There are basically two kinds of sci-fi films. One kind is the easily digestible. In other words they're the slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am of sci-fi films, of which the 1996 film Independence Day is a good example. Aliens come in massive starships to wipe out mankind and mankind fights back. That's it. You know what you're getting before going out to see it. Afterwards you meet your friends and they say, "Oh you saw that? How was it?" And then you can explain it all within a minute flat. But not so Interstellar, which is the other kind of sci-fi film. For it's unconventional.
Of course this is not implying that all conventional sci-fi films are bad, while also not implying that all unconventional sci-fi films are good. But only suggesting that to try and make an original sci-fi film with an unexplored terrain of ideas is both undeniably very ambitious, and risky. And Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is a very good example of that. Therefore, movie audiences may not totally get it about Interstellar.
Yet that's okay really. For let us begin with what we all would be able to get. In the not-so-far-off future, mother Earth is perilously close to its twilight's last gleaming. Recurring dust storms plague the Earth along with a diminishing harvest of crops all from climate change. Wheat is the first to go. What?! That means no toasted wheat bread for my sandwiches. Okra is next, and that alone would make some people I know very upset. Corn is the viable crop at the moment. And this is where in this Christopher Nolan sci-fi film when corn farmer Cooper comes in, who also happens to be a former NASA test pilot and an engineer, played by Matthew McConaughey. Which also early in the film, Cooper sees a neighboring farmer lose his okra crop.
Furthermore we see that Cooper is a widower who had lost a beloved wife, a single father to a responsible 15-year-old son who has a knack for farming, and a spunky redheaded 10-year-old daughter who shares his love and knack for science. His father-in-law also known as grandpa, acted by John Lithgow, completes the family. And Cooper is hanging on to them all, as well as anyone would, given the dire circumstances that is facing the human race.
Cooper, also called Coop, is also shocked to learn while attending a parent-teacher meeting, that the school textbooks of his son and daughter have completely erased the historic and most stupendous scientific enterprise ever embarked upon by mankind. That is the Apollo lunar landing missions. For which, his daughter had been involved in a fight over at the school. The world already has enough planes and TV sets and now needs enough food, he is told by the school principal. But as the school principal and the attractive teacher Ms. Hanley do not realize, the world needs people like Cooper and his then 10-year-old daughter called Murph, played by Mackenzie Foy. From their shoulders, Interstellar gets its steam for the story engine.
And from the shoulders of both the father and his then 10-year-old daughter early in this film, call it serendipity, divine guidance or whatever, nevertheless both intrepid individuals just so happens to discover top secret proof of a government entity long supposedly to have been shutdown, called NASA. And NASA now desperately needs Cooper.
Within NASA's hidden installation, Cooper and Murph meet astrophysicist Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine, his daughter biologist Dr. Amelia Brand, played by Anne Hathaway, and other high ranking personnel. Shortly after finding out NASA was never shutdown though scaled down, Cooper is briefed on NASA's discovery of a worm hole near Saturn. In addition, the worm hole allows passage to another galaxy, hopefully to a habitable world to save mankind.
Jumpstarted manned scout missions had been made to the two-year trip to Saturn and beyond. And now Professor Brand is appealing to Cooper to be mission commander to accompany three other specialists to include his daughter, and to be command pilot. Acting now within Cooper is which question has the greater pull. Will he stay with family during their remaining years, and Earth's? Or will he accept, to not only fulfill a yearning to finally be in space, but also in the hope of saving his children's generation and mankind from extinction?
Matthew McConaughey is outstanding in this film. After having now seen him in eight films, beginning with A Time to Kill with Sandra Bullock (the book by John Grisham is better), he smoked it in Dallas Buyers Club by giving a command performance. To which he won an Oscar.
Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne of Cal Tech had been onboard to lend scientific accuracy during the making of this film. Still, there's been a debate within the scientific community, as noted in a November 8, 2014 informative web-article by Christina Warren of Mashable titled, "Why scientists are in a love-hate relationship with 'Interstellar." And spoilers may be within.
You should expect scientific jargon to come at you during this film, which it's here where movie audiences, including myself, may not fully get it about Interstellar. Again, that's okay. For it does not weigh the film down as it takes flight. And besides these are professionals after all, and we are given the unique opportunity to be invited with them onboard the Endurance.
In the November 10, 2014 cover story of TIME written about Christopher Nolan by Jeffrey Kluger on page 45, it references that critics say Nolan's films such as Inception and the Batman Dark Knight trilogy are rather cold films. This I believe unfair. The same had been said about Stanley Kubrick films of which Nolan highly admires, and getting some of his inspiration for Interstellar from 2001.
But Kubrick had that constant underlying theme of man's dehumanization existing throughout his films, from Paths of Glory to 2001: A Space Odyssey, to his final film Eyes Wide Shut. Which makes that understandable.
Christopher Nolan on the other hand, had the underlying theme of redemption for the lead character Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in his other sci-fi film, Inception. Then lastly, societal themes exist throughout all three of his Batman films beginning with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Thereby, for the first time in the current seven Batman film franchise, the iconic superhero in the trilogy is elevated to urban realism.
In the book Kubrick's Hope: Discovering Optimism from 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut by Julian Rice, from page 32 to 33, Stanley Kubrick reveals why he and Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the script to 2001: A Space Odyssey, had decided that no alien life form would ever appear in the film. To which he states, "You cannot imagine the unimaginable. All you can do is try to represent it in an artistic manner that will convey something of its quality. That's why we settled on the black monolith -- which is, of course... something of a Jungian archetype."
Indeed, while watching Interstellar after opening day beginning Saturday morning, John Lithgow's character Donald is talking to Cooper while they sit on the porch of their farmhouse. He says that before things changed, we seem to always have a new product out, like it was Christmas every day. Hearing that got me to think of 2001 while watching the film. You never saw aliens in the film, but they left simple looking objects, the monoliths, so technologically advanced while assisting in man's destiny, yet needing no upgrade for millions of years!
Please go IMAX. To which you may say, "Dang it Darryl! Things have gone up, Christmas is near, so Hollywood's gonna wait." I know, but you need a breather. Make a trade off, do without the mocha expressos for a few days. That may not be asking too much. But to go without toasted wheat bread on a sandwich, that may be asking too much. I give this film four and a half stars.