A Brief Analysis of Interstellar

What can really be said about Interstellar that hasn’t already been mentioned by the hordes of cinema-goers? Whether they’re a part of Christopher Nolan’s fanbase, hate him, or even indifferent to him, everyone has something to say about this movie. Interstellar is certainly not without it’s critics, and it appears some reviewers are galaxies apart with their opinions. Is the movie primarily about the required scientific progress for the human race? Or the fragility and power of emotion that sets us apart and allows us to carry on?

As a preface, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and it’s still in cinemas; go now! This is a unique experience that cannot be summarised on wikipedia, or spoiled through word of mouth. You need to see it in it’s entirety to understand.

To recap what you’ve already seen; Some time in the near future, Earth is suffering from food shortages and climate change, to the point of facing extinction. Farmer dude Cooper (McConaughey) joins a bunch of space explorers (including Hathaway) to traverse through a “wormhole” discovered near Saturn, which can lead them to other habitable planets from distant galaxies. It does, and the crew attempts to reach the planets classed as habitable, to meet up with the previous explorers that scoped out the planets. Things don’t go as planned, they face adversity, and it basically comes down to Cooper deciding between his family and the human race as a whole.


Vastly different to where he spends the next ~90 Earth years.


A crude summary, but you’re not here to find out what happened, rather to find a slightly less crude analysis of the film itself!

Although Interstellar has a truly gargantuan scope, it isn’t entirely from the collective imaginations of those only in the film-making industry. Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist, was a part of the team every step of the way, ensuring that the plot and effects of the movie did not stray too far from what was apparently possible in the world of theoretical physics. From wormholes, to time dilation, to gravitational waves; these concepts were grounded from possible realities.

This is not to say though (which perhaps is where the negative critics of the movie base their opinions), that everything was neatly explainable. There are some points in the story where artistic licence took a front seat to realism. Most notably, Cooper’s descent into the black hole did not kill him by the imaginative term “spaghettification”. This occurs when the gravitational force at your toes and your feet are vastly different, and as a result have different trajectories, thus stretching you out.

I understand the cries of frustration from the scientific world about these affronts to realism. Perhaps though, the best answer to them is; it’s a movie. It doesn’t ruin the experience when occasionally you need to suspend your disbelief. Even if Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks it down for us, claiming that it is possible that the movie could uphold its facts, certain liberties need to be taken.

Always happy to answer the internet.

Always happy to answer the internet.

Another criticism you may have heard: “Yes, okay, I have suspended my disbelief. However, that doesn’t mean they can leave so many things unanswered, with gaping plot holes everywhere!” Well, I’d like to provide a rebuttal to a few plot holes or unanswered questions here:

  • Hang on, wait a minute. NASA didn’t know Cooper was alive, why were they so ready to get him to fly the ship? If he was their golden boy, why didn’t they at least pursue him and confirm he was dead or alive? This is NASA!

Okay, yes. If Cooper stumbled across the secret NASA base a mere day or two late, then he wouldn’t have gone, mankind possibly wouldn’t have been saved. One can imagine, though, when you’re massive company hidden from the public eye, you can’t go searching the country for one man when they could train someone up to be almost as good.

  • So let me get this straight. Tom, his always faithful son, continues to give updates about his life to a father he suspects is long gone. Sure, eventually he does stop updating. Murph, though, hated her father when he left. Even later when she does update Cooper, she’s cold to him. Why then, does he only catch up with Murph for only a minute or two before leaving again? Does he not care about Tom?

I hate to break it to you, but I’m pretty sure Tom’s gone when Murph and Cooper finally reunite. There is only so much time in a movie you can dedicate to family reunions, and this was already at the 2hr30min mark. It’s safe to assume that the grief is off-camera. As for communicating with Murph and only Murph when in the fifth-bookcase-dimension, it was with Murph that he had the special bond. The best chance at human survival was through the keepsake, the watch, because it had such a significance between the two.

  •  Why not just send the robots to the planets instead? They’re pretty switched-on. They’d be level-headed, and wouldn’t risk the mission by acting rash when over-charged with emotion.

You’d be missing the point! This movie is all about mankind, and how acting on impulse can sometimes be the best outcome. Remember when TARS says that docking to the devastated Endurance near the end isn’t possible, yet Coop does it anyway? You might say that the situation would not have gotten to that in the first place, but you can’t be sure.

TARS was always calm and ready to help out the crew. And to make us laugh.

TARS was always calm and ready to help out the crew. And to make us laugh.

As a side note; how refreshing was the depiction of TARS and CASE, the two robots? It shows that not all space/sci-fi movies need to have a story arc about man vs. machine. You could even say that TARS was the least imperfect character there was… with some much loved sarcasm on the side. And let’s not forget the subtle nod to the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s deeply satisfying to see a change from the standard anthropomorphic robotic standards of most films.

What truly gives shivers down your spine as you watch this movie isn’t just the jaw-dropping visuals, but also the score. Hans Zimmer is in his absolute element. He wanted to be bold, and he succeeded. When Nolan approached Zimmer, he said:

“I am going to give you an envelope with a letter in it. One page. It’s going to tell you the fable at the centre of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written.”

This was years before the release of the movie. Normally, composers become involved towards the end of a film’s creation, but not in this case. It took two years to compose the score, in parallel with the scripting and shooting of the film. It makes a world of difference, when considering how the score interweaves so well with the scenes. In particular, when on the “tidal wave” planet, there is a heavy emphasis on time; the music resembles a ticking clock, which signifies much time passed back on Earth. As the crew begins to panic, the tempo speeds up until it reaches a climax; the tidal wave is seen and they attempt to escape.

Even the space station Endurance resembles a clock. Time is an important factor.

Even the space station Endurance resembles a clock. Time is an important factor.

One scene in particular that will stay with me forever, much like the majority of people who have seen the movie… the docking scene. The epic strings and organs playing will restrict you from breathing for a good 5 minutes as the action continues. It was so affecting, that countless individuals tried hard to track down the same track on the Interstellar soundtrack, hounding Zimmer for the full release just to hear it again.

This film, in it’s entirety, is a treasure of the big screen. It most likely will not win Best Picture, but it will be nominated for many awards, and it will be in the forefront of people’s minds for years to come. It’s almost like the möbius strip film; it’ll be a very different experience when viewed a second time. Which is what I plan to do.

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