Interstellar (2014)
November 7, 2014 8:22 PM - Subscribe

Christopher Nolan presents a sprawling (and sprawlingly reviewed) near-three-hour epic about the end of the world and Matthew McConaughey's attempt to find a new place for humanity among the stars.

Time and space collide as we are taken from a farm in a near-future Earth that seems to have just given up to a pair of planets orbiting a black hole. Action setpieces and family drama abound.
posted by Etrigan (171 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, YMMV but my thinking is that even lowered expectations aren't going to help much. This was also a special birthday outing for me as a gift from family. Although, honestly, it was a spectacle in parts and I would likely have ended up watching this at home where it wouldn't have even included that aspect of it. So I'm not unhappy.

I bet this opens this weekend lower than expected and then business drops off very quickly.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:53 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


On a real Imax screen at the air and space museum, this movie was awe-inspiring, though it could have been about 40 minutes shorter, I think. And the dialogue is just... people don't talk that way.

I also am not sold on the ending, which was a bit too neatly wrapped up in a bow for me.
posted by empath at 11:56 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Turns out making your movie twice as long as Gravity makes it about half as good. There were a bunch of great visuals particularly the late reveal.

I was really unhappy with the sound in general - over and over people would talk while either loud music blared or rockets were firing, and I had absolutely no idea what they were saying.
posted by xiw at 2:48 AM on November 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm eagerly awaiting the youtube clip that splices together all the lines of dialogue involving the robots, because honestly those were my favorite characters, and they had some of the best lines.
posted by A dead Quaker at 3:11 AM on November 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


Loved the nod to Luke and R2! Lots of it was slightly out of focus but I don't know if that was a problem with the showing I was at or with the film itself.

I thought it was fantastic though.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2014


Going into this movie, I had read that it was more hard science-y than people were expecting, and that there were some gratuitous family interludes that ruined the suspense and pacing. I expected that I would feel the same way upon seeing it because the trailer seemed to me to be a bunch of sentimental tripe ruining my sexy shots of unexplored planets.

Wow, was I wrong. Most of the film was non-stop eye rolling. There was so much stuff that was handwaved away or shown but in an unrealistic manner. That usually doesn't bother me in sci-fi but it did here because of all of the hoopla about how Christopher Nolan tried to hew towards real science. If you're going to present a world in which technology is more or less magic, that's fine, but that's supposedly not what Nolan was going for.

That being said I loved the film, and mostly because of that 'sentimental tripe' that I was so worried about. We've been to space in movies before. Less often have we explored the emotional ramifications of the relativity of time. I was crying at the end and I'm not even a parent. I just wish that this could have been worked in more cohesively. Or that any of it could have been worked in more cohesively. The surprise cameo character was one of my favorite parts of the film, but that entire storyline could have been cut without significantly changing the plot.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's the old adage that the less you talk, the smarter people think you are. I think 2001 takes advantage of that. It insinuates a bunch of deep-seeming stuff about man's place in the cosmos but it never actually tries to say anything specific. Whereas Interstellar is very, very specific about everything that happens. Even its equivalent to the far-out groovy stargate sequence is explained exactly: we know what's happening, why it's happening, who did it.

I think that means it's less of a success as a movie but I also kind of liked it. The ultimate revelation was ridiculous but 2001 would have been just as ridiculous if Kubrick had let himself be pinned down (and in fact the later movies/books are bad in just this way). Nolan was aiming for an impossible goal so I can't be that annoyed that he didn't reach it, and it definitely was spectacular.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I love Christopher Nolan's ambition but he often adds details that are needlessly silly or unbelievable -- often times throwaway pieces of detail that, if tweaked a little, could work perfectly fine.
One example I am thinking of is how Murph's school replaced their textbooks with ones that say the moon landing was faked as a piece of American propaganda. What???
Ostensibly it does two things.. shows that Murph is a stickler for truth and real science (and a bit of an iconoclast) and second that humanity has moved its priorities from exploration to "caretakers," creating farmers, caring more about the dirt, etc.
But I have to believe there is a better way they could have handled it without creating an eye roll.
I think one way, as vogon_poet says, is by simply saying less. Show, don't tell.
posted by starman at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I think the movie would have been stronger without the surprise cameo character. The docking/airlock mishap sequence was great, but find another, shorter way there.
posted by starman at 3:15 PM on November 8, 2014




The film is basically a beat-by-beat remake of 2001, except the freakout LSD portion at the end lasts 45 minutes instead of 10, and it's all hopelessly goofy. I wish he'd stuck to the tone of the first 2/3rds and just had them have the teased big fight about whether to try to make for Edmunds's planet or head back to Earth.

But the real plot hole is in the names: if Cooper's grandson is named "Cooper" after him, but Cooper's Station is named after Murph, the only conclusion we can draw is that both Cooper and his grandson are named Cooper Cooper.
posted by gerryblog at 9:38 PM on November 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Intellectually speaking, I thought AV Club pretty much nailed it, but I will give Christopher Nolan credit for this being the first movie I've seen of his in a long time that gripped me viscerally enough that I couldn't muster the will to say "oh fuck this and fuck you" while watching it the way I have during basically every other thing he's done. I can't not tremendously enjoy having seen it despite agreeing with basically everything in that review, but I have a real sentimental thing around spaceflight so I chalk that up mostly to my own idiosyncrasies. For instance: I saw Gravity twice in spite of thinking that the dialog and characterization were fucking atrocious.
posted by invitapriore at 10:14 PM on November 8, 2014


Between this and Big Hero 6 I've had a very pro-robot week. I saw this one with a bunch of CS professionals and we were all surprised that for a movie we'd heard was supposed to be pretty hard sci-fi there wasn't more made of a world with what looked like something awfully close to strong AI.

Also, I think the movie would have been stronger without the surprise cameo character.

Oh, good, I thought I was the only one. That's how I would have cut down the movie length: get rid of that whole planetfall, have part of the ship explode anyway to eliminate the last extraneous character and require the booster sacrifices. You lose some time on a rather long movie and I get to be pleasantly surprised by a movie that doesn't try to surprise me with a betrayal. (Seriously, I spent the entire time up to then wondering who would go bad. The robots? A crewperson? I actually sat back and relaxed a little bit when it was obvious it was him.)

I know that you lose themes like humans bringing evil along with them and it would be harder to force the love-vs-science choice/debate, but that just leaves more focus for those gorgeous sweeping space scenes. (I think I was biased by seeing this in IMAX.)

But the real plot hole is in the names: if Cooper's grandson is named "Cooper" after him, but Cooper's Station is named after Murph, the only conclusion we can draw is that both Cooper and his grandson are named Cooper Cooper.

Yes! Everything else I accepted as weird but intentional movie logic, but this was what hit me on the ride home. Cooper was the name on his uniform, so I just assumed that Cooper has a boring first name but his grandson is Cooper Cooper.
posted by jdherg at 10:26 PM on November 8, 2014


Just got back from seeing it. About halfway through I was like, "Oh right, shit, Inception." Also, I really hope I didn't ruin the movie for anyone around me because I kept reflexively making that jerk-off motion and rolling my eyes really, really hard.
posted by palomar at 11:02 PM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Newitz review nails it.. I wish I could have removed all the dialogue and replaced it with entirely different dialogue explaining entirely different plot points. The individual sequences and everything in space was amaaaazing. But aaaaah the plot holes! If the secret purpose is to repopulate with the crew they sent, why is it three guys and one woman? Was Anne Hathaway supposed to gestate the entire human race? Obviously it needed to be an entire crew of women but a movie with just women is apparently more unimaginable than habitable planets orbiting a black hole or the fifth Love Dimension or whatever.

And what was up with that line, "We're pioneers, not *MANLY SNEER* caretakers?" Is that some sort of dogwhistle for something? Isn't not being caretakers what led to the whole mess? Thematically it was so incoherent I couldn't make out what they're trying to say.
posted by Erasmouse at 2:15 AM on November 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Plan B was eggs incubated by machines, erasmouse, not Anne Hathaway boning her crew mates.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Really? They had the embryos for 'genetic diversity', but then Hathaway said they'd send "surrogates" for the gestating.
posted by Erasmouse at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2014


Having just seen it, what I took from the embryos was this:

They would have 10 that were raised up to adulthood. Then those 10 would basically become baby tanks for all of their lives.

Which is pretty awful as it is, but so does this mean that then Brand is going to be a baby farm as well, just gestating and popping out babies for CASE to raise in the middle of the Southern Californian desert? Is that what Cooper is going to fly out towards, helping to raise up baby after baby after baby after baby?

I have issues in general with how we can't have an epic space drama without making it all about someone's daddy issues, but it was, at least, a pretty daddy-issue-filled space drama.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've mostly been able to avoid thinking about the movie, which is important because each time when I've involuntarily thought about the movie, I've discovered something else that just doesn't make any damn sense. I fear that if I spend any time thinking about the movie in earnest, I'll realize that they weren't actually speaking English and that the whole movie was Nolan casting hand-shadows against a CGI background.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Is that what Cooper is going to fly out towards, helping to raise up baby after baby after baby after baby?

Well, they 'solved gravity' so I guess they don't have to do the embryo thing after all, because the whole population of earth is being transported to the planet. Or is just the select crowd in on the NASA plan? I couldn't figure that out, and the movie itself wasn't that interested! But the original plan didn't seem to have thought through the whole raising the embryos part. Not to mention, they still haven't solved the problem of what everyone was going to eat! Seeing as the new planet is barren, and wouldn't anything they brought from Earth have the Blight anyways? If it just needed a sterile environment why not hydroponic underground farms or orbiting farms, seeing as they had the tech? If they can apparently terraform a whole new extreme exoplanet why not just fix.. oh why I am even trying to make it make sense.

If I had one of those real-time rating things they give test audiences, it would have jumped between 2 and 9 for the whole movie, it was either so good or so bad scene by scene.
posted by Erasmouse at 2:34 PM on November 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Just saw it in 70mm IMAX in Providence and was not disappointed. I am not much of a Nolan fan, either. Don't try to make sense of the "science" and you'll be much better off. There's a lot of the best of classic Hollywood in this movie - meaning it feels very much from the heart - and if you go, go for that reason. Matt Zoller Seitz nailed it in his review.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:47 PM on November 9, 2014


I saw this Saturday afternoon and have been turning it over in my head since. I .... didn't hate it? I by default have high expectations of Nolan, and more often than not, he at least meets those. I think this one falls short of those, despite having a lot of things to like about it. It's easily, to me, the worst of his originals. I'll watch it again when it hits bluray and see how it holds up, but that's my first watch reaction.

I will say, I find complaints about the dialogue in almost any movie that read either explicitly or implicitly as "real people don't talk like that" to be kind of silly. Real people don't talk like the characters in lots of things that have fantastic dialogue. The problem with the dialogue in this movie isn't that real people wouldn't say those words in that order like that. The problem isn't how real/not real it is, that's basically never the problem with dialogue in anything. It's that instead of things seeming to flow naturally from character 100% of the time (or close enough)... We can see the hands of the writers forcing things a little too obviously. This is the case with most Nolan (plural) movies. Characters speak in either exposition or Thematic Statement. But, I'd argue that in the better ones, not only do we look the other way because everything else is humming along great, we don't have to look the other way as hard because it's not as big a problem as it is here.

In short: The problem is that we have Anne Hathaway, a scientist taking this completely out of nowhere left turn into a long ramble about love transcending space and time.

