[Disclaimer: Beware! There will be spoilers. I strongly suggest that you go watch the movie before continuing reading. Also, this isn’t an in depth analysis of the movie; I am just stating some of the things that I noticed.]
Let me start by saying that this space exploration saga is an epic movie! With names such as Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, and Kip Thorne associated with it you don’t go in expecting anything less. Now this isn’t a full blown review, I am just stating some thoughts I had about this movie. What I mainly want to talk about in this movie is essentially the contribution of Kip Thorne and why the people who are criticising the science behind the movie are wrong. I would also lament on the lacklustre way in which they botched up the whole dystopia.
The Nolan brothers made a brilliant decision by deciding to get Kip Thorne as their scientific consultant. Just reading the first paragraph of Thorne’s Wikipedia page is enough to give you a good idea of the brilliance of Thorne as a scientist. Most of us have seen the black hole that is shown in the movie, whether you have just got a glimpse of it in the trailer or you got to see it in its full glory in the movie itself, you know that it looks formidably beautiful. This black hole is one of the most accurate simulations of a black hole ever made (ever, not just in a movie), thanks to Thorne’s involvement in the project. He was tasked with providing equations for the computer graphics’ experts to work with and the black hole that you see is the result of that.
Not only is this one of the best simulations, it also manages to create a visualisation of the accretion disk around a black hole accurately enough that it’ll help physicists as well. Thorne says that this whole endeavor will result in two scientific papers, one for the physics and one for the computer science community.
Now, this isn’t the only reason that I think Kip Thorne was an important part of the movie. We have seen sci-fi movies created on the basis of completely absurd ideas with “facts” pulled literally out of thin air. But Thorne ensured that a couple of guidelines were followed during the shooting of Interstellar:
”… nothing would violate established physical laws, and that all the wild speculations would spring from science and not from the fertile mind of a screenwriter.”
Be it the unbelievably huge waves or flying so close to a black hole and managing to survive, there are pretty valid scientific reasons behind why all of these were possible. Many of these things might have been hard to believe but none of these things are impossible. Many of them may seem very improbable and only plausible when looked at from a purely theoretical point of view but as Thorne maintains, none of them break any established physical laws although they may be stretching the limits of unproven scientific theories and conjectures along the way.
[Reading this paragraph may spoil the movie for you. You might want to try skipping it.]
From the spaceships and landers that they used to travel across the universe, everything was designed “scientifically”, at least in the sense that they didn’t violate any scientific laws. The same can be said about most of the important contention points that critics of the movie have. From the wormholes, to the black hole and even the part inside the blackhole. Even if these things aren’t backed by scientific facts, there is no scientific evidence that says that these things aren’t possible. Many of these things might be very far from what is considered to be the most possible course but they still manage to keep within the confines of what is “scientifically possible”. The part inside the black hole and then making it out of there, those are some that could be considered to be the most speculative scenes on the part of the film makers but even that can be shrugged off with the explanation about higher dimensional beings.
All this is above the amazing direction by Nolan and the brilliant acting by the likes of McConaughy, Caine and Hathway. Hans Zimmer also manages to provide a fresh soundtrack that beautifully fits in with the movie. And the imagination of the screenwriter during the making of each of the planets is just amazing. What I found lacking in this movie is the way the whole dystopian-on-the-brink-of-an-apocalypse scenario is treated. I like dystopian stories, I also like post-apocalyptic or even on-the-brink-of-an-apocalypse kind of stories. They tend to bring out so many things, so many human emotions and stereotypes that I find them a wonderful genre.
[You might want to stop reading once again, I suppose.]
The brilliant setting of a world where the crops are dying. Farming as the most important occupation; humans as “caretakers” instead of innovators and explorers and whatever other adventurous occupation you can think of. These are some of the best settings one could think as being a proper dystopian setting. And what do the Nolan brothers do with it? Go and make a space exploration epic out of it (almost a facepalm here). I am not saying that the movie was bad or the story sucked or anything of that sort. All I am trying to say is that for a movie that ran almost 3 hours, the Nolans sure missed out on an amazing opportunity.
[Definitely continue the skipping]
I would be willing to give up all of those arguments if Nolan (either of them) had just made use of Dr. Mann properly. I really did like the way he was portrayed; the whole maniacal disruptions that he manages to create had a lot of potential but in the end it all turned out to be just a bit of a ruse meant to, at worst, prolong the movie and, at best, set up the situation which led to the ending. A person all alone on an uninhabitable planet, who after a long wait finally meets people is another setting which is a perfect recipe for something along dystopian lines or at least something along the lines of a psychological thriller. Again, I am not saying that the story that they had was bad. I am only saying that with the kind of context that they were working with, they could’ve done much better than what they concocted up. The sort of emotions that were just lying about there made me sad. Again, I am not saying that emotions weren’t utilised in the movie. The way some of the emotions were portrayed was just amazing. The silent sorrow screaming to be let out and many other such oxymoronic emotions littered across the spectrum of the movie were wonderful, they made the experience much more better but I still feel that there could’ve been a lot more in there.
If you read all of this without having seen the movie, then don’t let this dissuade you from watching it. It is one of the best movies that has been released this year and Nolan’s direction along with McConaughey’s acting make it a must watch.
References(for the scientific part):