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Catching Up on Complaints About "Interstellar"

As a rule, I try to ignore as much information about a movie as possible - including trailers, reviews, and even throwaway IMDb comments - until I actually see it.  Mainly this is because it helps me to manage my expectations and watch movies on their own terms.  (I've learned the hard way that things rarely live up to the hype in my head.) Sometimes it's because I just don't want to get caught in an echo chamber of complaints before I have a chance to come up with my own.

The problem is that I don't have the time to stay on top of new media as quickly as I'd like, so inevitably I wind up behind the curve on pop culture.  I only saw the Captain America sequel a couple weeks ago, for example.  There's like, what, four of them now?

Anyway, it makes me feel like I'm "discovering" things that are common knowledge by now.  Anytime I have an observation that I think is pretty clever and I write it here, I keep expecting some snarky bastard to come by and be like, "Ugh, we already said that, old man.  Get with the times."

So, given that background, and considering that I just recently had a chance to watch Interstellar, which I know had a backlash (even though I didn't hear the specific complaints), I thought I'd approach it a little differently this time.  I'm going to split this up into my thoughts on the movie before I start digging around the Internet to see what people thought about it, and then I'm going to do a little follow-up afterward.  Maybe my notes are going to be totally unique, and maybe not.

Consider everything ahead to be full of spoilers, BTW.  In case I actually managed to see this before you somehow.

The Things I Liked About Interstellar

Before I get into any more of this, I want to start with the positive.  Overall I enjoyed this movie and admired it quite a bit.  I've been waffling between giving it a 3.5 and a 4 out of 5.

I thought the opening third was pretty clever.  The apocalypse is presented to us as a relatively calm and gradual descent rather than a wild and screaming death rattle - which is how I'd expect it to go.  I don't think we're going out in a blaze of glory.  I think we'll just kinda fade away, which is how most long-running things end.

I also liked that one of the biggest problems facing the country was the politicization of science, which in turn led to anti- and non-science.  It's a pretty good satirical take on our current attitudes toward climate change and evolution - things that aren't a matter of opinion, just a matter of evidence.  It's absolutely ridiculous that a schoolteacher dismisses NASA's history as being "propaganda" and a conspiracy theory, while demanding that McConaughey's daughter study a textbook that has been edited to satisfy ideologies rather than fact.  It's by far the most realistic part of the movie and sadly hits home.

(Speaking of which - you know how the world will end?  With a politician and his rich buddies driving giant fucking cars that suck the last breath out of the air while telling us and our starving kids that everything's fine, and then we vote for him anyway because "he seems like he'd have a beer with you.")

I liked that McConaughey's initial conflict is between his duty to the world as a farmer and his duty to himself as a scientist and explorer.  This also hits home hard for me, as I went to school for a career I never wanted in the first place and entered the workforce in a position I hated.  For better or worse, I was more invested in him getting to space just so he could have personal satisfaction than I was for him to save the world.

And when the space adventures begin, I enjoyed a lot of the grandeur and majesty of the voyage.  Interstellar makes its journey through space as inspiring and soul-soaring as the thought of space travel should be.  I also enjoyed seeing the different planets they land on - particularly the tidal wave planet, which has one of the best oh shit moments in recent memory.

The Shit I Hated

As much as I think he's a good actor, Matt Damon shoulda been cut right out.  Way to waste thirty goddamned minutes of my life, movie.  You've got a scientist - ostensibly the most premier mind of his generation - who spearheads a brave exploration into a new universe with a commitment to a mission to prevent the extinction of humanity and he's willing to jeopardize it just because he's lonely?

Don't get me wrong - I can buy that the dude would've been lonely on his shitty planet.  But he knows that if he screws with the mission, it will doom all of humanity.  The entire reason he was chosen for the mission is because he wouldn't act selfishly, right?  And even if he would.... what the hell was his plan going to be?  Where was he thinking he would go?  Back to Earth?  You expect me to believe that a genius and a visionary would be this fucking stupid and shortsighted?  And why would you try to kill any of the people who are on your planet if you're so lonely and you just want human contact you goddamn moron?!

Oh, God, I hated this subplot.  Matt Damon's character was easily the worst part of this movie.

I was also not fond of the idea that "love" was the solution to all their problems.  Interstellar posits that not only is love a quantifiable quality of physics that can manipulate causal relationships, but that human beings will one day uncover the mathematical constructs of love and use those to manipulate other people in the past with teeny tiny bits of bullshit to make them do their bidding.  It's a little bit of pseudoscience mixed with a little bit of sociopathy.  I don't know which should repulse me more.  I didn't necessarily hate the love stuff, I just thought it was too soft and poorly explored in a movie that didn't need it.

But honestly, the moment in the movie that got to me more than anything else was during the grand reveal when McConaughey's character goes into the black hole.

The sequence overall was good - I kinda suspected it was going to turn out that the "aliens" were actually humans from the future, but didn't know they were going to make McConaughey directly responsible for the anomalies in his daughter's bedroom. I enjoyed the visualization of him having access to infinite moments to interact with and I can forgive the reductive nature of "the information" that he needs to pass on to his daughter.  On a lot of levels, this sequence was a pretty solid way to cap off the movie and tie everything together.


Except that as much as it makes sense on McConaughey's side of the universe, it makes precisely zero sense on Jessica Chastain's side.  Why would she even begin to think that McConaughey is sending her a message?  The scene fails only because she makes this enormous logic leap for absolutely no reason.  Like if I was staring at a brick in a fireplace for a really long time and then I said, "Oh, of course!  There's the cure for cancer!  It was bricks all the time, guys!"  Whether the cure works or not is irrelevant - my discovery is going to be a terrible story.

Couldn't you have taken five more minutes to think of a way for McConaughey to explain what he was doing?  Maybe he could have tapped out Morse code to her?  Or at the very least there could have been a bunch of scenes early on where he called her some pet name like "Ladybug" or something, and then in the climax he could have tapped out "Ladybug" in the dust on her floor, and she'd be like, "OMG, it's my dad's nickname for me, clearly this is a message from him somehow, I better pay attention."  Just give her even one fucking reason to stake everything on her hunch.

So, anyway.  What did the rest of the world think of the movie?

The Shit the Internet Hated


Really, guys?  You just bitched about the science for the last six months?  Do you not understand how stories work?

This is why I don't read the Internet before I watch movies.

All the Other Nonsense That Got Pushed Off the Main Page (Post Archive)

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