The joke I was making as I was leaving the movie theater with a friend of mine who's even more of a Nolan fan than I am is that "it turns out the sound of Christopher going full Nolan is an enormous recurring Hans Zimmer organ chord."

That "he went full Nolan" is really a lot of how I feel about this. This movie contains a huge amount of the things I love most about his work, but it also contains his worst flaws amped up to a weirdly high degree.

Along that line of thinking, I found it sort of amusing that in its own way, Zimmer's score really reflects this. Zimmer is not known for subtlety in his scores. Likewse, Nolan's never been known for being a particularly subtle film maker. By both their usual standards, this is a poundingly unsubtle piece of work. It gets frustrating because it does so many things right! Everything looks fucking amazing! Within the constraints of the writing, pretty much every performance is really good! And yet taken as a whole it just ... You see the puppet strings way, way, way too often.

Anyway. Hot mess of a film. I'm glad someone is allowed to make stuff like this. Sometimes it backfires as it did here, but the risk is worth it given the caliber of movie Nolan's made at his best.
posted by sparkletone at 11:46 PM on November 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Oh, last thought: While there's lots of acting and production design stuff that I liked here, of the stuff it felt like they left on the table a little bit... I really wish they'd done more with the consequences of relativity. They got part way there, but I was utterly riveted by the stakes involved in the "time as a resource" thinking forced on the characters in this movie and the way that played out. You could do a whole damn great movie out of that alone.
posted by sparkletone at 11:48 PM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


1. Michael Cain's character's repeating of Thomas's "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" made me laugh more and more each time. It was a great example of how this script didn't work — over-serious clichés or over-serious absurdities, often both.

2. Huge laughs in the audience almost every time the robots showed up. I liked them on their own, but in this movie their anachronistic design was just ridiculous. The shot of a little rectangular robot arm controlling a joystick felt like Dark Star.

3. I think Nolan is incapable of not taking everything in his movies 100% seriously. It seriously drags his work down.

4. The scene in the "tesseract" was completely ripped from Inception. That is: incoherent time/space interactions with ham-handed emotional and intellectual content. Trying to communicate "STAY" to Murph seemed like a joke — don't you remember how she tried to get you to stay? Don't you remember how you laughed at her discovering that the 'ghost' had tried to write "STAY"? Were we, the audience, supposed to have forgotten by that point?

5. That scene and Hathaway's love speech and Cain's "rage" and how Cooper treats Murph when he's leaving, and how adult Murph and Topher Grace treat Murph's brother and family ("YOU HAVE TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY LISTEN TO US YOU HAVE TO LEAVE WHY ARE YOU BEING DUMB") really cement in my mind that Nolan has no sense of how to depict emotional depth, may not even know what that means.

6. Oh god the music! Nolan LOVES his crescendos and people talking under them as a way to build tensions. But it's a complete ruse, a hack — it gets at your emotions without doing the work to get your brain and your heart on board. He uses that consistently throughout his oeuvre. And I hate it.

7. We live in this fascinating time where the trappings of great cinema are relatively easy to construct — the cinematography, the effects, the music. Put some stars in your movie and now it feels like Serious Cinema. Nolan here really puts the lie to that construct — his content here is working at about an 8th grade level.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


I really liked Michael Caine here. I liked that instead of a "wise sage" character, it turned out that he's basically Ozymandias from Watchmen. That the movie doesn't really sit with that idea and properly deal with it is unfortunate.
posted by sparkletone at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yesterday I read this interview with a horticulture professor about if there's any real reason they mentioned corn and okra in the film. Spoiler alert: there's not. The interview really reiterated for me how annoyingly apolitical this film tries to be. There's an existing, realistic threat to our planet (climate change), but instead let's make up some more ridiculous problem disaster... why again? Is it because climate change is too political? In a movie that includes a totally gratuitous mention of the censorship in textbooks?
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh god the music! Nolan LOVES his crescendos and people talking under them as a way to build tensions. But it's a complete ruse, a hack — it gets at your emotions without doing the work to get your brain and your heart on board. He uses that consistently throughout his oeuvre. And I hate it.

There's one scene where the music suddenly cuts out at the Appropriate Dramatic Moment, and we're left with just Matthew McConaughey staring out the window at something -- with no cut in the shot -- that was so patently manipulative that I groaned audibly in the theater.
posted by Etrigan at 11:52 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


sparkletone: "I really wish they'd done more with the consequences of relativity. They got part way there, but I was utterly riveted by the stakes involved in the "time as a resource" thinking forced on the characters in this movie and the way that played out."

I had to chuckle at how excited Nolan must have been to set up one of those arithmetical constraints on the film's universe that he seems to love so much and not have it be laughably over-simple, unlike the five minutes/one hour dream time nonsense in Inception.
posted by invitapriore at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


This movie made almost as little sense as Inception, although it was less obnoxiously cloying in its nonsensicality. This is probably because most of us have had dreams, and know that explosions and ski chases and seven layers of "narrative" don't usually feature into dreams, whereas most of us have not actually had experience with black holes, thus rendering the concept and its problems unique and interesting and curiously relatively unexplored by Hollywood films.

I fear suddenly that Christopher Nolan is actually working his way up to a trilogy, the IN- trilogy, and next up we'll see the non-narrative non-arc from INCEPTION and INTERSTELLAR concluded with INTERMINABLE, a ten-hour film about how we have to do another thing inside something else that's just like the first thing, so it's almost like the thing is actually inside itself, and it changes time or something and there are watches and if we succeed we'll save the world, and the denouement will once again be incredibly precise and perfectly satisfying to every average viewer but the actual ending, the very last bit, will (once again, again) be ever so slightly open-ended so as to allow them to believe they've just seen something deeply artistic and searching.

The nonsense is present even in the main conceit. Mysterious space beings begin to communicate with you through gravity, showing you a wormhole to conveniently located planets and interacting with people in apparently minute and seemingly inconsequential ways, and your first thought is, "let's build a space program to travel to the stars"? Forget all the obvious things, which have been brought up here – hydroponics, better farming technology, etc. Why are you assuming (a) that the magical aliens are actually creatures communicating, and (b) that they are benevolent and want to help you find a wonderful new home? Why are you assuming anything at all, instead of trying to actually communicate back, to analyze what they're saying, to sort out what they intend?

This of course leans toward one of the possible directions they could have taken with the film and didn't. And, of course, it's been done before ("it's a cookbook!") so maybe it's for the best. But yes, I did have a part of me that was really hoping that they'd get through that wormhole and touch down on the first planet and find a pack full of impatient xenomorphs waiting for the new shipment of breeding containers they'd ordered.
posted by koeselitz at 12:22 AM on November 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


sparkletone: “It's easily, to me, the worst of his originals.”

This I can't quite agree with. Inception was almost impossible for me to get through; the groaners were so bad the audience actually groaned at times, and it was just utterly facile at so many moments. But I guess I may come to feel the same about Interstellar, which only edged it out for me because space stuff and cool ships and really neat robots.

Come to think, I remember feeling kind of the same about Memento, which I haven't seen since around the time it came out.

One thing about especially Inception but also about Interstellar that I've been thinking about is how much all these movies owe to The Matrix: the just-intellectual-enough-to-be-cool dialogue and ideas; the fact that they're action movies parading as hip thinkpieces; the lack of any real desire to make all the pieces fit together so long as they look awesome and sound compelling; the central conceits that try incredibly hard to blow your mind and then act relatively self-satisfied when they think they've succeeded. I'm too tired to think too hard about it right now, but I'd bet Nolan isn't the only one so influenced by that movie. Glancing around, though, it sounds like Nolan has indeed said that The Matrix was a big influence, although he doesn't share my dim view of its ruses.

(Although I have to say that I've come to terms with The Matrix as a movie; what I had to realize is that movies are like bands. Some movies are like what they said about the Velvet Underground – nobody heard them, but people who did went out and started bands of their own. Some movies are like what they say about Phish or the Grateful Dead – their music is actually really good, but to appreciate it you have to learn to separate it from their sometimes awful fans. The Matrix made a million fanboy kids think they were philosophical geniuses, and for a long time any time the movie came up you could count on people gushing about how deep and incredibly significant it all was. Really, though, when the dust settled, what there was there was a pretty great little action flick with Keanu Reeves and fighting and a fun plot. Not much more than that, but it can be appreciated on that level.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:41 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


vogon_poet: “There's the old adage that the less you talk, the smarter people think you are. I think 2001 takes advantage of that. It insinuates a bunch of deep-seeming stuff about man's place in the cosmos but it never actually tries to say anything specific. Whereas Interstellar is very, very specific about everything that happens. Even its equivalent to the far-out groovy stargate sequence is explained exactly: we know what's happening, why it's happening, who did it.”

Yeah – this seems to be a Nolan hallmark. Inception might have been a really deeply intriguing movie if it just didn't explain anything. And interestingly enough it seems to be an explicit credo by Christopher Nolan: everything in a movie must have an explanation (and of course if you have an explanation for it, it's hard not to spill the beans on that.) He says this is geared to audience satisfaction, which I guess is a thing he seems to understand:
I've always believed that if you make a film with ambiguity, it needs to be based on a true interpretation. If it's not, then it will contradict itself, or it will be somehow insubstantial and end up making the audience feel cheated. Ambiguity has to come from the inability of the character to know -- and the alignment of the audience with that character.
No ambiguity allowed. Stanley Kubrick he is not.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 AM on November 11, 2014


"Really, though, when the dust settled, what there was there was a pretty great little action flick with Keanu Reeves and fighting and a fun plot. Not much more than that, but it can be appreciated on that level."

Bound was one of my favorite films -- still is, really. Besides a cool trailer, that was all I knew about The Matrix going into it when it came out. Anyway, my point is that it was never anything other than an incredibly cool and well-done SF/Action film to me. When I saw the movie, I saw the philosophical stuff as window dressing that (metaphorically) contributed positively to the film's mise en scène. Later, reading about the writing and production, and finding out that they took some things way more seriously than I thought they did, I rolled my eyes the way one does about people who never got beyond sophomoric philosophizing. Still later, with the fanboys you're talking about -- well, I know of their existence, but they never featured in my world. I was already 36 in 2000.

The other two movies ... well, okay. That rubbed my face in all the nonsense and, worse, they were bad movies.

But, you know, I don't hold that against the first one. The Wachowskis really knew what they were doing with Bound and The Matrix, they are far from talentless or without skill.

This is all relevant and you're right to mention The Matrix, because there's a certain kind of artist who is artistically their own worst enemy. Nolan is one, Steven Moffat is another, just to name someone I'm presently very annoyed with. Really, this problem is common as dirt. The work of these folk suffer from the artist's past success because success removes some of the inhibitions against many of the artists's worst instincts and temptations.

I find it interesting that you hate Inception so passionately. Although I don't passionately hate Interstellar, I so think it's a badly flawed and tedious, sometimes silly movie which has as its sole virtue a few visually stunning scenes and so I basically invert your relative assessment of the two. Inception I see as also flawed, but much more tolerably so. I thought that the storytelling itself, in sum, was notably better than in Interstellar; that the characters, though weak, weren't as weak as in the previous film; and that other than the contrivance of the end, the refrigerator plot holes weren't so egregious. But, I don't know. Maybe I was just wowed by its spectacle and fun in the way that people were with Interstellar -- for me, it was deeply fun and satisfying to see the malleable dream-logic world be so fully realized on screen, which I think was genuinely novel. SF space spectacles, not so much.

