some thoughts on Interstellar

So I went to go see Interstellar tonight. Oh, SPOILERS throughout, so only read on if you don’t plan on seeing it or don’t care too much about that kind of thing. I normally hate spoilers, but I went into this with the main conceit spoiled and I don’t think it really ruined it, per se. In general, I have really mixed feelings about the movie. There were parts I liked and parts that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at. And it was really long.

I saw it in IMAX, which I think was a good decision and I would recommend if you have access to a theatre with that version of it. Overall, the movie was beautifully shot and the visuals were impressive. It is very loud, especially in certain parts, which, yeah, I understand why it was done, but it was also nearly painful to my ears. Most of the acting was alright and I really liked Jessica Chastain’s character – it was nice to see a competent female scientist. Matt Damon’s character was very interesting and the middle section of the movie, around that part, was really the most compelling part of the story to me.

The rest of it, though. I don’t know. I think part of the problem is that either the movie was trying too hard to be 2001: A Space Odyssey (and not succeeding) or was just getting tripped by trying to simultaneously be a heartfelt father/daughter relationship story and a super jargon-y science tale. The father/daughter thing succeeded more than the science thing to me, but even that was overwrought and dragged on a bit.

The science part was a whole different problem. I know that Kip Thorne helped out with the movie and that the visualizations of the black hole were modeled as accurately as possible, and I appreciate that. But there were just so many issues with the science stuff (especially all of that nonsense at the end) that it really drew me out of whatever part of the story was currently dragging the movie along (except, as mentioned above, the middle section which worked ok). There was enough real science in there to make it really confusing to people who know something about these things. And I worry that people not as versed in astrophysics would have no idea where the real models stop and the fiction starts. (That’s not necessarily a problem, but I do wonder about it.)

I liked the description of how a wormhole works, with sort of folding the dimensions together, but of course that was borrowed from A Wrinkle in Time, which they did reference by calling it a “tesseract” later in the movie. The visualization of going through the wormhole was (I hope) supposed to be a direct callback to 2001: A Space Odyssey and it looked pretty cool on the big IMAX screen, but I couldn’t help but make the comparison while it was happening which kind of took me out of the effect.

All of the stuff with the weird five-dimension space that Cooper was stuck in and allowed him to communicate with his daughter just really bothered me. I am all for time-travel plot devices when done well, but this was so very heavy-handed and drawn out.

[It is definitely true that I’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey more than the average person, but that’s only because it’s an amazing movie and I will continue to try and convince more people to watch it (and also convince them not to blame Hal). Fun fact: the Hal-9000 computer got its name by taking the letters IBM and subtracting one from each.]

So I don’t know. I think in the end, I’m glad that I went to go see it. If it can inspire young people to study physics and/or astronomy, that’s a good thing.

Author: cynthiadangelo

I am a researcher, working on educational games, science education, and data visualization. I like photography, soccer, traveling, and teaching my dog new tricks.

2 thoughts on “some thoughts on Interstellar”

  1. There’s bits of it that I don’t get at all.

    Why couldn’t Dr. Mann just tell them that his world was bunk and then go with them to the next one? They’d hate on him for sending a false signal that caused them to go down and get him, but once that was done, I doubt they’d just ditch him if he owned up…

    At the very end, was it implied that they saved everyone back on Earth? I mean, HOW? How did they have the resources necessary to build that many ships (or was that one ship enough?)? Was there a war to convince people that space flight was real and that revisionist history was faked? Did they only save people in the US? I…. just don’t follow…

    1. Oh yeah. I have all of those questions and more. They tried to do too much and I think really didn’t think through the plot. There are plot holes large enough to drive a spaceship through. Like how did Cooper get back near Saturn? I’m assuming the original wormhole left them relatively near the black hole, but (and ok, maybe I know too much about wormholes) did he somehow escape the black hole (um, no) and get back to that wormhole and hope that it would take him back to Saturn or did he go through the black hole which turned into a new wormhole that magically took him to Saturn? And why was his gravity influence seemingly only in that one room until he decided that he could use the watch? Ugh.

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