Science Fiction - Wisely

(the rantings of a science fiction freak)

"Interstellar" Delivers for Science Fiction Fans

It happened to be Father's Day here in the USA yesterday and I happened to catch the movie "Interstellar" for the second time last night. What an appropriate film for Father's Day!

Because essentially, it's a story about a father that leaves his children behind, and all the angst that goes with that specific type of pain - with an interesting twist of redemption at the end.

The father in question is Joseph Cooper, a NASA trained astronaut turned farmer in a bleak, ecologically challenged future America. This gentleman, along with the help of his pre-teen daughter, receives some weird psychic message from within his farm house, that lead them both on a quest. But first, we learn a lot about this family personally, including the close relationship between the father and daughter, which eventually is challenged by his departure.

The opening scene of the movie is a captivating father, son and daughter high speed hunt through cornlands for a rogue military drone - apparently they're just flying everywhere out of control in this future. Our farmer is able to hijack the drone's on-board computer with a wireless hacking device and bring it down in the cornfield. At which point, he removes its "black box" and says its processor will be re-purposed to a self-driving farming combine. Deep stuff!

It's not exactly explained why the earth and north america has turned into a giant, cancer-producing, food-barren dustbowl - given the year of the movie's release, one would assume "Global Warming" as sort of a catch-all reason for the desolation of the future Earth depicted in Interstellar. All crops are failing and science has been traded in for agriculture... too late, it seems.

But it turns out that a secret tiny NASA group has been storing human DNA, thousands of humans-worth -- to be cloned on some other habitable planet - that is, if plan A fails. Plan A is for said group, via space exploration, to find a habitable planet, somewhere on the other side of the WORMHOLE that has somehow magically appeared just off Saturn's rings.

The psychic quest I mentioned earlier leads Cooper and Murph (the daughter) to NASA's hideout deep in NORAD, and they ask him to be the pilot of the interstellar mission to "save the world". Which, of course, he has to accept. But it means he'll have to enter a completely different time stream than the family he's leaving.

A lot of exciting things happen during the interstellar voyage - enough to take up three plus hours of movie without taking a breath. Cooper and his fellow astronauts experience some very hostile worlds before possibly finding a future home for humanity.

But the main story arc has to do with Einstein's relativity and the time differential between Earth and his family and his proximity to a black hole. When you go near a black hole, the gravity slows down time, so years on earth pass in a few hours of black-hole time -- seven years per hour, in the context of Interstellar's story arc. This has caused Cooper's family back home to suffer life without him, feeling painfully abandoned. But there is redemption...


When Cooper when finally returns to Earth in the penultimate scene of the movie, he gets to see his own daughter, aged fifty years older than he, via the physics of the black-hole time-bend. It's a very emotional reunion between young father and aged daughter and fulfillment of his promise to return. And there's an irony to the fact that she had to remain in a cryogenics tube for two years in order to be alive when he returned. And a final irony in that after their emotional reunion, she asked him to leave again so she could attend to her own family -- the dozens of children, nieces, nephews and others that surround her.

So finally, Cooper is released from the emotional bond, finding the freedom to take a ship and find his own destiny - in Interstellar space (where a cute girl is waiting for him on a new Earth with a bunch of DNA!)

The technical aspect of the movie was very nicely produced. The special effects are top-notch. I feel that this movie gives a "tip of the hat" to several of its predecessors - including 2001 a Space Oddyssey, the original Planet of the Apes (which tells a very similar time-bending story) and others. 2001 was heavily leaned upon, I felt, for the overall realistic approach to outer space effects, including silence in outer space, which is in fact the reality (not souped up rocket motor sounds as are used in many space movies). Cooper and crew are accompanied by robot droids that resemble the black monoliths from 2001. In fact these droids at first look ineffective, but its true power is displayed at first when they are stranded on a violent water planet and the monolith transforms into a whirling "swiss army knife" of revolving arms, legs and extensions.

If I had any criticism of the movie, it would be this: the story could have stood up without the "psychic" aspect - the final denouement of the story tells us that by some sort of cosmic oneness we made the wormhole ourselves psychically and willed it back to ourselves via "gravity" writing lines on the floor in dust which Cooper and Murph were smart enough to be able to interpret. I can go along with it, but I feel they could have left that part -- and the cosmic part at the end -- out, and it would have been just as good but more of a hard science movie with an emotional twist. I guess commercial movies have to make sure that the audience "gets paid" at the end somehow -- and I think probably that was it.

The emotions of the film are strongly pushed by Hans Zimmer's powerful musical track, which doesn't let up -- there were times I wished it would have, but then perhaps some of the emotional intensity would have been lost. The continuity of the music really pushes the story along. It's a long movie, but never once was I bored or wishing it would end.

Every part of this movie has a purpose and a drive to it so the three-plus hours went by quickly. It's a great movie, I give it five stars. -Hugh 6/19/2017