And I write that last bit as someone who's a bit of an astrophysics nerd, I practically squeed when I heard that Thorne was involved in this. Take a look at the recent ALMA thread -- an ex-girlfriend of mine, an astronomer, was on 60 Minutes last March. When we lived together, she was a grad student and worked at the VLA, and Contact was in pre-production and they sent a few people with a camera to follow her around to see what an astronomer at the VLA does (and she was one of two women astronomers there at the time). I originally wanted to be an astrophysicist, that's why I first (unhappily) majored in physics before finding my way to SJC. I'm pretty squarly in the camp of people who are going to be thrilled at this sort of a film.

Which was why it was a special outing with family on the day before my birthday at the nicest theater and best screen nearby I could find (no true IMAX here, alas).

But that just wasn't enough to make it work for me. I loved how the black hole looked and I loved it even more because it was the first realistic depiction of what a black hole would really look like. Believe me, I've been bitching about that in SF for more than thirty years. But as lovely as the visual was, I sat there thinking ... a planet, with liquid water, not torn apart by tidal forces, and not an environment that isn't instantly lethal from x-rays and gamma rays from the disintegrating and accelerating matter of the depicted accretion disk...really? Seriously? I loved that they went to the trouble of showing us a rotating ship, but then I sat there and wondered why you would need to do this complicated thing that has numerous risks associated with it if you had suspended animation. It makes sense if you don't have suspended animation because living in a weightless environment for several years is bad for people. And then they get back to the ship and I'm supposed to accept that the guy stayed awake for most of 23 years and he ate ... what? They kept saying that resources were tight, except when it's convenient for the plot to forget that. That's some examples from only about ten minutes of the film -- the whole damn movie was like that -- almost nothing actually makes any sense if you think about it for more than a second. I'd be okay with that if the characters were fully realized and compelling. But they weren't.

So, okay, I suppose that we have inverted reactions to these two movies not despite the differences in what we brought to them, but because of them. Maybe because the science matters to me and because the spectacle was so well-done, I have a powerful grudge against the movie for failing in pretty much every other respect ... it could have been so much better. The rest of the movie could have lived up to the spectacle, rather than be slightly redeemed by it.

And to go back to the Wachowskis and the Matrix films -- comparing the first to the second and third, the first takes itself a little too seriously, but it's still very aware that it's an action film and is happy to be that. The others take themselves far too seriously and try to be something more than action films. Ebert used to say that he tried to judge a movie for what it attempts to be -- he rightly was willing to rate highly big, Hollywood summer blockbuster action movies, even when they were dumb, if they were really good at being big, Hollywood summer blockbuster action movies.

Nolan works in genre, and he's best when his big ideas are inflections on imaginatively and technically adept realizations of genre conventions, whether noir or action or comic book or science-fiction. This was partly an homage to Kubrick's 2001 and it's worth mentioning that Nolan didn't write this film, his brother did. But the thing is, even though Kubrick often worked in genre, his films were great films that were great films first, and genre films second. They worked in all the important ways independent of genre. This has never been true of Nolan. I can't fault him for the ambition of Interstellar, but I will fault him for not having enough self-awareness to identify his artistic weaknesses and addressing them, one way or another. Instead, he's pretending they don't exist and trying to make another a 21st century 2001. That's where ambition meets embarrassing hubris.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:00 AM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


When I first saw the trailer I had very high hopes. Then I read some plausible, poor reviews and almost didn't go to see it. But I saw it last night and I loved it!

As a former physics major, I thought the science was great--I'm actually a little puzzled by the criticisms I've seen on that point. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson thought highly of the science. It's science fiction, and the science is in service of the fiction. While watching the movie I was reminded of Larry Niven's Known Space stories--most are considered "hard" science fiction, but that doesn't mean that there isn't room for storytelling and drama.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:55 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm going to draw some parallels here, but they may not be legitimate, and I'd love to hear discussion about this. I get a real sense that people feel that the movie was not exhaustive in its explanation of the food situation on earth. I felt that this was similar to the way Cooper went from driving away from his daughter to flying the spaceship. Some time would have passed, maybe even some training. Did we need to see that? No. Back to the blight and the starvation and the situation: can we take it on faith that things on Earth are screwed? I understand if one can't, it's a suspension of disbelief sort of thing. Maybe you need to see that other avenues were tried and abandoned. I just assumed that happened and that space was more or less what was left.

Not equipping the Rangers with radar, though? That's dumb. I would think that 50+ years hence, if we send a ship to another galaxy, we'll add radar to it. For no other reason than that it would help you detect the giant waves or to not run into the solid clouds!
posted by aureliobuendia at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Some time would have passed, maybe even some training. Did we need to see that? No.

I do wish that had given some indication of the amount of time that had passed. I couldn't tell if Cooper's naivete about the mission was due to how fast he went into space or not. Did he have time to think through all of this plan A and plan B business and figure out if they were feasible or not?
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:24 PM on November 11, 2014


The one real problem I had with the film was the sound mix; I had the same issue as xiw with extremely loud music. (And I didn't really care for the music itself.)
posted by jjwiseman at 6:15 PM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I don't understand the ending at all. As I understand it, people in the future invented a way for Cooper to access the past and give his daughter the tools to save everyone on earth. But.... for Future People to be alive to do that, they had to already be saved. If they're alive to invent stuff... then they don't need to manipulate the past because obviously humans were already saved somehow. What am I missing here? This movie makes my head hurt.

Also the sound was TERRIBLE, as people have noted. I thought it was a problem with my theater's system, but I guess not.
posted by silverstatue at 7:28 PM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have to admit, I don't understand the ending at all. As I understand it, people in the future invented a way for Cooper to access the past and give his daughter the tools to save everyone on earth. But.... for Future People to be alive to do that, they had to already be saved. If they're alive to invent stuff... then they don't need to manipulate the past because obviously humans were already saved somehow. What am I missing here?

It's called a closed time-like curve and that's why scientists don't like it, but there's nothing inherently impossible about it.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have to agree that the dialog was nearly impossible to understand in a lot of scenes.

If you liked Lilo and Stitch but felt that the family angle was not heavy handed enough then Interstellar is for you.

I noticed as the camera first passed over the books in the library in the very beginning of the movie the title "Three Cups Of Tea" caught my eye. Was this a clue to the overall deception that was part of the plot?

I was not sorry that the blight destroyed the okra.
posted by boilermonster at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh yay, I'm not the only one who had problems hearing dialogue sometimes!

I don't think it's a paradox. The future peeps helped, rather than hindered, the plans of the past. I'm a fan of time travel anyway, so I'd in shorthand say it's all pre-destined and written in stone.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:18 AM on November 12, 2014


People expected Nolan's 2001, but instead they got Nolan's Sunshine. It's a great flawed film, a huge-budget throwback to the strange, long-lamented era of peculiar filmmakers like Nicolas Roeg. As a new parent, I found it especially poignant - it's barely a story about space at all, but rather the story of how it feels to need to care for those closest to you - people who will, in the best possible outcome, outlive you. The movie's full of clunky bizarre asides - really, they're censoring the moon landing? - but in a way which made it feel like a time-yellowed, weed-scented 70s sci-fi paperback.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:32 AM on November 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


Was it definitively stated that it was Future People who set up the wormhole? I thought that was just one possibility, another being 5th dimensional aliens. I never caught anything that firmly committed to who or what they were.
posted by dnash at 12:31 PM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


So this happened: last night went to see INTERSTELLAR in 70mm, packed theatre. Audience was into it as it started even though though script was a bit clunky. But you could feel that the audience wanted to believe - this is a big event movie and where I live a lot of folks work in the movies so there’s good will. But the script..the script. There were increasing amounts of scattered laughter at the hokeyness of it all. At certain points I had to stop myself from yelling out, “this writing is terrible!”

But when it came to Hathaway’s ‘maybe love is supernatural speech’, (aka The Feels make me forget the years spent on my PhD), I couldn’t take it anymore. I yelled out loudly “OH, C’MON!”. It felt like an Emperor’s New Clothes moment = the spell that was cast on the audience was broken and it seemed folks were now able to laugh freely at the sweet cheesiness of the whole endeavor.

It’s one of those BLACK HOLE films = there needs to be a Kickstarter for these types of pictures that have fantastic visuals and terrible scripts; get the money to get a decent cast together to dub in whole new dialogue. Lot of films could benefit.

+ other folks have been mentioning this weird time we’re in where we’re able to create astonishing visuals but the scripts just don’t match - GRAVITY being a great example where we’re supposed to believe what we’re seeing is real but the dialogue/characterization is like something out of a Jr. High School Play. I’ve seen so many younger folks say “this is our 2001” and it makes me want to tear my hair out - 2001 was written as if people were actually saying these things; as if these events were actually happening; with all the attendant bullshit that occupancies human interaction, “Your speech sure beefed up morale a hell of a lot”. Pardon the old-fashioned slang here but INTERSTELLAR was just a bunch of baloney, hooey, gobbledegook - harder to forgive in a film that posits there’s ‘real science’ there vs. a film like THE NOTEBOOK etc.

ok sorry for the rant. phew.
posted by jettloe at 12:48 PM on November 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Overall, I am tending to feel that if you get to inherit Matthew McConaughey's cheekbones then you should stop moaning about him not being around.
posted by biffa at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am please to see koeselitz and Ivan Fyodorovich compare Nolan with the Wachowskis -- I have had this thought myself.

A with a few others, I found it kind of flat and disappointing in its omnia vincit amor theme slathered all over its hard sf bones. It looked good... well, really, it had moments of astonishing beauty, but not much of it stood up to ten seconds' thought.

Oddly, Torontonians this month had a chance to watch Interstellar's most obvious model 2001:A Space Odyssey in 70 mm with an introduction and Q&A afterward with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwoood. That alone should suggest how far short of the mark Nolan fell: I am hard-pressed to imagine that in 2060, Anne Hathaway and Wes Bentley will address a packed house of people who have come to see Interstellar again.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a former physics major, I thought the science was great--I'm actually a little puzzled by the criticisms I've seen on that point. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson thought highly of the science.

Tyson is pretty acerbic on other aspects of it though. His tweets this week have included:
In #Interstellar: On another planet, around another star, in another part of the galaxy, two guys get into a fist fight.

Mysteries of #Interstellar: Can’t imagine a future where escaping Earth via wormhole is a better plan than just fixing Earth.

Mysteries of #Interstellar: In this unreal future, they teach unscientific things in science class. Oh, wait. That is real.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I tend to think that wherever we go, we'll bring emotions and conflict with us. Real astronauts under a lot less pressure haven't gotten into fights (that I know of), but have gotten angry and gone on strike (in orbit). I read that tweet as criticism of humanity more than of the film.

I am definitely very generous toward the film for the Blight business, which really doesn't make much sense. I actually missed the first couple minutes of the movie and didn't catch on that the problem was a plant disease--I just assumed it was climate change. I guess it's easy enough to think of ways that an entire planet could become uninhabitable that I filled in more plausible details and just filed it under "Must flee the planet, check."

That people have such a hard time swallowing the idea of a school standardizing on a textbook that lies about a historical event is another thing I find odd. And from that tweet, it sounds like Tyson is being sarcastic calling it a mystery.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the moon landing denial is probably the most jarring thing about it for me, thinking back. It's really hard to make that fit with the rest of the movie. For starters, the look of the movie is such that it looks like our present day; there doesn't seem to be any technology or design or anything about the opening section that suggests a time any farther in the future than, oh, a decade from now. (That's being generous - it really looks exactly like today.) And because it doesn't feel wildly far in the future, we have no clear idea how long it's been since the real moon landings. How long have they been denying it? The teacher who complains about the contraband book seems like she knows it's a fake story for propaganda purposes. How could we possibly pull an about-face on the truth of it in what seems to be such a short time?

