The 2014 Sci-Fi blockbuster Interstellar is set in a dystopian future where a global crop blight and dust storms the magnitude of the 1930s Dust Bowl, are threatening to annihilate the human race by starvation and asphyxiation. A group of astronauts travel through a mysterious black hole off Saturn in search of Earth-like planets.
As far as apocalyptic movies go Interstellar, with its own stellar cast of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and even Matt Damon and Ellen Burstyn making cameo appearances, is top-tier; not only for the sound science that is the foundation of the storyline, but the ingenious twist at the end, that redefines the whole plot.
In the face of a global crop blight and worldwide dust storms, threatening to annihilate the human race by starvation and suffocation, Murphy, daughter of ex-astronaut Joseph Cooper begins to see patterns in mundane occurrences such as the books that keep falling off the shelves in her room and patterns in the dust on the floor. She first believed it is a poltergeist, a ghost with the power to manipulate its physical environment. But against his own better judgment, Cooper later realizes that the patterns are created by gravity and that the dust patterns are in fact, geographic coordinates.
They follow the coordinates to a secret NASA facility, where they are met by Dr. Brand. Brand explains that a worm hole mysteriously appeared off Saturn 48 years ago. The wormhole, christened Gargantua, leads to another galaxy, which the group of scientists believes may contain earthlike planets. Having already sent 12 volunteers through it years ago, three promising signals are received through the worm hole.
Brand argues that, “We are not meant to save the world, we’re meant to leave it.” His Plan A is a mass exodus from the Earth. In case it fails Brand is counting on Cooper for Plan B, to pilot spaceship Endurance through Gargantua, carrying 5,000 frozen embryos that would repopulate the new world. Despite Murphy’s entreaties not to leave, Cooper feels obligated to take on the responsibility as he believed that ‘they’, the ones who put the worm hole in their solar system, chose him.
After emerging on the far side of the black hole, the crew is forced to land on one of the three potential Earth-like planets that take them too close to the time warping Gargantua, knowing that one hour on the planet equals seven years on Earth. After averting near disaster with only one casualty, the crew discovers that 23 years have elapsed on the Earth.
Back on the Earth Murphy feels abandoned when she realizes that Brand never expected Plan A to work. This is midway point in the movie, or thereabouts.
Interstellar’s twist at the end is on par with Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. It’s one of those movies that make even more sense when watched backwards, like Nolan’s own 2000 movie Memento.
Christopher Nolan takes the audience on a trip backwards explaining what lead to the events that took place in the past; from how the books fell off the cases by themselves, the mysterious shakehand across space time to how the mysterious Gargantua itself came into being. Time comes full circle and all this is explained in hindsight from a new vantage point.
Interstellar is also unique in the manner it explains hardcore theoretical physics – extra dimensions, gravitational singularities, black holes and whatnot – to a lay audience. In fact its sound science fiction theme received many positive reviews, along with cast performance, visual effects and eerie musical score by Hans Zimmer.
Director, Christopher Nolan is one of the highest-grossing directors in history, having made blockbuster movies such as The Prestige (2006), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Inception (2010). The screenplay Christopher co-wrote it with his brother Jonathan Nolan was inspired by the work of Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who also functioned as the movie’s scientific consultant.
Set in a dystopian future where a global crop blight and dust storms are threatening to annihilate the human race by starvation or asphyxiation, Interstellar offers an alternate history where spending for armies and space exploration is seen as futile, forcing those like ex-astronaut Cooper to take up farming.
At the beginning of the movie Cooper grumbles, “We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” This demonstrates his frustration at being forced to do something he knows nothing about.
It is said that Christopher was inspired by the 2012 documentary The Dust Bowl and, in fact, used some of the documentary’s featured interviews in Interstellar, thereby heightening its realism.
Parallels have been drawn between the appearance of Gargantua and the mysterious appearance of the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Sir Arthur C Clarke, the movie version of which by Stanley Kubrick Nolan was, in fact, inspired by.
The space habitat at the end of the movie bears an uncanny resemblance to the space habitat Elysium in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. Robots CASE and TARS were probably inspired HAL 9000 from both book and movie versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey or perhaps Star Wars’ R2-D2 and C-3PO.
But the movie is not all science. This fast paced movie is also about human emotions. It’s a movie about the love between father and daughter, the barely-there-romance between virtual strangers, lies, deceit, betrayal, fear of abandonment and, of course, hope for survival. In essence, Interstellar is equal parts science and human emotions.
The father-daughter relationship in Interstellar and how Cooper reaches out to his daughter Murphy across space time using Morse Code bears resemblance to the zeal with which Ellie of Contact, whose father recently passed away, pursues a radio signal from space.
Some credit for the movie’s success as an emotional family movie goes to Matthew McConaughey. His frustration at having to leave his daughter, anguish at finding that she has all grown up while he was marooned only for several hours in a lifeless planet, and the urgency to help her when he sees her again across space time, a myriad of emotions pass through McConaughey face throughout the almost-three-hour movie. With a tension-laden docking maneuver, battle on the frozen tundra and a tidal wave that would put any terrestrial Tsunami to shame Interstellar is not short on action either. Like most other Hollywood classics with lengthy running time, such as JFK, The Right Stuff and Schindler’s List, watching this human emotion rollercoaster with edge of the seat action and hardcore science to boot, you would hardly sense ‘time’ pass. No pun intended.