Interstellar (USA/UK, 2014)

interstellar_movie_poster_2Directed by: Christopher Nolan. This one was spoiled for me by a particularly specific episode of Roderick on the Line where they complained about this movie and the part that lost them—the whole thing with the ghost knocking books off the girl’s bookshelf and the dad using fake science to communicate with her through space-time. (I routinely spoil things on this blog, so I’d hope everyone knows by now not to read one of these if you haven’t seen the movie.) At the time, I didn’t feel a particular urge to see this movie anyway, but then I realized that my arbitrary and cherry-picked aversion to popular mainstream cinema is pretty silly and that I actually really wanted to see this. I’m not gonna lie—knowing the bit at the end, even though I didn’t know the details, kind of messed up the dramatic impact for me. But I still felt tremendously drawn into this film, enough that I wanted to re-watch it again (halfway), even with the ending quasi-spoiled, and the overdone, kind of squirmy sentimental stuff in there. What can I say? I’m a sentimental guy, I like that whole angle. Although, I gotta say, it’s another manifestation of a Hollywood phenomenon that I’ve seen manifest itself in terms of historical films, but which I never realized could also apply to scientific data in science fiction films. So, in a historical film, the vogue (for how long I’m not sure) is to make a big hullaballoo about how “accurate” every artistic choice you make, to have a historian on the set going over the size of the belt buckles and censoring the script for anachronistic political references. But for all the hullaballoo made about the accuracy, ultimately they’re just getting the historian to come up with an excuse for all of the glaring un-factual, blatant Hollywood bullshit you’ve got, like why Leonardo Dicaprio’s accent is so terrible (he was raised in America but in a secluded boarding school full of Irish immigrants, which accounts for his “unique” blend of both accents). Or, more central to the example I always pick, Gangs of New York, there’s a big fuss made about the dimensions of the sets, the accuracy of the clothing, etc, and all of this “accuracy” is draped over a bunch of Hollywoodisms, farfetched distortions, romantic subplots, narrative conventions, all in service of what is ultimately a completely made-up story with nothing but a passing resemblance to anything that ever actually happened in life ever, much like a film without the self-justifying banner of “historically accurate” pasted all over it. My roundabout point is that it seems silly and kind of disingenuous to make a big song and dance about the accuracy of a Hollywood film when you as a filmmaker have no intention of subverting or deviating or doing anything other than completely re-enact and capitulate to the demands of un-realistic, un-factual, fantasy-and-empathy obligations of mainstream Hollywood. And, fair enough, it says a lot about audiences, how we won’t settle for “make believe” when we consume make believe, we demand accuracy (or what we perceive as accuracy—remember Braveheart?), and yet we also demand that a film checks off all the boxes of mainstream Hollywood narrative drama. It’s an arbitrary balancing act, and this film is no greater a sinner than any other; actually it’s pretty interesting and well done altogether, a fairly unique narrative that still pays lip service to all of the usual tropes—a heterosexual monogamous love connection, however elusive, still lies at the centre. My point, though, is how absurd (and actually funny) it is that this film was co-developed with a real physicist, who was there to make sure the science jargon that’s unintelligible to 99% of the audience anyway makes sense to all of the physicists who might see it, to make sure that the CGI rendering of a black hole, or of an alien planet, looks “realistic”—not that any physicist has actually seen any of that, but realistic in accordance with what the math tells us. And I’m sure Kip Thorne was a demanding taskmaster, squeezing every little drop of realism into this movie, to keep it from getting too carried away with flights of fancy, while it’s telling a story about how love conquers all and pulls across space-time just like gravity, not in a metaphorical way, in a way that is directly, visibly, physically evident in the physical world. Now, I’m no scientist, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that when they’re crunching numbers at the Max Planck Institute, or when they’re running the formulas at the Large Hadron Collider, they’re not referring to the physical laws of love and gravity—no such thing exists. It’s a nice thought, it makes for great drama, it’s very poetic—how is it that, across time and space, I still feel a longing for a person who might already be dead? The answer to that, Anne Hathaway, as far as science is concerned, is in the realm of biology, physiology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, any number of human-based sciences—to the best of my knowledge, physics doesn’t have a lot to say about it. But of course, as you all know, I’m not a scientist, and that would make me, make us all, feel warm and fuzzy to learn that the universe is governed by physical laws of love and warm fuzzies, and not just gravity and cooling and overwhelming dark matter. Either way, I’ll skip past the stupid faux-documentary device with all of the old timers talking about the dust bowl and just say that there’s something about this movie that I quite liked. Overall, the acting was a treat to watch, for McConaughey, for Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and David Gyasi, who I’d never seen before, and the girl Mackenzie Foy. The whole thing with Matt Damon was weird, but he was a good choice for it (although a bit young). I’m always a bit suspicious of John Lithgow in a serious role (remember Kinsey? ughhh), and Topher Grace, I’m sorry, but you can’t drop in Topher Grace like he’s a normal actor and not de-rail the emotional flow of the story. Sorry, Topher, but you are the kid from the 70’s Show, and you will always be thus (at least they didn’t put fucking Ashton Kutcher in there). So, then, after saying 1000 words and almost none of it about the actual movie itself, I’ll leave you and just say that this was a pretty okay movie, you should see it, if you’re into that kind of thing.

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3 responses to “Interstellar (USA/UK, 2014)

  1. Pingback: Les Misérables (UK, 2012) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: The Imitation Game (USA, 2014) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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