So that's the first problem. But then later, eventually, it's the space program that saves the day, because in the end they have space colonies out around Saturn. If generations have been taught that the entire space program was never real, how do they suddenly come to trust it?

It's like it's an idea from a different movie that should've been cut out of this one.
posted by dnash at 5:02 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mostly I want to highlight the robots. Totally loved them: the writing, the voice acting, and particularly the locomotion. They are the most ridiculous and yet awesome robots since V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. I assume the acronym names were direct homage to the Disney film this story was bafflingly inspired by.

I enjoyed this film but thought it was only good, not great. Too long, too hokey a script (the power of LURVE), a bit trite. But exciting and beautifully done and I like McConaughey even if he only has one tone of voice. Also liked having plausible women characters. Although really, the one lady astronaut is the one who makes the babies? Sigh.

The sound mixing was terrible. When Michael Caine was monologizing on his hospital bed, mumbling out the Terrible Truth, I was like "speak up man! we can't hear you!". Someone got that terribly wrong. OTOH Hans Zimmer's music was fantastic. It takes a lot of chutzpah to imitate Philip Glass in a movie that wants to be 2001 and he pulled it off.

If this is what passes for "awesome science!" in an American film, I mourn for the state of science education.
posted by Nelson at 5:05 PM on November 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have to add one other thing that really annoyed me. How the hell does Anne Hathaway's character have flawless hair and makeup in deep space? Maybe I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't seen it in the 70mm IMAX with the ginormous screen but, c'mon. Clear, visible layer of makeup smoothing out her skin tone, and lip gloss.
posted by dnash at 5:18 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The sound mixing was terrible. When Michael Caine was monologizing on his hospital bed, mumbling out the Terrible Truth, I was like "speak up man! we can't hear you!".

You are not wrong. He utters some damning revelation which I heard as "Luh cha tan gah" or something equally comprehensible. Luckily Hans Zimmer was on the spot to let me know it was dramatic.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:03 PM on November 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


“OH, C’MON!”.
That was my reaction too but I really threw up my hands when everything went all Inception. I am so glad I didn't pay the extra money to see this in IMAX.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:15 PM on November 13, 2014


OK I need to go back to the black hole. There's no escaping it. Don't black holes have a shit ton of X-ray radiation in their vicinity? All that high energy whirling gas emitting lethal radiation? In what possible way would planets so near a black hole you can't orbit conveniently be a candidate for human migration? Seriously, the press has gone on about how brilliant the science is in this movie. I really don't get it. They might as well have been modulating the tachyon pulse field.
posted by Nelson at 6:36 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The interview really reiterated for me how annoyingly apolitical this film tries to be. There's an existing, realistic threat to our planet (climate change), but instead let's make up some more ridiculous problem disaster... why again?

I got the feeling that the tech we see in the film could solve pretty much any problem we currently have on Earth. Therefore, magical mystery plague.

This was Nolan at his worst, for me. Cheap, unearned sentiment and lazy, lazy writing.
posted by codacorolla at 7:22 PM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the Tyson interview:
Can Cooper actually float through a black hole in his spacesuit, like he does in the film? Would he be destroyed by gamma radiation?

It’s likely that most black holes have no accompanying radiation coming out of them. The ones we see have extraordinary spiraling gas working its way down to the center of the abyss, and you see those when it’s a black hole that has a companion star that’s getting flayed by the source of gravity, and typically, when the companion star swells up to become a red giant and overfills its Roche lobe, which is an envelope around a star beyond which if any of its material drifts past that envelope, its susceptible to falling somewhere else within that orbiting system. So, only when you have spiraling matter down do you get these ferocious, black hole jets. But a star that becomes a black hole all by itself? There’s no reason to think anything harmful would be in its vicinity at all.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:37 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree. It's unlikely that Cooper would be destroyed by radiation inside the black hole. If I were him, I would be more concerned about being crushed by the incredibly strong forces of love. As we all know, love exerts a much greater pull inside a black hole; it's sort of like being a teenager all over again. What scientists have only recently been able to explore is the curious interaction between love and gravity inside a black hole; some, however, have said that this should have been obvious given their well-known correlation, which is actually the source of the popular phrase "to fall in love."
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 PM on November 13, 2014 [33 favorites]


I read Tyson's optimism about the black hole radiation and I don't buy it. The camera shows us all this beautiful colorful spinning gas. So there's at least visible optical radiation. I'm gonna guess there's also high energy radiation, what with the massive gravity well. And another thing.. Early on Space Cowboy makes a comment about how he can navigate by "slingshotting around this neutron star on the other side of the black hole". So there's also a neutron star nearby, well under a light year away. Perhaps it's a binary system, a black hole and a neutron star? With two habitable planets nearby? It, um, strains credulity.

I'm fine with bogus made up stuff like this in service to a fun sci-fi story. And I liked the story and the movie! Just shaking my head at the buzz that this is somehow a realistic science movie. And that's even before the religious stuff and the transdimensional power of lurve.
posted by Nelson at 6:56 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did I completely misread the "power of love" scene? Yes the speech was a terrible, empty cliché, but I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be; we weren't being asked to buy into the idea. Cooper immediately and conclusively punctured the moment, and nothing in the rest of the film gave us any reason to think that love had any power outside the characters' heads. The two biggest potential "power of love" moments were, for me, discovering the tesseract and its ability to show Cooper his daughter, and Brand's discovery that the last planet really was habitable. But we're shown that the tesseract was built to communicate with his daughter for a specific purpose, and that the object of Brand's love was already dead. In this story, love didn't do anything magic.

Yes she's a scientist, but desperation makes people cling onto all sorts of weird ideas, and I know enough scientists with weird (to me) beliefs in real life that it didn't seem out of place to me. After being so closed off and prickly she was obviously going to crack at some point, it was obviously going to be something with a mixture of pain and shame, and that speech completely fit the bill.

I also didn't have a problem with the Blight. There's some kind of currently-untreatable plant disease that's killing off the world's food crops (hence the starvation / need for a new home) and other vegetation (hence the dust storms). Maybe I've consumed too much scifi over the years, but that seems like a really, really easy premise to swallow. I did find it a bit odd that, in a world whose biggest problem was ecosystem collapse and starvation, everyone looked fairly well-nourished. But there's only so much self-harm one can ask of actors, I suppose.

The stuff about the moon landings felt very weird, though. It was early enough in the film that I still felt like the world-building was going on, so I really wasn't sure whether I was supposed to think that it was censorship, or that in the film's world the landings really hadn't happened. The former seemed much more likely from context, but also so unbelievably clunky that I didn't want it to be true.

(I had no problem hearing dialogue over the loud music, and this was in a moderately grotty, non-IMAX cinema. Not sure what the difference would be?)
posted by metaBugs at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Did I completely misread the "power of love" scene? Yes the speech was a terrible, empty cliché, but I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be; we weren't being asked to buy into the idea. Cooper immediately and conclusively punctured the moment, and nothing in the rest of the film gave us any reason to think that love had any power outside the characters' heads. The two biggest potential "power of love" moments were, for me, discovering the tesseract and its ability to show Cooper his daughter, and Brand's discovery that the last planet really was habitable. But we're shown that the tesseract was built to communicate with his daughter for a specific purpose, and that the object of Brand's love was already dead. In this story, love didn't do anything magic.

Well, this is the main problem with the movie, is that it seems to want to say something about the power of love, but it doesn't really have anything worth saying.

All of the love crap is ladled on, and in the end Brand is right in her decision. They really should have gone to the other planet. Instead, they go to the literally frozen and cold planet that Mann (eye rolling) is on, who is someone that is totally self interested and divorced from love. This is a data-driven, emotionless, decision, although the data has been faked.

So Cooper realizes he was wrong, and that leads him to sacrifice himself by going into the tesseract. Once he's in there he realizes that it was him all along that built the intergalactic bookshelf, and that his ghost has been telling his past self to stay with the daughter he loves, but if he does that then he never would have been able to send morse code through the watch and never have built the tesseract in the first place.

Just typing that description out has my head spinning. Not because I don't understand the basic gist of what happened, but because it's such a confusing, poorly written, internally inconsistent piece of storytelling. For a movie where the characters are constantly, constantly, constantly talking about what is happening, and what they're thinking, and the grand philosophy of it all, the movie is at its core emotionally empty and nonsensical. Stuff happens because (it seems) the Nolans had this great idea for a plot twist: what if, like, a scientifically improbable phenomenon like a ghost and like love actually had, like, a highly scientific explanation, man?

The rest of the movie, instead of telling an interesting and compelling story, seems like a reverse game of narrative Twister trying to get the characters into position to deliver on that premise.
posted by codacorolla at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


All of the love crap is ladled on, and in the end Brand is right in her decision. They really should have gone to the other planet.

One thing I noticed was that while she was right, there were only two choices. 50/50 chance of guessing wrong and going to Mann's planet. During the fight when Mann is smashing his helmet into Coop's, Coop says something like "50/50 chance of killing yourself!" and Mann replies "Best odds I've had in years!"

I also loved the robots. As a former roboticist, I found the design to be the opposite of anachronistic: Totally different from how robots look today, and feeling very futuristic with the implied modularity and flexibility. From today's point of view the design doesn't make sense, because we couldn't make it work, but this is the future. Sometimes they're furniture, sometimes they're mobile. The morphology and different modes of locomotion (walking, rolling, presumably swimming) reminded me of Karl Sims' experiments with evolved virtual creatures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBgG_VSP7f8
posted by jjwiseman at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


He utters some damning revelation which I heard as "Luh cha tan gah" or something equally comprehensible.

Seriously, what did he say. I couldn't hear it either.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


He utters some damning revelation which I heard as "Luh cha tan gah" or something equally comprehensible.

Do you mean his very last words? His last words were "Do...not...go...gentle..." Right before that he admitted his equation work was a sham to give false hope. Murph then pressed him about whether her father had know this, and instead of answering he started blathering the poem again as he died.
posted by dnash at 11:19 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, this is the main problem with the movie, is that it seems to want to say something about the power of love, but it doesn't really have anything worth saying.
Huh. If anything, I actually thought that was what the movie was saying: 'power of love? Nope, not here.' Maybe that makes it emotionally empty, but I liked it.

That Brand turned out to be right just came down to a 50:50 chance, not enough to be impressive or meaningful IMO. I'm definitely prepared to accept that I'm a minority viewpoint, but in my eyes it didn't vindicate her original position, or even attempt to. Right, but for the wrong reason.

My understanding of the plot was a bit different from yours. I didn't see any indication that Cooper realised he was wrong about love (possibly I'm misreading your comment?), but obviously they had to try the next planet and if the only way to do that involved someone falling into a black hole... Well then. It was the rational decision given the mission's (and his) priorities. Then he discovers that the same people who built the wormhole also built the tesseract, specifically to give him a way to communicate with Murph. The closed timelike curve stuff is weird to think about, but it's an idea with some scientific validity and interesting to pay with in sci-fi.

