Saturday, November 8, 2014

Intersteller [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

Intersteller [2014] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Christopher Nolan along with his brother Jonathan Nolan) is an IMMENSE and quite PRETENTIOUS Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster wannabe of a film apparently made in good part using "retro... and LARGE" 2001: A Space Oddysey [1968] evoking 70 mm film and then using as manipulative (that is, often, POUNDING) a soundtrack as I've witnessed in recent memory to try to "make points" that otherwise apparently would be in danger of being "missed" otherwise.

So other than that what'd ya think of the film? ;-)

Honestly, while 2001: A Space Oddysey [1968] had its "Dawning of the (New) Age of Aquarius" pretensions at least they weren't as narcissistic as those in the current film.  At the end of 2001: A Space Oddysey [1968] it was suggested that as a species (perhaps guided by a mysterious advanced intelligence) we were entering into a "new stage" of Evolution.  In the case of the current film, that "guiding advanced intelligence" was (something of a spoiler alert) US or "super-evolved" 5 dimensional versions of ourselves.  That is WE BECOME OUR OWN GODS.

Wow, I can imagine the Simpsons' Homer saying, "Wow! Pass the popcorn Marge ..."  We are our own Gods??  Even as the film also portrays us, both individually and as a species, as ... a-holes (or in more conventional speak ... more or less obvious sinners).

After all, the film begins sometime in the middle of the 21st century with the world having been largely destroyed by war.  Previous human obsession with technology and scientific advancement having been blamed for said war, the surviving society's preoccupations were with the more mundane tasks of farming and "repopulating" a world heavily damaged by that previous conflict.

Yet, how does one feed even those people who survived, if the climate's changed and farming's become dependent on only a few surviving seed crops, any / all of which could be wiped-out by the next "potato-famine-like" blight?

So apparently a small group of "former NASA scientists and engineers" taking refuge in a former Cold War era missile silo somewhere in, take one's pick, Kansas, Nebraska, perhaps the Dakotas, devise "a plan" to Save Humanity (as a species) ... They're going to look for some place FAR AWAY in some other star system where humanity can be "reseeded" and "grow" anew.

"How the heck could one go there?"  Asks Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughy) a former American test pilot, now, wings-clipped, Midwestern farmer.

"Through a wormhole ... that we've discovered by Saturn," the father and daughter team of former NASA scientist Prof. Brand (played by Michael Caine) and astrophysicist daughter Emilia (played by Anne Hatheway) explain.  That wormhole first appeared just as the conflict on earth seemed to condemn our planet.  "It's as if some higher intelligence has been looking out for us and has offered us this path for us," continues Emilia.  

We're told that in the previous few decades several (largely secret) one manned "Lazarus" missions were sent through the wormhole to its other side, and three of the worlds at which they arrived seemed potentially habitable.  The plan was now to send a new craft, piloted by, you guessed it Cooper, to make a final determination which of the three worlds would be best for humanity to "seed."

"But even if we got to there, and made this determination, how would the rest of humanity follow?"

This is probably one of the more conventionally morally questionable parts of the film.  There's a Plan A and a Plan B (and honestly, neither is particularly good).

Plan A is that under Prof. Brand's leadership, a spaceship capable of carrying 5,000 people will fly through the same wormhole to the new world to be seeded (The rest of humanity?  Well, they'd be SOL...).  Plan A would require a knowledge of gravitational (wormhole creating) propulsion that even in the mid-21st century humanity still did not have.  But Prof. Brand was confident that under his leadership, it would be developed in the (few) decades required for Cooper, et al's mission to complete.  

There was also Plan B ... Cooper's own craft would carry 5,000 fertilized human embryos (and at least one woman ... who turns out to be Prof. Brand's daughter milia).  Emilia would presumably bring to term a number of these embryos, and the rest of the crew would help raise them, and between the "new generation" and the rest of the "stockpiled embryos" they would slowly bring into the new world enough people, with enough genetic-diversity, to repopulate it.

Cooper signs onto the project but ... He has two children Tom (played as a teen by Timothée Chalamet and later as a man by Casey Affleck) and Murph (played as a girl by Mackenzie Foy later as a woman by Jessica Chastain) who're not excited that dad's gonna be away possibly for decades on a spaceflight that doesn't seem to them like a particularly good idea.  Neither is Cooper's father-in-law (played by John Lithgow) who since Cooper's wife had already died (in the war? or periodic famines since?) was going to have to raise Tom and Murph for him.  BUT "THE SPECIES' SURVIVAL" depended on it ...

SO ... soon Cooper and a crew of three others, including Dr. Emilia are launched-out of the silo on a spaceship still made out of "spare parts" from the time of "the war."  After they rendezvous with another larger orbiting craft, presumably assembled again out of past spare parts, they're off to Saturn.  THAT'S ALREADY A TWO YEAR JOURNEY (which they apparently largely sleep/hibernate through).  Once they get to Saturn, they're able to check their telecommunications with home ... and pass then (quite rapidly actually) through the "worm hole" to another part of the universe ... near to where the three previously scouted worlds exist.

Once they get to the other side of the wormhole, however, the movie really begins.: Yes, there are three worlds to scout on that "other side."  However, they are all kind of far apart, and they have limited fuel.   The "closest" potential world, and perhaps the most promising, is ALSO ORBITING A BLACK-HOLE.  Now besides making travel to there dangerous -- being sucked into a black hole would presumably mean death -- this world was orbiting the black hole with such a speed that time would "begin to change" there.  More to the point, an hour on that world would be experienced as 7 years oudside of it.  YET, that planet SEEMED TO HAVE THE BEST READINGS (lots and lots of water...)

Okay, they go down in a scout craft to that world, and find it ... covered by an not altogether deep ocean.  However, we soon find out why "the ocean" seemed "so shallow":  The tidal forces on this world were SO GREAT that the planet was apparently being traversed, arguably ORBITED by ENORMOUS TIDAL WAVES.  One of them soon hits the craft and though they somehow survive, they're stuck now on the planet "for a few hours" ... but that comes out to be TWENTY THREE YEARS when they get back to their mother craft.

In those twenty three years, of course, much happened "back on earth" ... Grampa died, and both of Cooper's children were now adults, Tom married with children, both quite angry that they haven't heard anything of their dad FOR TWENTY THREE YEARS (was he dead?  They'd almost like to assume so, but they were being assured that he may not be ...

The misadventure on the first planet leads the crew to now have to decide well about what to do with regards to visiting the remaining two worlds, and the question becomes, in any case, "How to return home?"

The film's "resolution" of this question (of how to return home) becomes the most irritating aspect of the film for me.  We're told that a "guiding intelligence" has seemed to help both humanity (and even the crew on this mission).   But what is that "guiding intelligence"?  Some sort of super-advanced civilization?  DARE ONE SAY ... GOD??  (SPOILER ALERT, though I've already mentioned it above) IT'S APPARENTLY US, OR AT LEAST A "SUPER-EVOLVED" (to 5 dimensions) version of US.  

We've somehow made ourselves ... God, even if, through the whole of the film, both individually, and as a species, we've kinda remained a-holes (more or less obvious, egotistical, self-serving sinners ...). 

Sigh, Hollywood obsession with "stardom" taken to its logical extreme?  Yuck.  And thus only a 1/2 a star (for the kinda cool tidal waves... and otherwise supposedly "not green-screened" "other worlds").

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