Interstellar Endurance Spacecraft.jpg

Now that a large number of SF fans have seen the Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar I feel I can chime in and give my two cents worth.

The premise of the movie is that blights have devastated Earth’s agricultural crops, creating dust bowl conditions pretty well everywhere. Humankind needs a new place to live. Enter a team of scientists led by Michael Caine and a crew that includes Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. The spacecraft Endurance will travel through a recently-discovered wormhole to assess and possibly begin colonization of some planets orbiting a black hole in another galaxy. The planets have been surveyed by previous solo missions that were unable to return but have sent data.

I won’t give away any more of the story, but it’s a solid science fiction premise, a whole lot better than the usual “alien monster killing people on a spaceship” that seems to make up most of Hollywood’s SF output. There’s been a lot of praise for the science in Interstellar, and there ought to be, since famous physicist Kip Thorne was a consultant and executive producer. Heck, they had me onside as soon as I saw that the exterior space shots were silent (other than soundtrack music) with no cheesy rocket noises or whooshing sounds. The visual effects are gorgeous, and the plot and setting elements attributable to the influence of the black hole are right on the money. There’s a big metaphysical element to the plot that has little, if any, basis in science. But it does provide a satisfying dramatic structure for the whole exercise.

The Good: accurate science, stunning and yet authentic visual effects, excellent performances from a great cast, and in spite of its space journey premise, it’s a very human story.

The Bad: There’s an extended sequence involving Matt Damon that, in my opinion, could have been chopped and shaved a big chunk off the movie’s nearly-three-hour running time. It’s pure Hollywood, far less credible than the rest of the movie. Watching it, I kept picturing some stereotypical movie producer insisting that a scene like that had to be included or audiences would be bored. That attitude is to blame for theatres being dominated by stuff like Fast & Furious 7.

It might take a few years to know whether Interstellar will take its place among the classic SF films (few as they are), but in the meantime it’s a very worthwhile offering for those of us who don’t want to have to switch our brains off when we go to the movies.