It is a rare thing to find cutting-edge science and modern fiction intersecting in this day and age, especially when it comes to Hollywood. Sci-fi has become less scientific over the decades, and has faded as its Golden Age came to an inevitable end. To this day, the authors of that era inspire modern storytelling. Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke pioneered a style of telling stories that was relevant and broke the barriers of innovation and invention. In his new film “Interstellar,” director Christopher Nolan heralds viewers back to the Golden Age with this broadly encompassing sci-fi epic.
Matthew McConaughey plays the main character, nicknamed ”Coop” by his close friends, who lives on a farm with his son and daughter. His daughter Murphy, who everyone affectionately calls “Murph”, is a troublemaker much like her father. We are told early on she is named after Murphy’s Law, which Coop rephrases to ”Anything that can happen, will happen.”
This law seems to hold true for most of Nolan’s story, with the plot running from complicated to mind-bending and shaking the audience’s ideas of space and time. “The world doesn’t need any more engineers,” a minor character tells Coop near the beginning of the film. “We didn’t run out of planes and television sets; we ran out of food.” Nolan makes this the theme of the film, holding up Coop’s bravery as a model for how others should combat the inequality that humanity has caused on the earth. Nolan creates strong emotional connections with the characters, playing on themes of love and brokenness and duty over family, and it is something which hits hard.
Christopher Nolan is certainly not an unfamiliar name in today’s film industry. Not only is he a well-known director, he writes most of his scripts himself, which is an uncommon thing to find in successful Hollywood directors these days. Being able to write and direct is like being Superman: not only does the director direct, effectively having sway over every aspect of the film’s production, but he creates the story as well, something every writer knows is both beautiful and agonizing all at the same time. Hollywood’s fast pace and business-like attitude works when it comes to effectively making films, but breaks down when faced with the creative pressures of writing a story. Doing both requires a special kind of person and is something Nolan seems to be able to do very well.
During preproduction, renowned theoretical physicist and astrophysicist Kip Thorne was hired on to the crew of “Interstellar” as an adviser in order to accurately portray black holes and gravitational and time relativity issues. The crew used computer imagery and math equations to portray the black hole’s “wormhole” in a way no other film has done before, creating a beautiful visual display and sparking some new theories.
In one of the videos made by the production crew of “Interstellar”, Kip says, “We’re going to write several technical papers about this: One aimed at the astrophysics community and then something for the computer graphics community saying, ‘Here are some things we’ve discovered about gravitational lensing by rapidly spinning black holes that we never knew before.’”
Despite the complex scientific babble in this film, “Interstellar” is still at its core a work of fiction. Science fiction has always been a blending of two worlds; a crashing together of science and unreality that sometimes hits home and other times just falls flat. But despite what anyone may argue about the science in “Interstellar,” it is certainly both a compelling and emotionally engaging film that I hope sparks a new era of sci-fi even better than the last.