Thursday, November 20, 2014

Interstellar Reminds Us to Return to the Movies

Obligatory spoiler warning.

       Let me start by saying this review does not do it's film justice. There is too much to be said and discussed to be done within a single blog post. So, without any more preamble or exaggeration, Interstellar is one of the best movies of the 21st century. This is a movie that reminds us why we go to the movies. I, admittedly, have spent a good portion of my time in recent memory watching movies on Popcorn Time, Netflix or a number of less than legal sites (please don't judge me too harshly, Hollywood). With the ridiculous ticket prices, easy-internet accessibility and quick DVD/Blu-Ray release-time of movies, it's becoming less and less necessary for people to actually go to the movies. Which, Interstellar reminds us, is a goddamn shame. Like Inception before it, and, dare I say, Avatar, Interstellar is a movie that needs to be seen in theaters. Forget about how good the movie actually is (which is really freaking good). This is a movie you'll walk out having felt that you actually experienced and not just saw. Nolan clearly made this film as a love letter to the spectacle movies he saw in the same vein that JJ Abrams wrote his homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET with 2011's Super 8. You walk out of this movie feeling like a child again, in the best way possible. Interstellar leaves you with a sense of wonderment, confusion, sentimentality and, ultimately, satisfaction. It is truly a movie for movie-lovers. The film is framed by a quote by Coop early in the film, that tells the audience both of the terrible plight faced by the characters but also reminds the audience of the hope and wonderment mankind once felt: "We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."

       With that off my chest, I'd like to focus on what I feel is the most important theme/idea presented by the film. The most resounding and prevalent theme that needs to be discussed is the selfishness of man (note, not mankind, but man). This is a theme that is presented a number of different times in a number of different ways. Several characters throughout the movie make it abundantly clear that mankind cannot be trusted to save itself. This is because of individuals. While it's easy for mankind as a people to recognize the sacrifices that must be made for the benefit of mankind, individuals are selfish, belligerent, ignorant and blinded by their own attachments. This theme comes up a number of times throughout the film in Tom Cooper, Coop, Amelia Brand and Dr. Brand.

       However, nowhere is this trait more obvious than in the oft-praised hero, Dr. Mann. The man who is seemingly a selfless savior and hero of mankind ends up being the most selfish character in the film, particularly in two acts: calling the Endurance to his uninhabitable, icy planet under false pretenses, and attempting/succeeding in killing anyone who discovers his secret (head-butting Cooper and blowing up Romiley through KIPP). I think Nolan is certainly attempting to make a point in naming Matt Damon's character Dr. Mann. Dr. Mann represents man himself/herself. Mann/man proves himself to be selfish in his inability to sacrifice himself for the greater good of mankind, ignorant in his self-service or inability to listen to reason because of personal attachments, and belligerent in his aggressive unwillingness to listen to people who are genuinely trying to help mankind. While this  can certainly be seen in many characters throughout the film (Amelia Brand wanting to go to Edmonds because of her love of Wolf, Coop wanting to return home despite the mission so he can fulfill his promise to Murph), Dr. Mann is a microcosm for this trait in mankind as he embodies all of the selfish traits of man without showing the redeeming qualities that other, more selfless characters, inhibit. While all other characters (the true heroes of mankind) are able to embody self-sacrifice and show true altruism towards the ultimate goal, Dr. Mann falls short where most of mankind falls short. He, like most of humanity, is unable to sacrifice himself for the benefit of mankind when it matters the most.

       While I've focused on one aspect of this brilliant film, without delving into other fascinating ideas presented by the movie like the 5th dimension, black-hole travel, the touching human loss, the undeniable comparisons to seminal sci-fi classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama, the undeniable confusion felt while watching much of the film, or any of the thousands of other ideas that come to mind that cannot be presented in under 1000 words, suffice it to say that this movie presents human emotions and loss in a way that no other film has done in recent memory. That is one of the reasons this movie strikes the audience in the heart so fully. It is a movie about heroes. It shows mankind at their absolute worst and most selfish, but also at their most altruistic and self-sacrificing. The sacrifices and decisions made by characters (particularly Coop) reminds us, in a overly-sentimental way (and this is not said in a negative way), of what is worth fighting for, dying for and coming back for.

1 comment:

  1. But it's oftentimes poorly edited with no coherent continuity (especially on the ice planet), choc full of expository dialogue (and nothing much else, especially little to drive the characters) and CGI action setpieces which serve no purpose but to keep the audience interested in the three hour run-time. And then Nolan's ridiculous plot solves itself by assuming they will one day have the ability to solve the plot. If that's not lazy filmmaking in a nutshell, I don't know what is. You should drop your fanboy trousers.