In the Dirt and Interstellar

by jessicamathers


To prepare for the stellar 169-minute runtime of Interstellar, I bought an energy drink to sip on during the drive to my first IMAX experience at Universal CityWalk. I quickly realized, however, that I was making a huge mistake, and I stopped drinking not a sip too soon as I saw where my reserved seat was in the theatre: smack dab in the middle of a long row of people where I would be trapped for nearly three hours.

Somehow, though, the three hours came and went, and I went to happy hour nearby where the next several hours were spent talking about Christopher Nolan’s newest film, and, to my surprise, the next few days were spent thinking about it. The first words out of my mouth upon leaving the theatre were, “Well, that wasn’t my cup of tea.” By the next morning, I texted my movie-going companion with, “I can’t stop thinking about that movie.” My review could end here with that simple summary. As luck would have it, though, I have time to elaborate.

Part 1: “Well, that wasn’t my cup of tea.”

From the 85+ decibels of Hans Zimmer, dust storms, and rocket engines shattering my eardrums to Michael Caine’s Dylan Thomas poetry recitals, this film caused me both physical and mental anguish at one point or another. Add onto that Anne Hathaway’s cringe-worthy “love is the one thing that transcends time and space” line and Matt Damon’s “this is not about saving my life; it’s about saving the human race”, and I couldn’t help but scoff in my seat.

Yes, the score was great, the CGI masterful, and Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s acting brilliant, but the film’s themes, of which there were many, were undoubtedly tired. I did not expect the film to completely transcend time, space, and the tropes that saturate film, but I did expect them to be more masterfully woven into the story. The spaceship was called Endurance, the mission called Lazarus, and “do not go gentle into that good night” repeated ad nauseam.

However, where the screenwriting undoubtedly succeeded was certainly in the relationship between Cooper and his daughter, Murphy (as in the Law). The portrayal of their love was natural, painful, relatable and touching, and it did not take any cliché quotes to demonstrate it tangibly. It was their relationship that brought my first and only tears during the course of the film, and it was their relationship that I still can’t stop thinking about. Which brings me to…

Part 2: “I can’t stop thinking about that movie.”      

I walked out of the theatre and toward happy hour feeling as though I’d paid $20 for permanent hearing damage. However, after a few vodka Diet Cokes and hours of discussion, I began to see Interstellar differently. It is a movie you will continue talking and thinking about at least for the rest of the day, if not for the rest of the week. The visual effects are truly mind-blowing, bringing the viewers into the dirt and interstellar.

Nolan’s previous mind-bender, Inception, depicted what we have all experienced, dreams, but despite our ability to relate to dreamlike states it is still difficult to place ourselves within the bizarre scenes of that film. Although very few humans have ever experienced outer space, each interstellar scene felt oddly real, as though those places truly exist somewhere in our universe and Nolan somehow managed to scrounge up the astounding budget to go find them.

What was also bizarre was having a new perspective, or a new way of conceptualizing, Einstein’s theory of relativity. Bear with me here. We learned the basics in 8th grade science, but it’s not until you watch Cooper work for but an hour on another planet and come back to an adult daughter that it really puts everything into perspective. This was not some Inception, time gets weird in dreams inside of dreams inside of dreams nonsense. Time and space and gravity and dimensions and supermassive black holes and dark matter and the unimaginable depth and breadth of the universe…it’s a lot to take in, it’s a lot to think about, and it was really presented in an accessible, stunning, and mostly accurate way.

Sure, there’s still a lot of theory involved when it comes to the universe, and I truly initially disliked some of the artistic liberties taken, but when it came down to it, it mostly all worked. The Dust Bowl imagery from the beginning of the film to the end keeps our feet firmly on Earth. The themes of a dying earth and the uncertainty of the future of humanity are, I suppose, themes for a reason: we fear these things. And although I will never be able to forgive the “love is the one thing that transcends time and space” line, love did have a home in that movie. A terribly dusty home, but a home nonetheless.