I don't know; I didn't spot internal inconsistencies (I'm genuinely curious about this), I didn't find it confusing, and I didn't get the sense that stuff happens because the authors wanted it to any more than for any other story. I thought it did a decent job of establishing its universe and then working within those rules, which is key for my enjoyment of sci-fi. Possibly I just have a poorly calibrated WTFometer after too many years of sci-fi as a kid.

(As a shameless self-plug: I once worked on a short time travel film that involved a similar "information in circles" idea. Definitely not high art, but a highly entertaining weekend making it and still makes me chuckle: Infinite Loop)
posted by metaBugs at 12:13 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just saw this.

So Earth has become Planet Inhoffe, filled with anti-science dopes weathering Dustbowl Redux? And Mumbles McConaughey drives his Space Lincoln to another world while Fantine mopes around and Guy Who Really Shouldn't Be An Astronaut If He Gets Motion Sickness That Bad just recites important sciencey stuff until we meet Guy We Aren't Identifying Because He Is Embarrassed, I Guess? who gets into a MMA fight. And the robots are shiny metal walking talking Twix Bars. And Mumbles has to throw books at the lady who killed Osama for some reason. Huh.

Michael Caine's deathbed line was "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:17 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


The more I think about Interstellar, the more I like it. I might even love it. For all of its problems, I wish more Hollywood movies took its kind of often-brave, always-weird, sometimes-stupid chances.

Some movies would play better with subtitles. If this hadn't been framed as a Hollywood picture, but rather as, say, a Polish art movie, I feel like people would have been more on-board with it. It feels like a foreign, hallucinatory sci-fi movie that was inexplicably given a gazillion-dollar budget.

Loved Damon's cameo. Thought it was much better-integrated than the comparable plotline in Sunshine. He seemed genuinely insane, in the somewhat-lucid way that real insane people often behave.

I still don't understand what Hathaway's love speech was all about, though. It didn't really add anything, storywise or thematically, and it only put people off. Why does every Anne Hathaway appearance in a Christopher Nolan movie require her to make a bafflingly unpersuasive speech? Compare with Catwoman's inane search for that erased-from-public-records device. Beuuuuuh.

Sidenote: Nolan's The Dark Knight reminds me quite a bit of Andrzej Zulawski's L'Amour Braque, especially the robbery scene and the burning-the-money scene.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:13 AM on November 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


I had some troubles during the movie but by the end I was totally on board. It's a very odd film, Nolan makes some just bizarre choices but somehow it all works. Or at least it worked for me.

I did get distracted by the constant references to other movies, especially 2001. I thought that the fake moon landing was a shout-out to Kubrick since (crazy) people think that he was responsible for that.
posted by octothorpe at 6:20 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else get the sensation that Nolan was deliberately trolling Inception fans with the line about seeing your kids faces when you're about to die?
posted by radwolf76 at 8:49 PM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I noticed as the camera first passed over the books in the library in the very beginning of the movie the title "Three Cups Of Tea" caught my eye.

Yep the very first shot of the movie is of a handful of books that look like they were randomly pulled off of the remaindered shelf of a bookstore in 2007. Nolan made the decision to open on this shot, go in close enough that we can read the titles, but didn't even bother to consider what the books were? It demonstrates a basic lack of attention to details.

After I left the movie, I told myself that they purposefully chose those books because that's the type of reader they imagined the mother to be. I basically retconned my own opinions to justify why I liked the movie so much.

Wouldn't it be awesome, though, if instead of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Nolan picked something like The Parable of the Sower, a book in which the goal of leaving the destroyed earth becomes a religion?
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:56 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


One thing that did bother me and has bothered me about a few Sci-Fi movies lately (Pacific Rim for one) is that they don't really bother to make the future look any different than the present. He's still driving a Dodge Ram truck and there's an Ikea Jules chair in the farmhouse. They didn't bother updating the clothes or hair or laptops or pretty much anything.
posted by octothorpe at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


He's still driving a Dodge Ram truck

Clearly this proves it's the future, as you'd need swarms of nanobots hard at work for a Dodge pickup truck to last beyond the end of its warranty.
posted by sonascope at 6:17 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, anyone who's owned one of those Ikea chairs knows that they don't even last as long as Dodge Trucks.
posted by octothorpe at 6:23 AM on November 16, 2014


Seen on Twitter, a note posted by a theater.
For customers seeing: Interstellar
Please note that all of our sound equipment is functioning properly. Christopher Nolan mixed the soundtrack with an emphasis on the music. This is how it is intended to sound.
posted by Nelson at 7:25 AM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


One thing that did bother me and has bothered me about a few Sci-Fi movies lately (Pacific Rim for one) is that they don't really bother to make the future look any different than the present. He's still driving a Dodge Ram truck and there's an Ikea Jules chair in the farmhouse. They didn't bother updating the clothes or hair or laptops or pretty much anything.

It seemed like Nolan's conscious choice to make it as near-present as possible, except suddenly OH HAI SUPER-ROBOTS for no reason other than "It would be cool to have this awesome spin-dash moment in the water!" (Ditto the ostentatious "Check out the forearm jets on mah space suit!" bit.)
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2014


Although I realize that complaining about the trucks is getting into the territory of what Matt Zoller Seitz succinctly criticizes as :
What INTERSTELLAR gets wrong about oh please shut up
posted by octothorpe at 8:31 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or less succinctly here.
posted by octothorpe at 9:35 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


don't really bother to make the future look any different than the present.

I actually prefer it this way, because any attempts to make things look like THE FUTURE seldom age well.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:57 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I finally saw it yesterday. I wish I could jump ahead to having seen it three or four times without having to actually sit through it again...I feel like there's enough there to like that I might be able to make my peace with the large amount of things I didn't like, but right now I don't really have the energy to want to bother.

I truly envy the ones here who have said that they rolled their eyes through much of it but liked it anyway. I ran out of passes at a certain point and was just waiting it out for probably over an hour.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:20 AM on November 17, 2014


Hollywood Reporter: Christopher Nolan Breaks Silence on 'Interstellar' Sound (Exclusive). "I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue."
The Verge: Sound designer says it's about understanding emotion, not every word: "some of the words are intentionally downplayed in favor of the emotion of that moment"

I hear what they're saying, but only because there's no music swelling over their mumblings. Seriously, I give them credit for standing by their mix and I thought the music soundtrack was great. But there's ways to have both the music driving emotions and hear the words the people are saying. There's more tools than just relative volume; surround sound, for example.

The THR article has Nolan saying he saw it in real theaters and it's sounding right to him. He's also on record saying the 70mm version is best. (He shot the thing on actual film and pushed to have it distributed on 35mm and 70mm, not just digital). I've heard people who went to a film theater say the sound wasn't bad, so maybe the problem is something specific to digital projection?

The music soundtrack was released on CD today.
posted by Nelson at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2014


If the scene (specifically the Michael Caine scene with the badly mumbled dialogue) is actually about understanding the emotion and not the information he's giving to her, then why show his lips moving and have some amount of sound coming out? Why not either have music but drop out the room sound completely and show him saying [something] and then Chastain reacts, or have him whisper inaudibly to her, so she moves her head closer to his mouth and he whispers it in her ear? Then we would be paying more attention to the emotion and not straining to understand what's being said. By having an audible (but incomprehensible) mumbling there which the other character understands, you're implying to the audience that it needs to be heard and understood by them also.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:28 AM on November 17, 2014


If the scene (specifically the Michael Caine scene with the badly mumbled dialogue) is actually about understanding the emotion and not the information he's giving to her, then why show his lips moving and have some amount of sound coming out?

I assume they thought it was fine because the audience would already know what he was saying, based on the fact that he had already said it 500 times prior.
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:15 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then we would be paying more attention to the emotion and not straining to understand what's being said. By having an audible (but incomprehensible) mumbling there which the other character understands, you're implying to the audience that it needs to be heard and understood by them also.

Not always.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've heard people who went to a film theater say the sound wasn't bad, so maybe the problem is something specific to digital projection?

I saw it in for real 70MM Imax on the 6 story screen with incredible sound, and the dialogue was inaudible in several scenes there, also. It was 100% intentional that it be drowned out.
posted by empath at 11:33 AM on November 17, 2014


The Caine scene isn't just some meaningless repetition of the Thomas poem. That's the crucial deathbed confession where he admits Plan A was a sham. I honestly wasn't sure he said what I thought I heard him said, because the sound wasn't clear and I missed the detail. I really think it's a mistake. But the director and the sound designer stand by it, so at least it's intentional. Personally I think Michael Caine just mumbles a bit in a lot of his movies and it was a bit too much in this one.
posted by Nelson at 11:43 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I assume they thought it was fine because the audience would already know what he was saying, based on the fact that he had already said it 500 times prior.

He had admitted that he'd lied about Plan A being a viable option 500 times prior?

Not always.

Was that audible? I'd put that in the same category as the second possible alternative I described above, where Caine whispers in her ear. Did anyone leave Lost In Translation assuming that the audience was meant to hear and understand what he'd told her?
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:45 AM on November 17, 2014


He had admitted that he'd lied about Plan A being a viable option 500 times prior?

I thought we were talking about his last words, where he starts rasping out the poem again.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:35 PM on November 17, 2014


Nelson: “I hear what they're saying, but only because there's no music swelling over their mumblings. Seriously, I give them credit for standing by their mix and I thought the music soundtrack was great. But there's ways to have both the music driving emotions and hear the words the people are saying. There's more tools than just relative volume; surround sound, for example.”

See, my take on this is that I don't think a mix like this is objectively bad. But I think it's clearly at cross-purposes to Nolan's stated approach to filmmaking. Christopher Nolan makes clear films with obvious plots and scrutable dialogue that is decipherable. He has said that that is how films should be made. When he leaves something open-ended, it's explicitly open-ended, and this is telegraphed in a way that audiences are supposed to be able to understand.

A bunch of words slurred together by a dying man, the significance of which is difficult to determine because the music swells above his voice? That could be a really interesting sinkhole inserted in a film by an intelligent filmmaker. But that's not what we have here. You're not supposed to wonder about anything that happens in a Nolan film. It's supposed to be obvious what any character says at any given time.

Honestly, that's why I'm tempted to find this film interesting, despite itself. But I'm not sure how far that can go.
posted by koeselitz at 7:17 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honestly, that's why I'm tempted to find this film interesting, despite itself. But I'm not sure how far that can go.

I've been thinking along these lines the last few days as I skim comments when this thread pops up in my recent activity. I really do need to see it at least once more to be sure, but my reaction walking out the theater and even more so after reading others' reactions is that this movie is a hot mess... But it's an interesting hot mess.

I personally think Nolan's (probably plural Nolans, really) far too talented to make something that is just irredeemably bad. That would shock me. But that doesn't mean everything they make works, exactly. We see this happen all the time in other media, but especially with bands. It's so common for bands to do some really, really great work and then make something that's messy, usually sprawling and long, and not all of it works exactly but enough does... You might not love it, but it's a worthwhile thing to experience beginning to end at least a time or two?

There's no literal parallel on any other level, but I feel about this movie right now the way I feel about, like, the White Album or Sandinista or many other examples.
posted by sparkletone at 10:57 PM on November 17, 2014


"I read Tyson's optimism about the black hole radiation and I don't buy it. The camera shows us all this beautiful colorful spinning gas."

That's an accretion disk; it's precisely the kind of structure that Tyson says results in high-energy radiation around a black hole. Kip Thorne himself describes it as an accretion disk in the video where he talks about working on the film. But you can see right there on the freaking screen that it's an accretion disk.

