Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Movie Review - Interstellar

I don't really like to post two movie reviews in a week but we went to see Interstellar Monday and I want to write something while it's still fresh in my mind.
Since the movie just opened last week, I'll try to keep the spoilers at a minimum. I will say that the movie when viewed is not the movie as presented in the trailers.

The story takes place in the near future. The Earth is dying for unspecified reasons. Or maybe it's just that the Earth is tired of us humans messing up the place like ungrateful house guests and is emptying the fridge and refusing to buy anymore beer.  Perhaps it's time to move on.

Cooper, usually called Coop (Mathew McConaughey), seems to be a poor dirt farmer somewhere where they grow corn and all the roads are dirt roads. It's damn dusty all the time. Could be the 1930's Dust Bowl, but he's got satellite guided tractors.  And he's a former NASA pilot.

By means that are too complicated to explain, Coop finds a secret NASA base within driving distance of his house. NASA is housed in a secret base because with all the other problems going on (like nobody's got enough to eat), flying space missions isn't a high priority anymore. But this base seems to have plenty of funding. In fact they are planning to fly a mission through a worm hole that's appeared near Saturn. They've already flown several missions through it and know that there are planets on the other side (in another galaxy) which may hold promise as the future home of humanity. The purpose of the mission is to confirm the earlier findings. And since Coop used to be the best pilot NASA had, would he please pilot the ship. This much you can figure out from the trailers.

The rest of the movie is a pretty good science fiction spectacle which doesn't rely on energy beam weapons and planets blowing up. Black holes, relativity, gravity, giant tidal waves and lengthy speculations on the meaning of it all are involved. And as McConaughey and Anne Hathaway have pointed out on numerous talk shows the movie is also about the love of a father for his daughter (although that is not at all apparent from the trailers).

My daughter and I enjoyed it immensely even though there are certainly problems with it. But most of the problems are of a science fictional universe type of problem. There are some characterization problems as well. For example, Coop's 10-year-old daughter, Murphy (who names their daughter Murphy?), who wouldn't say good-bye to Daddy when he left, seems to nurse a hatred for her father against all that she should have learned about his mission as she grows to adulthood.

One of the science fiction problems is a time-loop which would involve too many spoilers to explain. Read some of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes if you want more info. If you get too bent out of shape by such things you probably shouldn't be watching science fiction movies. Neil Degrasse Tyson didn't have too much trouble with it. When confronted with a problem like this I remember what Old Joe told Young Joe in the movie "Looper". "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."

As to the acting. I don't much like McConaughey as an actor, although I guess he's alright in this. Anne Hathaway, who plays a mission scientist named Brand, spends too much time acting like a woman in a Christopher Nolan movie that a scientist, does the best she can with some pretty dopey lines. Michael Caine, who plays her father, Professor Brand, pretty much plays a straight Michale Caine. John Lithgow is Coop's father-in-law, has only aphorism to add to the movie. But the movie isn't really (no matter what they said on the talk shows) about acting, it's about flying a giant spinning space ship through a worm hole, although the second half of the movie had my daughter in tears, so what do I know?

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