Sunday, November 9, 2014

Interstellar

I wanted to finish up talking about Interstellar today, with spoilers. If you want to read my initial, spoiler-free thoughts, they happened yesterday. Not only does this contain spoilers, but I think you may not even enjoy this posting unless you've already seen the movie.



I had a chance to let Interstellar weigh on my mind a bit, and I'm left with one question: How bad does a flaw have to be before it overshadows everything good in a movie? Interstellar is unfortunately cursed with three big flaws, but either they're not bad enough to ruin the movie for me or the rest of the movie is good enough for me to ignore it. I'm not sure which.

The first major flaw comes from Anne Hathaway's character when she starts talking about love as a quantifiable thing. That there is actually some sort of love force acting throughout the universe. I was hoping that when she started talking like this that it was a sign that she was going crazy, being stuck in space for so long. Sadly no. When Cooper ends up in the black hole, somehow his love energy is able to contact his daughter in the past. This sucks for two reasons. One, because the movie had built up a lot of hard science in its story, and the inclusion of something purely fucking magical ruined all of it. And two, because, c'mon. The power of love saved the world? How lame is that?

The second flaw came in the form of the idiot ball. Towards the end, a lot of tension is created by having Dr. Man go crazy and try to kill Cooper just to stay alive a little bit longer. This part of the plot was awful for so many reasons. First, having your plot advance because someone is acting stupidly is not lazy, but boring to watch. The movie was exciting when the characters were all acting rationally and facing impossible odds, but when it turns into "fight the crazy guy" it just comes off as dull. Second, Dr. Man knows that nobody is coming to get him. He is in the room when they discover that "Plan A" does not exist. He should understand that the only way to stay alive is either to go back to Earth, like Cooper says he's going to do, or go on to the next planet with the other two scientists. He gains nothing from trying to kill these three people.



The final flaw is the last twenty minutes of the film, where everything is tied up neatly with a bow. I'm wondering why Nolan missed that one of the great things about Inception was the ending, and why all of his movie since then had the ending spelled out too clearly and too neatly for the audience. Really, if The Dark Knight Rises would have ended without seeing Bruce Wayne alive and well, and instead just revealed that he fixed the autopilot issue, it would have been nice and open-ended and not ruined. If this movie would have ended with Cooper falling into the black hole, it would have been perfect.

To expand on this, imagine what the film would look like. We know that if Murphy can receive information from inside the black hole, she can save humanity. We believe that to be true, even if we don't know it. If they drop Tars into the black hole, and he transmits data, that's enough for the audience to connect the dots that humanity is probably okie-dokie. We know that the "ghost" appears in Murphy's room when she's a child, and we also know that the key to the work that she's been doing lies in the revelation that time is mutable. Also, just from knowing that this film is about time and space, and that the final message from the bookshelf is "STAY", I think your average moviegoer was not surprised that it was Cooper himself sending the messages back in time. Why not let the audience assume this after the credits roll? Or, leave the mystery of the five-dimensional beings even more open-ended and debatable?

The ending also upsets me because it seems proof that Nolan is afraid to pull the trigger on his own ideas. The same thing happened in the Batman trilogy, where throughout the franchise we are told that symbols are more important than individuals, and that people can be corrupted and it's better to die a hero. And yet the individual is given a place of importance at the end of Dark Knight Rises, and left alive. The same thing happens here where the audience is repeatedly told that humanity should disregard its selfish instincts and instead act for the greater good. Cooper does this by diving into a black hole, so Brand can carry on the mission and repopulate the human species on a new planet. Through his sacrifice he transcends his human nature for the sake of humanity. He becomes more than a man or Dr. Man. By giving this character his own desire at the end -- no matter how noble and touching it may be -- he is once more brought down to being a simple human. His courage deserved more than that.

And yet...I still don't hate this movie. There's enough good ideas here that it makes me forget the flaws, and I can still recommend it. Weird, huh?

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