MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Paramount Pictures
Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey pondered the mysteries of space as well as The Meaning of Life as it depicted the voyage of a team of astronauts flying beyond Jupiter to investigate a message that had travelled to Earth from the unknown. Christopher Nolan reworks that basic premise in a fashion that is appropriate for our age, almost fifty years later. It’s no surprise that the world in our future must deal with the effects of climate change. Ever-present winds blow layers of dust, and many crops are no longer farmable. Controversies about the cost of space exploration during a time of economic austerity have rendered NASA virtually nonexistent. So Cooper (McConaughey), once trained to be a space pilot, now grows corn. He’s a widower with no desire to remarry, a devoted father to his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and respectful to his outspoken father (John Lithgow). Cooper is a tech geek who continues to find new ways to use robotics to not only plow the fields but to occasionally intercept and control errant drones from other countries that find their way to his pastures.
In due time Cooper and Murph will stumble into a secret site where a bold scientist and his daughter (Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway) are working with others on a mission of interstellar travel. And – wouldn’t you know it? – Cooper may just be one of the best persons to join the crew. This trip will separate him from his daughter for a lifetime or less (depending on how you interpret Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), but the fate of the world will hang in the balance.
Interstellar is a long and consistently engaging film that is anchored in the commitment of its actors to this project; it’s a great cast. The film presents a positive view of the family and the need for courage and faith to move on even when circumstances and problems may seem insurmountable. (If you’re not familiar with Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, you will be after watching this film – it is recited at least three times!)
What is most interesting and frustrating about the film is its lack of spirituality. The movie is composed of intellectual discourse, awe-inspiring visuals and a magisterial musical score by Hans Zimmer. It’s hard to meditate on the stars with a sense of wonder without at least contemplating God, but Interstellar manages to pull it off. Writer-director Christopher Nolan (and his co-writer and brother Jonathan) have never shied away from big ideas in their past films, but Interstellar turns out to be less than the sum of its parts, due to its theological timidity.
By the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey I knew that there had to be something more going on behind the story on the screen. Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Close Encounters of the Same Kind had me gazing up into the night sky. Interstellar simply marvels at the potential of the human condition. Instead of blasting us off toward moments of greater contemplation, the film’s resolution brings everything down to Earth.
Three halos: A big-scale science fiction saga that opens up the universe while also shrinking it down.
One pitchfork: PG-13 swearing; global catastrophe.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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