Without any in-falling matter, in the scenario Tyson describes, a black hole would look like the wormhole looked -- its presence would only be apparent by the gravitational lensing of the light curving around it.

I'm guessing the accretion disk in the film is there for two reasons. First, it's much prettier than a black hole without it. Second, the orbiting planet needs a source of light to be habitable, right?

Pretty much, if you start with a premise of "habitable planet orbiting a black hole" you are solidly in Star Wars territory and you really should just be happy to use parsecs as a unit of time and not worry about shit. I'm okay with that. As a bonus, "love is a dimension" fits in that sort of a movie much more comfortably. And instead of spending a bunch of money to pay a team of scientists and programmers to visualize a black hole accurately, you could instead hire a better screenwriter and sound editor.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:38 AM on November 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wondered if this film could pass the Bechdel test...the women talk about their fathers, not their SOs.
posted by brujita at 9:28 PM on November 18, 2014


brujita: But do any women talk to each other about anything of substance? I think I remember 30-something Murph talking with her sister-in-law briefly, but I don't remember what about...Was that the fathers conversation you're referring to? I'm fairly sure that the Anne Hathaway character doesn't interact with any other women at all (but correct me if I'm misremembering).
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:30 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anne Hathaway gets a message from Murph when her father dies, I think?
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2014


The Cooper grandson thing isn't a plot hole. Murphy Cooper keeps her maiden name, the grandson's last name is something besides Cooper (likely the husband's last name).
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 5:19 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


That grandson was Tom's son, not Murphy's, so his name was Coop Cooper.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:34 PM on November 19, 2014


Always outnerded on Metafilter.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 6:00 PM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


the only conclusion we can draw is that both Cooper and his grandson are named Cooper Cooper.

actually, the sensible conclusion to draw is that the both have the same boring first name that nobody uses.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:08 PM on November 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just got around to watching this today. I saw it with (non English) subtitles, and while the mumbled parts were incomprehensible they were clearly subtitled. So the sound mixing seems like a weird decision in a movie that will probably make more money internationally, since they would lose the nuance of the mumbling.

Still, I liked the movie well enough. I think that's because I missed out on the hype machine so had no expectations really. And honestly, this wasnt really an sf or space movie, it was a drama. Pretty much all of the space exploration bits could have been taken out without changing the story.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:25 AM on November 23, 2014


The Caine scene isn't just some meaningless repetition of the Thomas poem. That's the crucial deathbed confession where he admits Plan A was a sham. I honestly wasn't sure he said what I thought I heard him said, because the sound wasn't clear and I missed the detail.

That puts us in the same shoes as Murph. She's not sure she's hearing what she's hearing, and wants clarity. I'm not saying I agree with the decision.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2014


I liked the movie overall, and probably largely because I missed any hype about it entirely. It was a bit of a hot mess, but a hot mess that sucks you enjoyably along. My biggest issue was how they managed to get off the black hole planet. It took two rocket boosters to get off earth, how were they able to escape 130% gravity without them? And how in the flight to the black hole planet did NO ONE realize that relativity would apply to the messages that they're getting? Or, I dunno, why weren't the pinged out and repeated transmissions time stamped with the original send time?
posted by stoneweaver at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


the only conclusion we can draw is that both Cooper and his grandson are named Cooper Cooper.

actually, the sensible conclusion to draw is that the both have the same boring first name that nobody uses.


I would buy that if it wasn't Cooper Cooper's parents and other older relatives who call him Cooper. McConaughey Cooper, sure -- everyone in his family is younger than him or not a blood relation, so it makes (some) sense to call him "Cooper" if he just never goes by his first name. But there's no way I would call my kid by his last name.
posted by Etrigan at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2014


FWIW, I have a friend whose entire family calls him by his last name. Even his parents.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:15 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


IMDB is no help. The credit is simply for "Cooper". Maybe they give up everyone having a first and last name since there are so few people left.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:51 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I rate this movie: Meh.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:49 PM on November 24, 2014


I would buy that if it wasn't Cooper Cooper's parents and other older relatives who call him Cooper. McConaughey Cooper, sure -- everyone in his family is younger than him or not a blood relation, so it makes (some) sense to call him "Cooper" if he just never goes by his first name. But there's no way I would call my kid by his last name.

Y'all need to know more southern families that have used the same name for their firstborn sons for several generations. I know a IV whose only son is a V, and by the time they got to the most recent they'd run through all the reasonable nicknames to be derived from the first and middle names so they call him Buck. Buck Buckler. Dunno what they're gonna do if they extend the chain one more; maybe call him Hex the way some southern III's get called Trey.

Anyway, McConaughey probably has one of those enormous southern names with five family names and two historical figures -- Jefferson Robert Edward Lee Launceston James Earl Ray Cooper the Nth or something. So of course he goes by Coop. His grandson is Jefferson Robert Edward Lee Launceston James Earl Ray Cooper the N+1th, who goes by Coop like his namesake did.

Also fun: southern men with just a string of family names.

The movie was okay; gorgeous when it wanted to be but oy the schmalz. I don't always mind the schmalz -- I agree with all the criticisms of Gravity, but for whatever reason it all worked really well as this enormous experience that washed over me. But this... only okay.

But even with it being only okay, I'm still glad to be in a period where multiple people in Hollywood are making at least trying to be interesting, not maximally stupid, trying to be a little bit thoughtful SF movies, and even ones that aren't just adaptations of novels. It's way better than, say, the 90s, where the sum total of not maximally stupid original* SF movies from Hollywood boils down to: Terminator 2, Strange Days, The Arrival, The Thirteenth Floor, and The Matrix.

*Or at least ones that I don't immediately recognize as adaptations or remakes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:26 PM on November 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I thought that the fake moon landing was a shout-out to Kubrick since (crazy) people think that he was responsible for that.

Well, yes and no. I agree it was a Kubrick shout-out. Connecting Kubrick to the 1969 moon landing film footage is certainly A Thing. (See one of the various theories trotted out in a terrific The Shining documentary called Room 237). Though I suppose not all of them are per se "crazy" for thinking some iteration of this: 1) Yes, the moon landing really happened, and 2) the audio was real, but 3) perhaps the US gov't asked Kubrick for help in making a film version to be presented to the public as actual footage. For the record, I don't happen to buy any of the conspiracy theorists' ideas myself, but whatevs -- that reference absolutely conjured Kubrick for me.

The America depicted in this movie seemed to be an effed up cautionary tale about what happens when once-privileged white men lose their power and we all get too soft and caretaker-y as a culture. Which is utter crap, and reeks of sexism. That this movie has gotten props from the Fox conservatives for not getting too political with a liberal climate change message that obviously could have been included, believably, really ought to tell us something. And yet, on the other hand, using the footage from the Ken Burns documentary The Dust Bowl seems to make it clear that the world of the film is dealing with a man-made environmental disaster, but they won't just come out and say so? Hot mess indeed.

In particular, the casting choices in the school conference scene bothered me. A black man (the principal) and an attractive young woman (the teacher) who Cooper's FIL has encouraged him to woo are represented as backward and crazy, and all about states' rights and against old "federal" textbooks that told lies, and are against a young white boy getting a college education. Meanwhile, the STEM-educated white guy is represented as the wise but powerless one -- and instead he's gotta farm (callback to the Cultural Revolution in China?), and look how well that's working out for life on Earth. WTF?
posted by hush at 8:41 AM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just (finally) saw this. And I also found the idea of it being accepted canon that the moon landings were fake kind of jarring. But replace that with evolution and how far off is it now? You can already find evolution denial in classrooms in some parts of the United States. I took it as meaning that the yahoos had taken over. And I took it as pretty overtly political. While I suspect Nolan doesn't want to claim the partisanship angle, he's painted a world where the Republicans have finally won their battle to demonize science so it won't keep causing problems for them.

Also found it amusing that Anne Hathaway was right all along and they should have gone where she wanted to go, but the two guys literally shot her down by claiming she was just being an irrational, emotional woman.
posted by Naberius at 10:52 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


In fairness, the rationale she was giving was purely emotional, even by her own admission.
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, her spoken rationale was completely dumb. On the other hand, it did resemble conversations that I have every week at the local pub quiz.

Dudes: We're missing a member of the G8.
Me: I think it's Canada.
Dudes: Nah, Canada's not a member.
Me: I think it is.
Dudes: How do you know it is? What makes you think that?
Me: * sits there dumbly because it's not like I can name the time and place and source from which I first learned a basic fact of my world, or because it's actually something I know because of years of work in my field and now I'm going to have to sum up my entire college education in a loud bar? *
Dudes: Ok, we're putting down Luxembourg.

To be fair, I'm pretty sure that conversation was in there for no other reason than Christopher Nolan writes dumb dialogue. But how rude is it that they flew across space together and now he stops to second guess the woman who spent her entire life training for this purpose--while he was out farming I might add--and ask her to justify the exact decision she was brought there to make?

In other news, here's a link of 21 things in Interstellar that don't make sense. #9 is a big head scratcher for me.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:01 AM on November 30, 2014


It was also Brand who strongly proposed to go down to the ocean planet, which Coop was strongly against because of losing all that time. After that lovely little trip it was basically a toss up between the last two planets. Damon's character was sending back the most positive information and although Damon was lying it was for good reason simply because he wasn't dead as Brand's lover was. Coop was the one who made the right decisions for the right reasons aside from all the scientists on his crew. It's actually kind of weird to single out the idea they were shooting down the "irrational, emotional woman" when almost every other character was making hugely flawed decisions. Professor Brand with his bullshit Plan A. Tom, Coop's son, keeping his family on the farm as they slowly died. Stupid scientist guy sitting around watching as a giant wave smashes down upon him. Asshole Damon who couldn't stick to the plan for his own mission and almost sacrificing the human race because of it.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:01 AM on November 30, 2014


I guess the real question is, how can they not tell the entire planet is covered in water without getting off the ship? Do they literally have no sensor equipment?
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:10 AM on November 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Besides looking out the window? I think they only had the really limited info about the planet that came through the wormhole. Other than that they didn't have the time or resources to send a probe down to the planet or set a satellite in orbit. Those things would make sense but then again the planet was also circling a black hole.

The underlying idea behind the whole story is predeternism. The causality for this story goes both ways. The beginning and end happen at the same time and are causes for each other.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2014


#9 is a big head scratcher for me.

I don't see it that way. He sent "Stay" because, in that moment, he really really wished he had stayed. At that point, he "knows" that "Plan A" was a sham and that the whole point was always just to reboot the human race on some other planet. But he doesn't give a shit about that, and never gave the slightest damn about saving the human race. He wanted to save his kids, and being unable to do that wishes he'd just lived out his life with them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's a time travel movie. Absolutely nothing about any of the causality of the plot can make any sense. So while that list is great, complaints #9 and #21 just have to be swallowed whole because it's a time travel movie.

#6 is also explained in the movie; they lack the means to launch the giant Plan A spaceship without some sort of breakthrough in gravity research. The one so simple it can be transmitted through Morse Lurve Code (see #10).
posted by Nelson at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2014


#10 makes no sense. Why on earth wouldn't you be able to send complex astrophysics in morse? Even the equations you could send as TeX text.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:11 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pretty much all of that list are non-issues.

"I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws."
posted by P.o.B. at 6:23 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


But he doesn't give a shit about that, and never gave the slightest damn about saving the human race. He wanted to save his kids, and being unable to do that wishes he'd just lived out his life with them.

