Last night I sat (and admittedly partly slept) through a sci-fi film on television called Interstellar, after which I went to bed utterly bemused. It wasn’t just that I’d failed to understand what was going on, I also struggled to hear what was going on, above the persistent creepy organ music (by one Hans Zimmer) and at times found it hard to see what was going on, so gloomily were the sets lit. The photographer guilty of the faulty aperture settings, by the way, was the exotically named Hoyte van Hoytema.
Whatever the ‘going on’ was supposed to convey it was wordy, interminable and mystifying. The latter, I have to believe, was in large part the intention. This is not a film designed to appeal to a target audience of ordinary mortals of average intelligence and normal tastes but for space-age groupies, who either understand what’s going on or don’t but believe it doesn’t really matter anyway. To them, the gizmos and the galactic metaphysics are the thing.
The director, Christopher Nolan, filled his work with stunning galactic special effects, with ‘stuff’ flying past the spaceship and sometimes bouncing off it. Presumably all this illuminated debris was designed to mitigate the claustrophobia of a story set almost entirely in the cockpit of a space capsule. Stunning special effects are, of course, what we are invited to admire these days in lieu of plausible storylines and comprehensible scripts.
But then Interstellar makes no bones about what it is, and the title gives it away. So I should have known that what I got – or didn’t get – was precisely what I should have expected.
The crew of the space vehicle, which looks something like one of those ‘cigarette’ speed boats that used to be seen roiling the waves in aquatic playgrounds around the world, were four. Their mission, one that each has chosen to accept in the noble cause of saving mankind, probably at the expense of their lives, is to find a ‘wormhole’, a tunnel in space and time, close to the planet Saturn. That’s the one with rings around it, as the film shows us very clearly. “Gee, that’s Saturn, if I’m not mistaken,” even I was moved to exclaim. Once through the wormhole to the ‘other side’ they hope to find a planet that might support human life, the earth having suffered a disastrous rise in the nitrogen level, and a corresponding fall in oxygen, a lethal combination that is turning the farmlands of mid-western United States into a dust bowl and will soon render Kansas, and presumably the rest of the planet, uninhabitable.
The ‘human interest’ sub-plot – that ‘sub’ may be unfair, but amid all the whiz-bang outer-space spectacles, it does get submerged – is that the pilot of the spacecraft, known only as Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has two children back on earth who resent his leaving them (though in a loving way) because when, that is, he returns, they will be grown up and he will be over one hundred years old. He does return, (not looking a day older than when he left, by the way) and suspended love triumphs.
The film owes a debt to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, if only in terms of its running-time (165 minutes), but manages to be even less fun.
I see in the newspapers that John Huston’s adventure The Man Who Would Be King, is playing next week. Now that, when it comes to fun, is more like it.
Anyway, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you, and exercise my dormant critical faculties, on a subject of no consequence on a gloomy Sunday afternoon when, speaking of coming down to earth, England are about to lose to Australia in the final Test Match of the summer.