Interstellar: The Realistic Movie but also The Disappointment

by Alan Eggleston

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this space. And in this space,  I will write about space again — in a review of the film Interstellar. (Plot synopsis from IMBd.)

Interstellar, released in November 2014, was much-hyped for its special effects. Much was said about its realism, based on the concept of its original script by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne (executive producer), who wanted to create a very realistic science fiction movie. And true to the hype, the special effects were brilliant.

We were given an awesome sight of what a wormhole might appear like “in the wild,” and we saw a black hole up close and even traveled inside one, seeing what it might look like within the event horizon and on toward the singularity. We were also treated to a ride on a monster tidal wave driven by the action of the tides acting on a shallow sea on a world orbiting that black hole.

The problem, however, was that the special effects were only a very small part of a very … long … movie.

As intriguing as watching these special effects were, driven by the mathematics of science fed into the CGI app for the movie animation, the movie was longer than two and a half hours, and the special effects were infinitesimally short in comparison.

The main plot of the movie is that Earth is dying and humans need to find an alternative home, and the main character (Matthew McConaughey) is forced to leave behind his young family to lead a team in search of that potential home. There is plenty of conflict to raise tension. There is the fight to sustain life on Earth; the need to find an alternate home — although the actual flight to seek one seems to take longer than the scientists give Earth to last; the main character’s desire to save his family; a secondary character’s (Anne Hathaway) drive to see her father’s (Michael Caine) theory for saving humanity work and then later to meet up with a love interest (Matt Damon) who ventured ahead to find a suitable Earth substitute; and on and on. But the pace of the movie lags over that two and a half hours.

Moreover, the tone of the movie is depressing. My daughter had to leave a half hour into the movie, and my wife was listless three  quarters of an hour into it.

Quite frankly, the plot and plot devices seemed contrived and implausible to me. The big reveal toward the end seemed especially troubling.

So what is the saving grace for Interstellar? It is only the special effects and how much effort they put into being realistic, and the fun of seeing what we might really see if we approached a black hole or a worm hole. As a science and astronomy fan, I appreciated the attention to detail.

Did they take some liberties — some creative license — in the movie? I’m sure they did. But, according to Thorne, not at the expense of scientific accuracy. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the day far in the future when human space travelers actually approach a black hole or a worm hole.

By the way, this also featured a top-notch cast, many of whom played small parts. Matt Damon’s role was relatively minor, as was that of Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, William Devane, Casey Affleck, and Topher Grace, among a fine list of actors.

Would I suggest that you see Interstellar? That depends on why you might go see it. If you’re a fan of science like me, sure. If you want to see science-accurate special effects, again sure. Especially if you can see it free as I did by accessing a DVD through a library or at a lower cost as in a subscription service such as Netflix. If you find you don’t like it, ditch the flick early. But if you’re looking for a quick movie or an uplifting flick or a fascinating film, I’d say give it a pass.

© Copyright 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

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