I don't think you can really say that Coop didn't give a shit about the human race. He thought he could save his kids by saving the human race, and the major flaw in this thinking was relying on and trusting other people who he thought had those same goals.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:58 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Biosphere 2 failed because concrete sucks up oxygen. I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about how humans will fare in those concrete tubes in space.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:38 AM on December 1, 2014


I think my major complaint is not that this film has stuff I don't get, it's that it had a bunch of unnecessary stuff. Like what was up with that 5 minute drone chase scene? What were we supposed to get out of that besides unnecessary world building?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2014


Did anyone else notice that Kelvin/Clooney, in Soderbergh's version of Lem's Solaris (love this book), also reads Dylan Thomas's poem Do not go gentle into that good night to Rheya, his love interest.

I can't say I liked this usage in either context. Not because I don't like the poem, or like it too much, but it doesn't seem particularly apt in either situation.
posted by lathrop at 5:27 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Saw this while loopy on cough medication, loved Hathaway, loved the robots, loved the visuals and the action set pieces, even loved the droning score and I was suitable distracted to not notice that literally none of the plot beats makes a lick of sense. On one hand it felt like a very personal passion project but also an example of why unsupervised, unlimited passion projects can completely crash and burn.

Walking home after I said there is so much unnecessary STUFF crammed into this thing - the things that worked emotionally, the father/daughter relationship and dealing with the actual effects of relativity and "time as a resource" - why not pare it down to that cause that's the stuff that worked without having these vaguely upsetting to outright questionable subplots and motifs

There was also a thread of "Scienceism" I found distasteful, very ...I just discovered atheism as a freshman student kinda. Just everything is so very very very serious.

Also by the end I was just ..tired of looking at Coop's face. It's in so many close ups.
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 PM on December 3, 2014


Also, the linked letterboxd review made me realize ...this movie is literally full of corn.
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 PM on December 3, 2014


Pretty much all of that list are non-issues.

Except casting Topher Grace in a very small role cause everyone in the audience is taken out of the movie for a second to go "Wait is that Topher Grace?"

He's aging well apparently.
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


On one hand it felt like a very personal passion project but also an example of why unsupervised, unlimited passion projects can completely crash and burn.

Eh, it made a pile of money and has the best ratings of the year for a blockbuster on metacritic and on IMDB.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on December 4, 2014


"Eh, it made a pile of money and has the best ratings of the year for a blockbuster on metacritic and on IMDB."

No, that Metacritic link is for the last 90 days and are the user scores, not the critic scores. Here is the critic list for all of 2014.

As for its business, IMDB is bereft of information, annoyingly. Box Office Mojo provides a pretty comprehensive view, and for a film in its class, it's quite middling. So far, it's made a full-third of its domestic revenue during its opening weekend and domestically it dropped off quite a bit for the subsequent weekends. Its weekday domestic revenue has been fairly steady and moderate. It's at $150 million (US) domestically, which is pretty close to its budget. But it's recently hit 100 million just in China and its worldwide business is already at 550 million, which is good.

The thing is, though, is that the worldwide market for Hollywood blockbuster spectacle movies has become huge. You're almost guaranteed to make quite a lot of money, providing that you've convinced someone to finance your 150 million dollar movie in the first place. A lot of really crappy blockbuster movies do poorly now in the US and would have been money-losing flops on that basis, but now make a lot of movie worldwide.

You're right that it's wrong to characterize the movie as a business failure, because by any financial measure, it's a success. But I'm pretty confident that it's not been nearly as successful domestically as the producers and studio and many others expected. It was highly anticipated and from a director with a huge built-in fanbase.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:45 PM on December 4, 2014


So far, it's made a full-third of its domestic revenue during its opening weekend and domestically it dropped off quite a bit for the subsequent weekends.

Isn't that pretty standard these days? I agree that the studio probably expected it to do a little better, given Nolan and McConaughey, but I've been hearing the 1/3 rule of thumb for years now.
posted by Etrigan at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2014


"Isn't that pretty standard these days?"

Is it? I didn't realize that (and I should have). I thought that blockbusters needed to have a couple of really strong weekends -- partly because a big drop-off from the opening weekend to the following weekend implies bad word-of-mouth.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:21 PM on December 4, 2014


The 1/3 Rule, as shown by this year's top movies so far:
Movie: 1st weekend, total domestic (all from Box Office Mojo)
GotG: $134M, $331M
Captain America 2: $95M, $251M
Lego: $69M, $258M
Transformers 4: $100M, $245M
Maleficent: $69M, $241M
(leaving out Hunger Games 3.1)
X-Men DoFP: $91M, $234M
Dawn Planet Apes: $72M, $208M
Spider-Man 2: $91M, $202M
Godzilla: $93M, $200M

They're mostly even worse than that 1/3 mark. Even GotG, which is unquestionably a huge blockbuster, still had dropoffs of 53% and 41.9% in its second and third weekends. Interstellar has done better than that (not counting that first non-wide-release weekend).
posted by Etrigan at 7:06 PM on December 4, 2014


So biscotti and I are possibly the only people to have (a) seen Interstellar and (b) played Borderlands The Presequel a lot, but on the offchance that anyone else has:

Is it just us or was TARS obviously built by Dahl? Switching to crappy emergency power!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 AM on December 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else notice that Kelvin/Clooney, in Soderbergh's version of Lem's Solaris (love this book), also reads Dylan Thomas's poem Do not go gentle into that good night to Rheya, his love interest.

I thought that was "And death shall have no dominion"?
posted by invitapriore at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2014


Best Topher is Topher playing Topher but just not full Topher, à la Ocean's 12.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:09 PM on December 6, 2014


Naming the plan that involved a huge number of fertilized eggs after a well-known contraceptive was a nice touch.
posted by randomination at 6:32 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's easily, to me, the worst of his originals.

Agreed. I loved and still do love, Inception. I've watched it 2 times this month alone. Interstellar was ok but you basically knew what was going to happen throughout the film. It feels only half complete. I would say that it really has very little to do with science, as many fictional films do not. It's in the fictional universe and taken as metaphor (or metaphors) makes a fair amount of sense in the same way that the Deep Space 9 wormhole aliens do, or even the Bible, when not taken literally. I really couldn't care less if the science is valid or not. The apparently much hated love speech made for example, is just part of the emphasis on what makes drives people to survive, and one of those things is the mysterious unscientific elements about our existence that make us almost divine rather than walking meat bags with organic cpus.

I have to admit, I don't understand the ending at all. As I understand it, people in the future invented a way for Cooper to access the past and give his daughter the tools to save everyone on earth. But.... for Future People to be alive to do that, they had to already be saved. If they're alive to invent stuff... then they don't need to manipulate the past because obviously humans were already saved somehow. What am I missing here?

As has been mentioned, it's a causality loop. It may have to do with the idea that time, past and future, being relative, has already happened, as in all of it and because of our perception of time and time's arrow, we cannot see it all, at this point, like those "in the future". Paradoxes etc.

As for referring to some people by their last name, maybe they're Morrisey fans, or Nolan is. Cooper leaves record company and rips them a new one, again. Cooper's shows are cancelled because again, Cooper has caught a cold apparently because he believes you can catch colds by performing in a cold Ed Sullivan theatre, etc.

As for the moon landing being fake thing, this does take place in the United States and it strikes me that this is one of the most believable moments given how things are going in the States now where outright crazy people are being elected and influencing school curriculum.
posted by juiceCake at 8:28 AM on December 25, 2014


Yes, I'm surprised at how the curriculums are shifting. I'm visiting Missouri for the holidays, and I just found out that my nephews haven't learned about updog at school. It's a shame.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:17 AM on December 25, 2014


Absolutely totally loved Tars and Case. Loved that they were helpful, useful robots/AI who essentially save the day without going mad or becoming the villains. The last (only?) time I can remember that happening before was the AI in Moon. Also they were genuinely amusing.

Didn't love token "spaceman going space-mad" to create drama. Reminded me of how badly that ruined Sunshine.

Regarding people's comments about why is the technology not super-advanced, and why the moon landing propaganda - I think society and civilisation has changed far, far more than you realise. It's mentioned a couple of times that there are no armies any more. No armies. That is how badly civilisation has had to be retooled into an agricultural culture, to desperately try to manufacture enough food to feed everyone. No wonder no-one is bothering making sweet new pick-up trucks or whatever, and the government is trying to distract people away from technology and science (secret Nasa plans notwithstanding).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:45 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I finally saw it last night. I'm still wondering, why they didn't send four women if the (oh goodness is this ironically named) plan B was a bunch of frozen sperm. Did they mumble a line about artificial wombs that I missed?
posted by Catblack at 3:07 PM on January 24, 2015


I don't think it was mentioned, but my assumption was that they had some mechanical means for growing babies. I mean one baby per 10 months or whatever is just too slow a turnaround time. Plus, while I am sure Ms Hathaway has splendid genes, we probably need more diversity to begin humanity anew.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:20 PM on January 24, 2015


There must be incubators. For the number of embryos that they have, four women would be no more realistic than one woman.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:43 PM on January 24, 2015


Yeah, I am hung up on the same thing. In fact, I feel like when Hathaway is giving McCaunaghey the tour of the lab, she explains Plan B by gesturing at the shelves/bank vault of embryos, he asks "do you have artificial wombs" and she answers something like "no we'll use surrogates."

So the movie goes out of its way to stipulate that Michael Caine is deliberately consigning his daughter to be the only one who'll gestate all these embryos. Or I guess, he doesn't know yet whether the other scientists sent ahead (Damon et al) have survived, and there was at least one woman in that crew. But still, yes, it doesn't make any sense and they could have closed this plot hole simply by having her say "yup, the artificial wombs are in Bay 7."
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


But re: genes, they do say it's frozen embryos (i.e., not just sperm, but sperm+egg already combined) so it wouldn't only be Hathaway's genes.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on January 24, 2015


I must have missed the line about the surrogates, but at the same time: if she herself was going to be a surrogate, let alone the initial surrogate, wouldn't she have said so? If she's the only surrogate, then what, she gives birth to a few girls and then we just and sit wait for years and years, until they reach sexual maturity? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Or maybe the true ending of the movie is just a hideous, Cronenberian, Giger-esque nightmare of endless birthing, a la Slither. I would respect that creative choice, but mostly into my barf bag.

Either way, my official opinion is that they have some sort of plan for the embryos, and I don't need to think about it beyond that. I still don't think the movie ever says that Hathaway's character plays that role in the plan.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:40 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's very possible they had a bunch of surrogates on ice, since they have cyrogenic technology.
posted by empath at 11:25 AM on January 25, 2015


if she herself was going to be a surrogate, let alone the initial surrogate, wouldn't she have said so?

But she thinks that they're really going on a scouting mission (Plan A) and only bringing the embryos as a backup (Plan B) -- as far as she knows when they take off. Her dad is the only one who knows that it's only ever been Plan B.

It's an interesting thought about whether they might have frozen surrogates who are never mentioned.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:33 PM on January 25, 2015


But she thinks that they're really going on a scouting mission (Plan A) and only bringing the embryos as a backup (Plan B) -- as far as she knows when they take off. Her dad is the only one who knows that it's only ever been Plan B.

