Interstellar

I saw “Interstellar” last night–somewhat pathetically, the third film I’ve managed to see in the theaters this calendar year. (The other two were “Omar” and “Atlas Shrugged 3.”) My advice: ignore the nay-saying critics and see it. I didn’t quite understand it, and haven’t quite digested it, but absolutely do not regret having seen the 10:30 pm showing, and staying until 1:20 am.

The two best reviews I read were A.O. Scott’s in The New York Times, and Dana Stevens’s in Slate.  The film does have some flaws, however,  and David Denby’s review in The New Yorker is a painless guide to them.

P.S., Before the feature presentation, I saw a preview for a forthcoming Ridley Scott film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” I’ll probably be there when it opens in December, but I’m kind of hoping we don’t get the ancient historical reprise of the other “Exodus” film.  I have to admit that one of these days, I’d really like to see a film version of the Exodus story as depicted from the Canaanite perspective: “Promised Land: Invasion of the Yahwists.” Rated NC-17 for violence and potentially unsettling political implications.

Postscript 2, November 12, 2014. Here’s an interesting real-life postscript to the movie, the European Space Agency’s successful landing of its spaceship Rosetta/Philae on Comet 67P/Churuyomov-Gerasimenko.

Postscript 3, November 16, 2014 (HERE BE SPOILERS): The ending of “Interstellar” seems preposterous to those of unschooled in the relevant physics, but from what I’ve been reading, it’s basically on-target (not that I know). I saw a piece by Neil deGrasse Tyson that gave a scientific thumbs-up to the film, but I lost track of it, so here’s a piece from Time that seems to come to the same conclusions.

Postscript 4, November 20, 2014 (MORE SPOILERS!). The commentary on “Interstellar” keeps coming, and I keep reading it. Here’s an  intelligent piece by Dennis Overbye, mostly focused on the science of the film.

By contrast, David Brooks, who focuses on the non-scientific elements of the film, is predictably vacuous, as he is on most subjects. Brooks is right that the film offers some insightful depictions of non-romantic love. But this gets things wildly wrong:

On top of that, there is an even more attenuated love. It’s the love humans have for their ancestors and the love they have for the unborn. In the movie, 12 apostles go out alone into space to look for habitable planets. They are sacrificing their lives so that canisters of frozen embryos can be born again in some place far away.

Nolan wants us to see the magnetic force of these attachments: The way attachments can exert a gravitational pull on people who are separated by vast distances or even by death. Their attention is riveted by the beloved. They hunger for reunion.

Actually, you could more plausibly argue that Nolan wants us to see the perversity of such attachments–attachments to potential beings that require the sacrifice of actual ones. Can we really love our distant and anonymous ancestors, much less love frozen embryos? The claim is simply preposterous, and ignores what the film is really about.

More Brooksoid blather:

Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles, and there’s a Noah’s ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There’s an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation.

6 thoughts on “Interstellar

  1. Interesting things about Interstellar (Spoiler Alert):

    – It might be the only movie about the world ending via environmental disaster where the humans were not the cause of said environmental disaster.

    – Dr. Man (Matt Damon) was a fascinating character. All too often, characters in disaster movies are willing to throw their lives away at a moment’s notice for the survival of other people. Dr. Man is a real look into what happens if you try to put an individual through unimaginable horror for the sake of the greater good.

    – The movie has a very strong pro-reason message. Regardless of what is thrown at the heroes, they always persevere by using their minds to confront the problem (with the possible exception of the last twenty minutes).

    Like

    • It’s hard to talk about “Interstellar” without giving away major spoilers, so I’ll be sort of vague and elliptical.

      On your first point, I actually think that humans’ not being the cause of the disaster was wisely left ambiguous. They didn’t deny it but didn’t assert it, either.

      I not only agree with your point about Dr. Mann, but I’d go further. The point applies both to Dr. Mann and to the (elder) Dr. Brandt. One major theme of the movie has to do with the psychological costs of adopting an “impersonalist” moral conception that requires you to give up your personal attachments for the sake of something “beyond” them. At a certain level, I think the movie calls into question the justification or even sanity of adopting what they call “Plan B.” Plan A was a long-shot but it was justified by the outside chance of benefiting actually-existing people, but if you face the choice between the extinction of life on Earth and Plan B, it’s not at all clear why Plan B is superior.

      I agree with your third point, but I don’t really think that the last twenty minutes contradicted the message. I know what you mean, since the last twenty minutes are sort of mind-boggling and hard to follow, but in the end, I think the message is coherent throughout the movie. There’s always a fine line between sci-fi and an outright resort to sheer mysticism, but I don’t think the film lapsed into the latter.

      With a few days’ retrospect, I guess what I appreciate about the film is that it managed to integrate thought and action (in the characters and plot), and also managed to integrate being thought-provoking and totally plot-driven and engaging (in the audience). That’s rare. It also didn’t have any overtly obvious political agenda, which I regard as the death-knell for a work of art. It wasn’t obviously “pro-environmentalist” or “pro-technology” or “pro-space-exploration,” or whatever. It preserved a sense of the complexity of life. And that’s what gave it a psychological depth and insight. So many leftists demand that we act for the benefit of some impersonal beneficiary (e.g., “the environment”) without thinking about the psychological damage that does to us–think of Peter Singer. And so many technology-boosters regard space exploration as the obvious “next step” in the advance of “civilization” without asking about the psychological costs–think of Elon Musk. Ironically, what I liked about “Interstellar” was that it was firmly planted on Earth, against both parties.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: “Clueless” Meets “Lost in Space”: Will Thomas on “Interstellar” (SPOILERS) | Policy of Truth

  3. Pingback: Spring 2015 Issue of Reason Papers Is Out | Policy of Truth

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s