I wanted to like this film. I’ve enjoyed Nolan’s other work and my hopes were high. Plus I’m a geek and hence happy to suspend my disbelieve. But I’m not happy to have it hanged by the neck until dead.
As well as grumpiness and sarcasm this post contains spoilers. So, if you’ve not seen ‘Interstellar’, best not read on. In fact, if you’ve seen it and liked it, best not read on. I’m just getting this off my chest to deal with my disappointment.
1. Pardon? I asked myself, about a third of the way in, why the soundtrack was mixed so that the special effects and music (both good, BTW) drowned out the dialogue. Then we turned on the subtitles. By the end of the movie I had answered my own question: if you could hear what the characters were saying you’d realise how much shite was being said. Just sit back and watch the pretties, and everything’ll be fine.
2. The End of the World does not look like Oklahoma. Apparently it’ll all go tits up in a few decades and yet the midwest (and by extension the world because the only time you see anywhere outside America in Hollywood sci-fi is when London/Paris/Delhi gets hit by a meteorite/tsunami/alien invaders) still looks like it always has, complete with baseball games and pick-up trucks. Sure, we have the odd dust-storm but everyone’s clean and well-fed with healthy crops (perpetually at the same stage of development, but healthy) and adequate power (including fossil fuels for those pick-ups presumably). They’re not sitting in their darkened homesteads with shotguns ready to defend their ailing crops and dying livestock. Nope, no need for that because everyone in the whole world is a farmer. Which brings me onto:
3. Humanity will not be saved by a grav drive, because you need (a) a coherent government beyond the town council level and (b) a military-industrial complex (not just a bunch of NASA scientists under a cornfield) to lift the population off
Oklahoma Earth. Now I think of it, the secret of cold fusion might have been a slightly more logical McGuffin. But this film isn’t about logic (see 1 above).
4. Science is not a pick ‘n’ mix. Much has been made of how ‘scientifically accurate’ this film is. Do not confuse the ability to make pretty pictures from recent physics models and exploit time dilation for emotional effect with scientific accuracy. Yes, the relativistic effects are plausible (ish) though any planet where gravity causes time to run hundreds of times faster on the surface than in orbit will squash the characters who land on it flat as pancakes as opposed to just giving them a headache and a chance to drown dramatically. But, to pick just three examples of science bollix: ‘the blight’ must be carbon (not nitrogen) based unless it is of alien origin itself, solid clouds would fall out of of the sky and if you leave a team member in an unshielded spaceship orbiting a black hole for 23 years then when you get back he won’t just be bald and pissed off he will (even if he spent a while in that ridiculous body-bag-in-a-bath stasis unit) be thoroughly irradiated and very dead.
5. Why aren’t the robots running things? Whilst most of the tech is stuck in the late 20th century, this future has actual AI. With ‘humour settings’. AI’s a bit of a thing for me and I can tell you that if you’ve got an AI which can consistently crack jokes which aren’t entirely lame, you’ve got proper, full ‘hard’ AI. And if you’ve got that, the world would not be anything like Oklahoma. If nothing else, said robots would have resigned themselves so it didn’t look like a walking filing cabinets with no manual manipulators.
6. The plot made me do it. People do a lot of things which make no sense. For example, even the craziest astronaut does not open an airlock which might have an imperfect seal unless he wants to kill himself – and this one was willing to kill everyone else so he could live. Also: your sister insists, against the evidence, that your dad isn’t lost in space; she comes to your farm and tries to take your kid away ‘for his health’; she leaves and sets fire to your crops; while you’re off putting the fire out she sneaks back to your house, in fact she’s waiting for you there when you get back. At this point do you (a) call the cops/medics (b) barely resist the temptation to hit her and then lock her out of your house or (c) believe her when she says she now knows dad’s alive, and let her give you a big hug. Yeah, one of the first two; but not in this film. As a writer, the need to make characters act according to their true nature has been drummed into me. These people don’t.
7. That’s no way to save humanity. Leaving aside the central time paradox (how can the future humans make the tessaract without the tessaract having existed to save them?), why did these uber-smart multidimensional beings for whom time means nothing chose a farmer (albeit one who conveniently used to be an astronaut) to save humanity? Why not, in fact, just show up in Earth orbit and save us themselves? Oh, because then we wouldn’t be able to see all those lovely special effects.
By contrast, this afternoon I listened to the second and concluding part of Radio 4’s adaption of The Left Hand of Darkness and that was fantastic.
Quite agree on the Interstellar gripes. You spotted loads I missed. As an eternally optimistic fan of what often turns out to be disappointing Sci Fi, I cannot help but join in.
Nolan appears to have listened to “Year of 39” by Queen (I bet they are Brian May’s lyrics) and woven in the basic plot from 2001. Gravity anomaly blah suggests go and look at the strangeness near Jupiter blah Human or AI crewmember goes mad blah time and space get distorted, hilarity ensues etc. (Should not mention Kubrick’s masterpiece in the same paragraph really, this film’s not worthy.)
The bit which really made me laugh was when Michael Caine swings open a door in the underground compound nerve centre to reveal a fully fuelled multi stage heavy lift rocket just a few yards away. Where is Ron Howard when you need him for technically believable details?
And as for Gravity? Don’t get me started!
Undeterred, I shall be paying for my cinema ticket and donning the 3D glasses sometime soon, always hoping to see something which gives me cause for a more positive review.
Thanks for letting me share, I’m off to find your Radio 4 recommendation.
Indeed – my disappointment in Interstellar was all the keener because I had such high hopes.
And yes, so there’s this rocket in a silo right next to a lab … which is also conveniently just down the road from The Hero’s farm? Yep, that was another one which got me.
Enjoy The Left Hand of Darkness (that’s proper SF!), and also your ‘mystery’ film choice.