It still does not follow that Hathaway herself is one of the surrogates in question. She never says that she would play that role in Plan B. The movie doesn't tell us workable mechanics for how the embryos and surrogacy and whatnot are going to function.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:59 AM on January 26, 2015


My point being, the movie intentionally chooses not to give us enough information on this point.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:07 AM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nolan has a weird way of doing that sometimes but not often enough. Like, we didn't need as much exposition about how the Moon landing is officially a hoax in that world, but the basics of how the second Earth will be populated? Handwavium.
posted by Etrigan at 4:26 AM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he's weirdly tone-deaf with that kind of stuff. I'm a huge defender of not explaining certain things - the mechanics of repopulation do not matter to the plot and themes, so who cares? - but then Nolan will turn around and give us bizarre shit like the spine punch surgery from The Dark Knight Rises, which actually did raise big questions about what the physical laws were of this universe.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:51 AM on January 26, 2015


It still does not follow that Hathaway herself is one of the surrogates in question. She never says that she would play that role in Plan B.

Sure, but she doesn't know what the actual plan is, right? Only her dad knows.

Anyway, I'm perfectly willing to accept that there's some plausible plan that involves factors we're not told about... but it's weird to me to have the script half-way address it (bothering to explain about the embryos for genetic diversity), rule out one obvious solution (if I'm remembering right that she says there are no artificial wombs), and not take one line of dialogue or even a sign in the background somewhere to suggest what the real plan is. Just a point of irritation with Nolan I suppose.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2015


Sure, but she doesn't know what the actual plan is, right? Only her dad knows.

They know what Plan B is, they just don't know that Plan A was only a lure to get people to go along with the mission. I don't see how Hathaway could be unaware that she's supposed to be WombFactor 5000, if that's part of the plan.

Either way, I agree that Nolan could have handled this better. The confusion could have been handwaved away more effectively if they'd just said, "we have all these embryos, and a way to let them reach adulthood" and left it at that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:14 PM on January 26, 2015


I assumed that Hathaway would bear the first 10 kids over a period of 10 years or so, then by the time the last one is born the first'll be old enough to bear one, then you get exponential growth in the number of surrogates as the kids get old enough, and each later new surrogate has to have fewer babies. Yeah it relies of Hathaway being a baby machine for a decade but it is plan B.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:01 AM on January 27, 2015


...but it is plan B.

But if this really is the plan, that the people we see on the mission are the only available people for gestating new humans, then it is insane and stupid to only send one woman. The whole crew should be women, if this is really the plan.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:58 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


When first explaining Plan B, Brand says, "With the equipment on board, we incubate the first ten. After that, with surrogacy, the growth becomes exponential." So there's no requirement for her to bear children herself, though I suppose that she's free to do so if she wants to.
posted by MUD at 5:42 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks MUD, I knew I remembered something specific like that. But it's still a bit ambiguous as to whether they have baby factories on board or if the yet-to-be-born girls are going to be the baby factories. Judging by the word "surrogacy", I'm imagining a rather grim future for females on Planet Plan B. And the whole society; I have a feeling the young men growing up aren't going to be happy with the idea they can't reproduce because the baby factories are too busy growing babies with new genomes.

Thank god the transdimensional-power-of-love Morse code time travel thing worked out.
posted by Nelson at 7:08 PM on January 30, 2015


MUD, thanks for that quote!
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:42 PM on January 30, 2015


So I recently relistened to Muse's The 2nd Law, and it's kinda eerie how well the track Explorers tracks the plot to Interstellar.
posted by pwnguin at 4:22 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


OR, Cooper's grandson has his mother's lastname, and Cooper is his first name.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 3:01 AM on March 10, 2015


Oh yeah I forgot to say: ginger beer.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 10:55 PM on March 16, 2015




Oh that would have been so much nicer. I'm much more willing to accept a hand-wavey thing that somehow the gravity waves give him a way to send a signal back in time than the schlock that the actual conclusion was.
posted by Nelson at 6:16 PM on March 20, 2015


My favorite plothole in Interstellar is how the Ranger spacecraft needs a Saturn V style rocket to boost it into Earth orbit to meet up with the Endurance mothership, but all the other planets they visit the Ranger and other previously unmentioned dropships have no trouble getting from the surface of a planet to orbit, even planets explicitly stated to have higher gravity than Earth.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:24 PM on April 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just notice Stoneweaver pointed this out already, but I still think it's important and sort of exemplifies the whole movie. The ranger uses a rocket booster on earth because it's cool and how we're used to seeing things leave earth, and it doesn't on other planets because the director didn't care and that's how we're used to seeing sci-fi spaceships leave other planets. Everything in this movie is 100% what the director did and didn't care about, and frankly in a lot of places he cared about stupid stuff and didn't care about important stuff.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:38 PM on April 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


How easily they left those planets drove me nuts, especially in the case with the planet so far into the gravity well of the black hole that there was a dramatic time dilation -- a significant plot point of the film. But, ho-hum, we'll just take off with this small rocket and get back to the ship with no trouble. Shit like that pisses me off given that many people claim that the film was scientifically "accurate".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:38 PM on April 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's OK, there was a neutron star near the black hole near the planet they were walking around on. You know, in their unshielded suits. Do not underestimate the transdimensional power of lurve!

Man, the further I get from this film the more schlocky my memory of it becomes.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite plothole in Interstellar is how the Ranger spacecraft needs a Saturn V style rocket to boost it into Earth orbit

If you can only take a finite amount of fuel with you, why use some of it escaping Earth's gravity well? May as well use a rocket to save some of the fuel in your tanks.
Or they could have just refuelled in orbit, but whatever.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:10 AM on April 19, 2015


I found that the brother relationship thing... his keeping his son and wife in a house that seems to literally be killing them... The idea that after brother comes back to his house after putting a huge fire (which he would probably figured out was set by his sister, once he pulls up to his hous) to find his sister and her friend trying to spirit off said wife and child... the idea that he's going to accept a hug from his sister who's spouting some crazy line about "Yay, Dad's okay!" instead of meeting the scene with violence--I found that surprising after all the build up of the brother being so cruelly stubborn. As daughter was running out of the house, I was screaming to myself "keep yourself and your watch out of reach of your brother!"
posted by blueberry at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2015


Also, I started off the movie looking at that walking refrigerator robot and thinking "oh, my god, what!?" but then they won me over by the cartwheeling on the ocean planet and their personalities. It reminded me of this exchange in Pulp Fiction:
Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.

Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?

Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charming motherfuckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?"
posted by blueberry at 9:23 PM on April 23, 2015




I'm late to this one, but can I just say: WHAT A PIECE OF SHIT.

There's one good thing about it: the idea of a family torn apart by relativity/the time bending of space travel. The worst part is literally everything else. Including how they develop the previous idea.

Some random thoughts/complaints:
-"Sure, we're stuck in a place where time slips due to a black hole and we lose seven years per hour, but lemme go ahead and comb through this wreckage in case for data, because MAYBE WE SHOULD CONSIDER LIVING ON LANDLESS ANGRY TSUNAMI WORLD."
-"I'm one of the world's finest scientists. My life's work (like my father's life's work) is no less than a plan to save humanity from extinction. But can we, like, back burner that a bit and go pick up my boyfriend? I *totes* miss him."
-the way they interrogate Coop for sneaking into the secret NASA base ("Who are you? What are you doing here? This place is confidential!") before admitting, minutes later, "we've been looking for you" and "you're our only hope."
-top shelf visuals, people say? there were also a variety of shots of the spacecraft that were Buck Rogers tv show-esque in how lazy the edges were rendered from greenscreen
-a bit of a ripoff that they basically made the space ark a direct crib from Rendezvous with Rama
-"We're all dying from breathing this dust, but why should we alter our homes or wear face masks for any but the most obvious storm?"
-Also, most of the world is abandoned because they can't grow crops in the dust but no one tried hydroponic in some of the presumably myriad abandoned buildings?
-we can hardly get people into space without blowing some of them up even after months of safety checks and training, but let's go ahead and make the 2nd launch in decades with some people with limited training and no rehearsals
-wise-cracking box-shaped robots? You may see R2D2, but it feels like hipster Twiki to me
-also, let's interrupt our would-be 2001 thinkpiece with a spaceship chase
-"I have to do whatever it takes to get back to my daughter!" "What about your son?" "Who?"

If you bought Interstellar on blu-ray and filed it next to 2001, I swear to god, Jar Jar would appear in that movie. WEESA GON SEE SOME MONOLITH?

BY OSMOSIS OF SUCKING.

DAMN.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:11 PM on February 9, 2016


Also: what kind of post-apocalypse has parent-teacher conferences? Are we sure they're not just in hell?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2016


OK, a few more:
-"This planet experiences so much gravity that it literally warps time, but I'm sure it's entirely safe on its ocean surface. Oh that?Tide goes in, tides goes out; you can't explain that."
-"One hour on the surface is SEVEN YEARS to us. But don't worry, we sent a scientist there two years ago and her data has been good ever since. What do you mean, she's been there for fifteen minutes?"
-"It's a tundra with ammonia air up here, but it's super nice on the surface." ANYONE WITH A SINGLE WORKING NEURON: "Then why the fuck do you live HERE?"
-"I've been without human contact for 23 years. It was a slight bummer and my hair is gone and/or graying, but otherwise, I'm fine. I mean, most people have PTSD if they spend six months alone, but I'm good."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2016


It's amusing to read your complaints a year after I watched the movie. Over the last couple of years, I've been working on an aesthetic theory about verisimilitude and the suspension of disbelief -- this film played a prominent role in my considerations because the whole rendering of the black hole (and wormhole) using an actual and current scientific model, along with Thorne being a consultant, formed a big part of the claim that this was a painstakingly scientifically plausible/accurate film and formed part of its sales pitch and perceived prestige. But, in fact, these two visuals were almost the only aspect of the movie that weren't scientifically implausible or outright absurd -- and it should also be noted that the black hole visualization doesn't actually correspond to the black hole as it's conceived within the film. (As I wrote above, for a transit of the event horizon to be survivable, this must be a supermassive black hole which also doesn't have an accretion disk, where the infalling matter would create a lethal extreme radiation environment -- but the depicted black hole does have an accretion disk, because otherwise we wouldn't see it. The accretion disk is pretty.)

The movie is infuriating because it doesn't deliver what it promised in terms of consistency in its scientific plausibility, and also that it doesn't compensate for that by being good, otherwise. Its inconsistency and implausibility in this one way is paralleled by inconsistencies and implausibilities in characterization and plot.

My theory is that because all narrative fiction requires a suspension of disbelief, because it's always obviously unreal and unrealistic in various respects, a given work signals to its audience what scaffolding they ought to hang their suspension of disbelief from, and what parts to not worry about. The "scaffolding" is the aspect that is signaled as having particular verisimilitude. In this case, it was partly the science. If a work doesn't signal that it's realistic in another aspect, then the audience isn't as sensitive to it. So it's crucial that a work delivers on its promise. If it signals that it's psychologically realistic in its characterization, then it must maintain that realism across all characterization through the whole work. It can't have detailed, realistic characterization of some characters but others are just familiar cartoons, that will upset people. It can't be filmed on location with recognizable details, but violate that geographical realism in other ways. It can't promise to be scientifically plausible in one respect, and be lazy and absurd in others. This upsets the audience.

In contrast, an audience is okay with a consistent amount of verisimilitude on one level (the characterization, say) and not on another (the science, say). We usually don't expect that a signal about realistic psychological complexity is also a signal about realistic spaceships, or whatever. What's most important is that the work delivers a level of consistent verisimilitude across any specific aspect of itself, not in totality and everywhere.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:38 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like just about that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:02 AM on February 10, 2016


just about all of that, that should say. Eh, well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2016


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