot the Way He Is'), have a novel manuscript ('Angel's
Brother') and am developing a database-backed shootings script for 'Do Ask, Do
Tell: Second Epiphany' in a retro-sci-fi setting - and since I have a fondness for
basing goings-on at Titan, the interesting moon of Saturn, I feel I've circled
around the same ideas as Christopher Nolan's massive epic (164 minutes). I am interested in matching the ideas in this
movie to my own stuff, and it's rather critical for me.
There's no point in retelling the story. The two best
examinations of the ending - with spoilers - are this one on Slate by Dave
Haglund, Alisha Harris and Forest Wickman, here,
and on 'What Culture' by Alex Leadbeater, here.
The first half hour did not seem that convincing. A crop disease has destroyed the world's
agriculture and turned the planet into a 30s dustbowl, with destructive
haboobs. But think about it. What if a plant virus destroyed all
photosynthesis on Earth? Then the oxygen
supply would gradually be depleted. In a
few generations, it would be over, if mankind couldn't leave. Could global warming cause this? Speculation.
But I do wonder how Venus became a furnace, probably rather suddenly,
within a few hundred million years or less.
For all we know, it may have had life once. Venus may be a tragedy.
The next problem is how society deals with its gradual
destruction. It tried to hide its
technological past rom kids. That sounds
almost like a communistic tactic, but maybe politically necessary. It didn't seem as convincing during the movie
as it does now, upon reflection.
I also found Cooper's (a lean Matthew McConaughey,
cast as our cultural ideal male father figure with a young-to-teen family, and
tragically a widower) stumbling on the NASA 'Area 51' as a bit contrived and a
setup. The relationship with his
daughter (MacKenzie Foy at 10, to become Ellen
Burstyn) is overwrought, but will make a point later about the moral place of
family in the 'big picture' when the larger society really does face an
existential threat. I don't recall a
sci-fi movie before where a man remains a 40-year-old 'young adult' while his
daughter dies at 100, and not of progeria.
As to the astronomy, I don't think that planet
revolving around a black hole or neutron star are likely oi be suitable for
life. (They'd have been blown away by the supernova, but
might have been captured later.) You
need a sun-like star. A smaller red star
is interesting, leading to a radiation-bathed tidally locked planet (like in
Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus') interesting for colonization but not an original
You can't go into a black hole and live, either. But a 'superior being' - a God - probably
could, and black holes are rich with stored information (which may largely be
on the surface, though). As beings with
free will, no wonder we worship an entity that can master more dimensions than
we can. In fact, the whole concept of
this movie, understood this way, really supports traditional religion. It's a conservative film, where the strongest
and most suitable survive (although who gets saved is a good question, but the
Rapture would leave people behind, too.)
The two planets getting extended tours didn't show a
lot of imagination. There was a waterworld (complete with tsunami), and a snowball Earth,
rather like dry Antarctica, with vertical layers into the sky. At the very end,
after the colonists have set up their little wrap-around space stations (like
little pieces from 'Rendezvous with Rama') near the worm hole (near Saturn,
perhaps near Titan), the younger Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) gets to explore a third
planet (accessible through the hole) that really looks like the Mojave Desert.
But of course, there's more to this (with an all-star
A-list cast to utter inevitable aphorisms composed by others). The moral quandaries, about the tension
between self, family and all of civilization come through some other
characters, most of all Donald (John Lithgow), who makes a comment about people
not wanting to have kids, and the bachelor astronaut Dr. Mann (Matt Damon) who,
when rescued, rationalizes his selfishness that nearly destroys but ironically
winds up saving the mission. Cooper's
son Tom (Timothee Chalamee
another 'Timo') has to face being tracked as a farmer rather than an engineer
(like Coop himself) because this commie-like world needs peasants. Tom grows up
to an impressive young man played by Casey Affleck. Brands professor father, played by Michael
Caine, has all the answers early on.
In my own novel, people are being culled by a bizarre
virus, which actually strengthens some people (who become 'angels' holding the
life memories of others) as individuals 'consolidate'. Then at the end a space
ship built by the real angels take the survivors (and some of their
fans, like 'Bill') to - guess where - Titan, but not after the CDC, DOD and CIA
get a run at the whole thing as civilization implodes in front of the reader
(not before the story starts). And there
are clues in the 'remote viewings' of some of the characters, and the supposed
layered fiction of one writer (that's me) whom the hackers decode, Is there something sinister about a
conclusion where only the strong (and a few loyals) survive
(like 'only lovers left alive') to carry on civilization while the rest die out
and dead end? It does suggest it is hard
to 'love everybody', an issue during my days at NIH in 1962. But I seem to have the save view of this idea
now as Christopher Nolan.
Then in my screenplay a character likes me wakes up in
a mysterious situation, which may be a hospital, a job interview, the
afterlife, or a space station (on Titan), or all of these. The 'angels' run the show, and it is up to
'Bill' to decide which 'angels' are really good enough to rebuild civilization,
as Bill relives the bizarre events that led to his 'abduction' and then watches
the beginning of the end of civilization unfold down under (back on
Earth). Again, love is transitive; we don't
take care of everyone, and collectivism dies.
See this in Imax if at all possible. It's 'go big or go home'.
The music score by Hans Zimmer is typical, with a lot
of use of passacaglia; he comes to one stunning orchestra climax at the end of
the first section of the film as the space stuff starts. The closing credits are brief, and this time
the music ends quietly, much as with the Mahler Ninth.