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Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - Interstellar

The last time I saw Matthew McConaughey in a literary-type sci-fi flick was in 1997's Contact. I think Interstellar is a similar, albeit much better film.

The premise is simple. Earth is dying. While the dialogue doesn't come out and say it, human-influenced climate and microbial changes have brought the human race to the brink of extinction. So of course, we have the brilliant scientist (Michael Caine) and his beautiful and equally brilliant daughter (Anne Hathaway) sconced in a top-secret installation, searching for a solution.

What they need is a pilot for their space ark. Again, the dialogue insinuates that air travel no longer exists. McConaughey's Cooper was one of the last astronauts trained before NASA was officially shut down as a waste of resources.


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SPOILERS

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PROS
1) Give me a good story if you can't give me good science. For the most part, this movie gives both. In fact, the human story outshines the spectacular effects and occasional oopses in the science department. What would you do if your children aged more rapidly than you? If you could only see your grandchildren in messages that were decades old? Could you give up your personal desires/beliefs/dreams in total service to the existence of your race?

2) All three women who portray Cooper's daughter Murph give outstanding performances. While Jessica Chastain has the lion's share of scenes, it's Mackenzie Foy as the teen Murph and Ellen Burstyn as the elderly Murph that will bring tears to your eyes.

3) OMG! Matt Damon does NOT get enough credit as an actor! As Caine's co-head of the Lazarus Project, Dr. Mann seems reasonable and logical, but the mask slips, and we realize he's bat-crap crazy a split-second before the other characters do. Seriously, this guy needs a Best Supporting Actor nomination by the Academy!

4) The special effects are going to make you wish Stanley Kubrick had CGI when he was filming. Even better was the visual allegory of "string theory/threads of the Fates".

5) I got a sneaky thrill that Murph, a female scientist, is the one who calculates with the Unified Field Theory based on the information her father and TARS were able to transmit to her, though the movie never actually names it as such.


CONS
1) Some of the science left me with a WTF feeling. There's a difference between a neutron star and a black hole. At various times in the movie, Gargantua is referred to as both.

2) The filmmakers push credibility by having three planets within Gargantua's habitable zone. Even if I let that go, the fact that Miller's planet is the closest to Gargantua, a star with a massive gravity field, and has liquid water, you would think the scientists would suspect massive tides. But hey, I only have a minor in physics so what do I know.


Obviously Christopher Nolan's shooting for an Oscar with this movie, and I hope he gets it.

Overall, I give Interstellar a 9 out of 10 for a couple of questionable science issues, and two instances where the characters were too stupid to live (and didn't).

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