The most prominent problems with Interstellar have already been capably discussed, so it’s not worth spending much time going back over them. The basic catastrophe scenario has more gaping holes than a Hawking cosmology, and is in fact so ludicrous that it quite neatly takes itself out of the way. The framing ideology is romantic superhumanism, which might even count as a positive for some (although not here). The musical score (by Hans Zimmer) was wildly overwrought. All-too-typically for Hollywood, high-pitched emotional extravagance was shamelessly indulged. Despite all of this, it was a great movie.
Interstellar‘s narrative architecture is composed of a deep cosmic space-frontier story, and an occult communication story, bolted together by a time loop. (Plug.) The involvement of Kip Thorne reinforced the seriousness of this framework. (Thorne’s explorations of cosmological warping are a marvel of advanced modernity.) Nolan is, in any case, a director who knows things — or at least suspects them, enough to stretch his audience. As a piece of contemporary myth-making on an epic scale, the achievement of Interstellar is formidable.
The movie envisages a future of roughly Greerian dreariness, in which Moon Hoax theories have become official doctrine, earnestly promoted by the educational apparatus. Shutting down the high frontier is an overt ideological project, as the state directs its cultural energies into making America, once again, a nation of farmers. (In this endeavor, it will find plenty of cooperative apparatchiks at a one-step remove from my Twitter TL.) It is thus, as Scharlach has noted, a lucid Tech-Comm critique of extreme Terran regression. Engineers are no longer wanted. The scene in which the young Murphy Cooper’s half-witted school teacher innocently regurgitates official doctrine on this subject is a minor masterpiece in itself.
Cooper’s intense love for his brilliant daughter ‘Murph’ is troweled on thick, but it is inextricable from the sublimity of her intelligence. His love for his stolid corn-growing son is dutiful (and delicately portrayed), but his love for Murph is mad and immense, because it touches upon vastnesses beyond the stars. It is human emotion only as a proxy for twisted cosmological process — trans-galactic voyages and time-implosion.
When Cooper’s fellow astronaut Brand is forced to confess that her love for a stranded space-pioneer is involved in her decision to prioritize a visit to the planet where he was lost, she insists “… It doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” Cooper responds cuttingly, “You know, it really could.” Within the arc of the script, this coldness is repudiated, but it is too perfectly stated to be entirely dismissed. It’s a Nolan movie, and there are loops within loops.
The robots are superb (even if the movie’s dominant romantic superhumanism keeps them in their place).
Above all else, the spectacular formulation of an extraterrestrial occultism is where the movie’s ultimate greatness lies. It is getting far too cramped here — on this rock, and in our brains — so we’re called Out. The scenes of the outer solar system, the murderous environments beyond, and the hyper-dimensional spaces in which our locked-in time intuitions come apart, are all realized with soul-rending magnificence. “Our species was born on the earth,” Cooper says. “It was not meant to die here.”
It might be human triumphalism that sells Interstellar to its audience, but this is a movie aligned with the distant Outside.