An Ode to Interstellar

Simply said, Christopher Nolan had taken us all hostage. There is no other description for creating such an incredible 3-hour film and then shooting us all point-blank with his genius at the end of it. Our brains are all over the wall.

I remember walking out of the cinema quietly, not entirely sure what we just witnessed. The usual mindless post-movie chatter was silenced because what on Earth could we discuss about after watching Interstellar? Spoilers ahead because if I don’t include them in, nothing in this post will make any sense.

I enjoyed Interstellar so much that I get personally offended when someone else doesn’t. Yes, I am one of those people. In the beginning, I didn’t have high expectations, even with the Nolan label. He did put his name on Man of Steel and that was basically trash in CGI. It was so painful to watch, I wished a falling skyscraper would crush me instead.

However, one thing made me chance on possibly watching another version of Man of Steel: Matthew McConaughey. Earlier, when my friend and I saw the trailer to Interstellar for the first time, we both gasped, “RUSTY”. No way I could ever skip another Rusty performance. The True Detective folks won’t give us the goods, so now we’re just chasing Matthew wherever he goes. So to the cinema, I went.

I’m an environmentalist and I say this with the least bit of confidence. I care about the environment, I keep up-to-date on natural disasters, I donate to causes but at the same time, I own a car, I don’t recycle and I love tech as much as it guilts me. In other words, I’m like everybody else who’s familiar with climate change but not sure how to stop it. The Earth depicted in Interstellar is my worst nightmare realised. Set in the near-future of ours, or at least what could happen to us, Earth was in its dying throes and threatening to bury everyone along in its grave. Instead of scientists to amend the situation, they had farmers. Just pure survival mode. And they kept that mode alive by saying that is how they must live as they try to redeem themselves from their reckless and hedonistic past that caused the environmental crisis (read: our current generation). Taken out of context, I can see that happening already. Maybe it’s cynicism or deeply-rooted fears over a future that’s rapidly changing beyond our control, people simply fear thinking out of the box. We want to survive, not to live.

This is what I love most about Interstellar. I mentioned on Twitter that naysayers try to rationalise the science, nitpick on scenes or try to pin down plotlines. Screw that. What I like about it is that it makes me think of more. The possibility of space, sure, but also the many nuances of humankind. That we haven’t just seen it all. That we’re not just farmers waiting for the next crop.

A lot of people complained about the plot, even going as far to say that it doesn’t have a plot. I’m surprised by this. In a 3-hour movie that stretches beyond galaxies, two people connected by the will to live and the memory of love, do you honestly think it will unfold just like any ye olde film? Hell, which part is the climax? There were too many nail-biting scenes to count. This movie is like a novel. It meanders. Even the smallest characters were given depth, such as Romilly who waited for years even when there was no sign of hope.  Compare that virtue with Matt Damon’s Dr Mann. Tom, Cooper’s son, who tried to live by holding onto the only things he knew and understood even if it kills the people he loves. You don’t get to see these shades of humanity in a regular film. In a regular film with a clear plot, you will see basic blobs of individuals.

My favourite scene of Matthew’s is that moment where he was rewatching 23 years of backlogged messages. Watching that bursting anguish on his face hurts me to the bone. Imagine losing that many years in a space of hours. Even Anne Hathaway’s character was not made of a singular note: in a moment of blind folly, she was saved by CASE. Later, she became the rescuer when she saved Matthew from a certain death. Also, I absolutely adore Jessica Chastain’s Murphy for her stubbornness, her fury and her strength.

Another thing that I love about the movie was also how it linked altogether. The symbolism of “ghost”. From the beginning of the movie, Murphy asked whether Cooper was possessed by a ghost. Later, Cooper confessed that parents will become ghosts for their children to remember. Of course, this movie went all M. Night Shyamalan on us by making it literal but even without the fifth dimension scene, Cooper was already a ghost to his children, leaving traces of himself for them to cling onto, haunting them to their deathbeds.

Certain people said that the concept of love in this movie was cheesy, that it was ridiculous for all the scientific theories that this movie spouts, love was the connection. But I think the message of love here is what differentiates this movie and other sci-fi flicks. Where would Cooper be without his love for his family? Another farmer, destined to watch his family die like Tom? Just another scientist whose hardened resolves fall apart when confronted with isolation and death like Dr Mann? Or a mass murderer who’s championing a theory rather than the living beings such as Dr Brand? You see, survival is rational. It is logical to keep extending your life. But to sacrifice that self-serving notion? That’s what makes us truly alive. The irrationality of faith and intuition. It also keeps us going, bolstering through the impossible just so we could realise our hopes for another. Science enables people to achieve great things but love is the common factor that ties us all. Dr Brand’s confession about love wasn’t just a woman risking her crew for the possibility of romance. She’s espousing about her cause to live, her motivation to strive for the best and her hopes to see the mission’s success. It is absolutely vital, for their sake.

Whether you see this as an overwrought and fictional scientific documentary is entirely up to you, of course. This movie is not without its flaws. However, I stopped treating it as a movie and more of an experience that I could bask in. I was completely wrapped in the story that even when the movie was over, I couldn’t stop thinking of the universe Nolan built. I’ve seen a lot of films that moved me but I don’t think I have ever seen a film that pushed me to wonder beyond the limits of my imagination. I’ve read and watched a lot of things and I’ve always felt that stories and plots have somewhat become predictable. Reading between the lines is more about noticing cues of an unfolding scene. But with Interstellar, I realised that there are so many ways still that we could depict humanity.

And for that, I am grateful to experience it.

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One thought on “An Ode to Interstellar

  1. Wow. First off, great analysis. Secondly, great flavour. Your intro hooked me right away. You certainly paint a vivid picture of your internal experience. I love it. This was the BEST online review I’ve read for this movie.

    I also appreciate the environmental point of view. I’d like to know more about how you interpret those library scenes near the end? I have some theories too. Check my review if you’re curious. I’d like to know what you think, should you get the time. I’m a huge movie nerd who carefully considered the inner workings of INTERSTELAR.

    Take care, eh…
    Dan

    http://slipthroughmovies.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/movie-review-interstellar-travels-within/

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