Christopher Nolan’s epic Interstellar movie is here and it’s about family, love and bringing the many theories that make up our elegant universe to the big screen.
As I sat watching this Interstellar masterpiece of science and fiction, I looked around and noticed that I was joined in the movie theater by Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Brian Greene, Carl Sagan, Kip Thorne, Sir Arthur Clarke, Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking to name a few.
While it’s not my intent, plot spoilers may reveal themselves at different points in this review, so don’t read it if you don’t want to know.
Onscreen you had great performances by Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murph), Michael Caine (Professor Brand), David Gyasi (Romilly), Mackenzie Foy (Young Murph), Bill Irwin (TARS (robot)), Josh Stewart (CASE (robot)) and John Lithgow (Donald).
The movie hit the ground running on a dying Earth that was turning into a dust bowl with 6 billion starving people consuming all our planet’s resources. This hits close to home in the real world as we’ve observed burned-up crops in the Midwest during 2012 and the California central valley wasting away today.
Cooper’s (Matthew McConaughey) smart and inquisitive daughter Murph, channeled a young Ellie Arroway from Sagan’s “Contact” as she realized that a ghost wasn’t in her room, but someone was communicating with her using gravity via Morse code as well as binary. This lead them to find the previously de-funded NASA (another modern-day reference) was secretly still alive which kicked the movie in high-gear. The knowledge that gravitational anomalies were actually happening everywhere and the discovery of a wormhole near Saturn lead Professor Brand to work on a theory that would allow mankind to harness gravitational power to transport Earth’s population off the planet. Professor Brand’s chalkboard full of equations instantly made me think of Good Will Hunting. Since Cooper was the best pilot in the world, he was recruited to travel through the wormhole to another galaxy in search of a new home for the human race. Those of you who read Madeleine L’Engle’s, “A Wrinkle in Time” as a child would be familiar with the concept of a tesseract that allowed you to fold space and travel through a fifth dimension instead of a straight line in order to arrive at your destination almost instantly. This movie gave us a robot named TARS with a sense of humor that even gave a shout-out to HAL 9000 when joking about blowing Cooper out of the airlock. Unlike the terrifying AI that Elon Musk warns us about, TARS represented the truly useful companion we want robots to be that must obey orders from humans.
As the team of astronauts left the Earth behind, the ghost of Stanley Kubrick looked over Christopher Nolan’s shoulder to ensure that while you can hear sounds inside a spaceship full of air, outside in space, everything is completely silent. The ghost of Einstein looked over Nolan’s other shoulder to enforce relativity concepts like time dilation due to speed and gravity. When Cooper said “goodbye” to his 10 year old daughter, he mentioned that they might be the same age when he returns. Time turned out to be a bigger deal than anyone thought when they had to land on a planet on the other side of the wormhole where each hour there equaled seven years back on Earth. Needless to say, time got away from them. In a very emotional scene, Cooper watched 23, teary-eyed years of video recordings from his children who grew up to become adults and went on to make him a grandfather even though he hadn’t aged himself. Amelia (Anne Hathaway) delivered an impassioned speech about love as an actual connection that possibly existed on another dimension invisible to humans that transcended space and time. Perhaps she unknowingly referred to the concept of entanglement where two particles influence each other no matter how far apart they are in space. Einstein called this spooky action at a distance.
After an amazing scene where Cooper performed an impossible docking maneuver with the spinning Endurance as it fell into the stratosphere of a planet, the nearby black hole called Gargantua began to pull them in. Using rocket boosters from the Endurance as well as two docked spaceships in a scene reminiscent of the Discovery boosting the Leonov in “2010,” Amelia was slingshot-ed out of Gargantua’s grip while Cooper and TARS were pulled beyond the event horizon. Instead of being crushed by the gravity, they entered a five dimensional environment where the dimension of time was made physical for them. Cooper could see his daughter Murphy in her bedroom at every single moment of her life and sent messages to her using gravity. Realizing that he had been her ghost all along in the past, he sent the secret information about the black hole to his adult daughter Jessica Chastain so she could complete gravity-harnessing equations started by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and save humanity. He encoded the data via Morse code in the “second hand” of the watch he left her. Who thinks of this stuff?
This is pure science fiction at its finest.
For those of you expecting Christopher Nolan to deliver “The Dark Night Rises” in space, I’m sorry. Instead, he’s delivered something much more profound. He didn’t make a movie for everyone. He made it for people interested in string theory or the theory of everything. He made it for science fiction purists. He made it for people who look at the night sky and wonder what’s out there. He made if for the people who wonder what happened to the amazing NASA of the 1960s.
He made the movie for me.