Visually striking “Interstellar” shows the beauty in science
By Nicole Wallack
Nov 18, 2014
When a science fiction film comes out, it is only natural to compare what is presented on-screen to reality. However, by being too scientifically accurate, one runs the risk of the film being either too complicated for a general audience or too boring and dry to capture the attention of its viewers.
On the flip side, if a film is too outlandish and out of the realm of the scientifically possible, yet tries to be realistic, it may seem too ridiculous to actually be engaging. In this situation the fact that the film is inaccurate might actually detract from the viewer’s ability to be involved in the story. Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” successfully strikes a perfect balance between being scientifically accurate and engaging.
“Interstellar” tells the story of an apocalyptic future Earth where crop blights and dust storms have rendered most crops unable to grow. The shrinking food supply coupled with a dwindling supply of oxygen nearly guarantees that the next generation of humans will be the last. When a wormhole is found that allows humans to travel between galaxies to try to locate a new planet to call home, a former NASA test pilot named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is enlisted to pilot a mission through the wormhole to try to locate a place suitable for a human colony.
The mission will take years and due to relativity, he will not substantially age, but his children will age decades and may be dead when and if he returns. The film weaves a tale of a man’s love for his children, egotism in science, and what humanity really means as set in a visually stunning backdrop of the cosmos.
A natural comparison seems to arise between “Interstellar” and the Academy Award winning film “Gravity.” Both films are recently released science fiction films about space travel and both films use space and the stars to be visually stunning. However, these films are not as similar as they seem to lend themselves to be. “Gravity” is much more a character study of a woman (played by Sandra Bullock) who happens to be an astronaut, than a real space travel adventure like “Interstellar.” While “Interstellar” does go deep into the character of Cooper, is more a tale of what humanity’s place among the stars is. It is a tale of egotism, love, and what makes us human.
“Interstellar” prefers to tell the story of why humanity is worth saving rather than one person’s journey to understanding herself like “Gravity.” However natural the comparison may seem, these two films really do tell completely different stories. “Interstellar” is also more successful at integrating actual science into its story than “Gravity.” When “Gravity” was first released, it was criticized by high-profile people in the science community as being unnecessarily unrealistic. There seemed to be no real advantage to having certain things, such as satellites being placed in the entirely wrong locations, being inaccurate. While it is not remotely necessary to have a film be scientifically accurate, it sometimes distracts the viewer to see things on screen which are not accurate, not for plot reasons, but seemingly for no apparent purpose.
“Interstellar” on the other hand tries to be as scientifically accurate as possible, even getting a black hole expert involved to help create models of light bending around black holes for accuracy in the film. These models end up being visually breathtaking, and show that science can, in fact, lend itself to being very beneficial to a film. The film also expertly explains and accurately shows black hole physics, relativity, and theoretical space-time anomalies in a way to be both entertaining and educational.
However, as science gives way to fairly unscientific plot devices involving the power of love conquering all, the audience remembers that this is not in any way meant to be an educational film, and we go along for the ride. It is not that a film must be accurate to be exceptional, but “Interstellar” expertly combines science and narrative to craft an engaging and visually stunning film.
The film has gotten very favorable reviews and currently holds a 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, audiences seem to greatly enjoy the film.
University at Albany student Kaliel Williamson said, “Interstellar takes you on a mind warping intergalactic adventure that leaves you breathless and slightly confused. Grade A acting, seamless special effects, and a memorable plot line places this movie in the science fiction hall of fame alongside ‘2001:A Space Odyssey.’ Certainly a movie I’ll remember decades into the future.”
“Interstellar,” in true Christopher Nolan fashion, is a long movie, clocking in at 169 minutes. However, the movie in no way drags. The stark visual juxtaposition of the decaying earth and the beauty of the stars and space on its own provides enough contrast to keep the viewer interested in the film. This, coupled with a story of how the love that makes us human can make humanity survive under any adverse conditions keeps the audience captivated by the film, regardless of its length. Nolan expertly crafts a striking film that shows the beauty of not only the universe, but also of humanity.