Friday, November 21, 2014

Not So (Inter)Stellar

     I recently went to see Christopher Nolan's most recent film, Interstellar. Produced by Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, and Lynda Obst Productions, this film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce and nearly everyone is a farmer. The films leading character Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is a retired NASA pilot who finds himself led into circumstances that require him to take one last mission: to go through a wormhole and find an a planet for Earth to habit. The catch: he has to leave behind his son and daughter. In the end, he chooses to go through with the mission (leaving his family behind) and launches into the unending vastness of space to save humanity.
    Overall it was an entertaining film to watch, but it has a lot of flaws and I ended up coming out of it more disappointed than impressed. Here's a list of my personal experience when watching Interstellar:

The Visuals
    The visuals make the movie. From costumes, to camera-work, and to props, it really does scream "hey, we're in space." It's definitely a feast for the visual eye, and I have to give props to those in charge of art, special effects, and locations because they've definitely set up a very consistent atmosphere to the film. Unfortunately there are moments where the CGI just can't pull it off and it changes to "hey, we're in space, no really, you've got to believe us."

The Audio
     If you're thinking of seeing this, I would recommend going to the theater. There isn't anything like sitting in the already grand space of seats, surrounded by darkness, and getting that eery mix of dialogue/internal spacecraft noises and sudden bouts of completely silence. It's something that scientist and space junkies alike have been vying for in films that have gone intergalactic, and they'll find a pleasing satisfaction with this one. Unfortunately the lack of sound has been a topic of disgruntlement for a few, as it does slow down the already quite lethargic pacing of the movie.

The Characters
    The acting is good, the diversity is not. It fails to pass the Bechdel Test and it degrades its female and person of color character to essentially become token characters. One is pegged as the "emotional" sappy heart-driven character, and the other has a few lines here and there and then dies by fire. I bet you can guess which is which. It definitely had the potential to be revolutionary in its writing but its lack of stepping away from the cliched and stereotypical writing of hollywood, leaves it feeling like another cookie-cutter sci-fi than a unique twist of storytelling.

The Story
    This definitely makes you question life, in bad and good ways. For the first half of the movie I was very into the story. It was an interesting spin on the genre of (post)apocalyptic movies and presented a very chilling concept of time and space. Seeing Cooper's daughter go from spunky ten year old to feeble old woman, while he remains the around the same age as he left, sets your consciousness on edge. It almost pushes the theme of mortality and consequence in your face, but in a way that really makes you sympathize with the characters.
     Unfortunately, that's where my interest stopped. While again, the movie had a great potential to be something very philosophical in nature, it turned into something that seemed like they choose the ending from picking papers from a hat.  (here's where the spoilers start)

The Paradox
     Disregarding the science of the movie, it falls into what I like to label as a bad use of a paradox. Now, this is debatable amongst many and you don't necessarily have to agree with this but in my opinion, there is only one good type of paradox in writing: a multi-verse paradox. That means that in the event of time-travel, character A can change the time-line but only for a universe that is not their own. Meaning, Cooper's character could go back and save humanity by using the powers of fifth-dimensional humans (humans who have essentially become enlightened creatures) to code a message in the clock hand of his daughter's pocket watch, but not to his actual daughter.
      This theory stems from the fact that in order to start the paradox a character has to be effected by the outcome of the paradox already. So for Cooper's character in the past to find the coordinates to even start his whole adventure out into space, Cooper's character of the future has to know the circumstances of his past to change it. Thus a paradox. Because Cooper A couldn't have become Cooper B without Cooper B interacting with Cooper A. A multi-verse theory fixes the issue of there being a catalyst (ie. how does Cooper B become Cooper B if Cooper A doesn't know about Cooper B), because it says that Cooper B is an entirely different Cooper that is interacting with Cooper A's universe (one that is exactly identical but caters to two Coopers). It's slightly complicated but it solves the issue of things starting.
      The frustrating thing about Interstellar though is that Cooper A is Cooper B. And thus the paradox problem is that Cooper B can't have told Cooper A everything he needed to know without Cooper A already getting this information from a Cooper B who knows it already. It just doesn't work.

The Discovery
    Do you know that moment where something happens and you're just like, "how did they possibly even get to that solution?" That came up quite a bit for me. One of the major ones being the entire solution to saving humanity being Murphy (Cooper's daughter) realizing that the "ghost" in her room is actually her dad from the future sent back into a tessaract where he could interact with her dimension across years. There's a very tense (and very anticlimactic) moment where she and her friend are facing off with her brother, and she's racing to piece together the clues in her old bedroom. This doesn't entirely make sense without context but the point is there's a moment where she looks at the watch her dad gave her when he left and all of a sudden she just goes "oooh, all those cryptic messages I thought that a ghost was leaving for me by knocking books off my wall was actually my father come back to guide me." It's a moment that could've worked had it been set up properly but ended up pulling me out of the moment.
The Verdict
    There is quite a lot that still could be discussed but these were the immediate thoughts I had while watching it. It's not something I'd likely see again but I can't say I didn't enjoy watching at least part of it. There are problems, problems that need to be addressed, but it's an okay film if you find yourself at the theater looking to kill time.

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