Like every space minded person in America, I went to see Interstellar over the weekend. In a near future in which crops are dying, schoolteachers spread pseudoscience claptrap about the moon landings being faked and most people have lost the ability to think beyond how they’re going to survive on an Earth that is becoming increasingly inhospitable, a pilot-turned-farmer named Cooper follows clues left by what his daughter believes is a ghost to what’s left of NASA – an apparent bunker in which scientists and engineers work in secret to find another home for humanity.
It’s pretty unique for a science fiction movie in that they actually made an effort to get the science right and managed it, mostly – though no moviemaker, or any scientist for that matter, even knows what the inside of a wormhole or a black hole is going to actually look like and ice clouds like the ones seen on one alien planet are pretty far-fetched. The black hole is not just a spectacular special effect. It was created using input from astrophysicists.
Even the idea of “five-dimensional beings” is not too terribly out there. I’m glad they didn’t pull a “Contact” and have one of them show up resembling Conner’s dead wife. We don’t ever perceive them for the simple reason that it would be like expecting a two-dimensional being to describe a four-dimensional universe.
I might wish there weren’t so many overly melodramatic moments, though. A hotshot pilot like Cooper might get teary-eyed when watching messages from his kids who have grown up while he spent a few hours on a waterworld with waves that make the Fukushima tsunami look wimpy, but it’s hard for me to imagine a macho jock like him sitting there bawling their eyes out. Yeah, time dilation can be downright rotten that way, but fighter jocks like Cooper are pretty used to holding it together when things don’t quite go as planned. I could swear that moment when Cooper decides to sacrifice himself by falling into the black hole was basically a shortened version of a similar scene in “Gravity.” I’m not even sure what he hoped to accomplish when he turned out to be the “ghost” who had been communicating with his own daughter in ways that didn’t have much to do with talking, but tried to make himself heard by screaming anyway and only calmed down when TARS told him that they couldn’t change the past. That kind of overdone melodrama can be off-putting when these people are supposed to be pros who can keep their heads when things don’t go their way.
The story is not too far out of line for the way things were going, though. Bret Sibrel, AKA the dude who got punched by Buzz Aldrin for harassing him over the alleged Moon Hoax, is unfortunately not very uncommon in mainstream America. Way too many people say they want to solve Earth’s problems before going out into space, ignoring the fact that they probably take advantage of satellite-assisted weather reports every day and it would only take one decent-sized asteroid to make the world in Interstellar look mild. It is good for the rest of us that a few private organizations are really serious about establishing colonies on other planets before the Big One happens.
Want to see a thought-provoking science fiction movie on the big screen? Watch this one. It’s intense, it’s epic, and you might want to empty your bladder before the movie starts because it is long. It’s not a perfect movie, but I like it for the realism.