[A spoiler-filled review of one aspect of a good movie with thought-provoking but questionable ideas.]
In the midst of a time of great darkness and impending doom, a chosen one is suddenly sent to ascend to the heavens to prepare a place for humanity. He promises his loved ones that he will return. Yet he leaves for an indefinitely long time during which his children struggle with the meaning of sending messages to him. He descends into a black hole but arises to new life and eventually helps his people follow him to a new world. Later we find that he has actually been with them throughout his “absence” though limited (to gravitational anomalies) in how he is able to interact and make himself known to them.
Sound familiar? Sound a little like Advent?
When a film dips that deeply into the “Christian myth” (by which I mean the way that the story of Jesus takes on mythic proportions and serves the ancient role of myth), the big question for me is how these allusions are used – what they help the film to say. Is the story being hijacked? On the plus side, the role of love is central in Interstellar, but the love of a few close people (children, a lover) is clearly the standard that guides the saving of the human race. When love is too generalised, it becomes dangerously abstract leading to something very nearly evil (ambiguous in the case of Brand, but clearly evil in the form of Mann). I wonder about a middle ground here. I get the point that loving the species can become cold and sterile (like Mann’s world?) but the tiny love circle of the protagonists feels very inward and enclosed – too small of a circle to be worthy of messianic references.
There is also a negative side to the allusions for those of us who think that eschatology (study of the “end times”) has messed up the church as often as it has helped. Here’s my question: are scientific fantasies about finding a home for humanity out in space not as crazy as the Left Behind series? Do scientific types that scoff at the Rapture really buy into these escapist fantasies, I wonder?
Before I saw Interstellar, I read a review comparing Interstellar with Gravity. The reviewer compares the gratitude-filled return to Earth in Gravity with what he suggests is the Gnostic search for something abstract and “out there” in Interstellar. Here is my complaint about Nolan’s vision: Sure the Earth was looking pretty messed up – but no matter how bad of a shape it’s in, can it really make more sense to travel through a wormhole to find a potentially suitable planet than to work hard to heal our home planet? This reminds me of those who would wear out the planet because God is creating a new heaven and new earth anyway.
Interstellar was an exciting movie to watch, and there is much about it that was thought-provoking, but as it does provoke thought and discussion, I hope we push back against the creation of a vision based on giving up the Earth. We’ve had enough of that with the Rapture-lovers.
I intend to write another review on Nolan's attempt to create a response to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But for now, if you want to read a more normal review, check out Vic's here.