Of course this movie is ambitious, visually stunning, and [as most of the criticism so far has noted] completed with an unforgivable deus ex machina. The fact that this particular deus ex machina is logically sound does not absolve the Nolan brothers from ending their story with it. Essentially, the film presents story premises until it reaches a contradiction. It then resorts to using the logicians favorite rule: ANYTHING follows from a contradiction– including a “happy” ending.
Are there plot holes in Interstellar? No. Does this mean the plot of Interstellar is good? No. It Is Not good. Do not pay to watch Interstellar because you want to see a movie which gives the paradoxes of time [and travel through time] proper justice. If that is what you want, find a copy of the script for 12 Monkeys and start reading. The Nolan brothers have not written and filmed a Great Time Travel Story. Does this mean they failed? No. (1)
Interstellar is worth watching because it asks a very important question, and then gives an informed answer to that question. In other words, Interstellar has a great theme.
The question at the heart of this film is this: Would it be an actual tragedy if humans disappeared from the universe? The story then presents the full spectrum of human psychology– warts and all. We find that humans are essentially liars:
1. The elder Dr. Brand realizes that everyone on Earth is going to die and then keeps this knowledge to himself. He is bound by a Machiavellian arrogance that refuses to share his knowledge of reality with the rest of the world.
2. The “human-like” Machine invented by humans to help them with difficult problems comes with a truth setting parameter. Cooper asks this machine to limit his truthfulness to 90 percent. The idea being, the full truth is unbearable.
3. The younger Dr. Brand and Cooper agree to set their relationship truth parameters to 90 percent as well. What is true for human-like Machines, it turns out, is also true for humans.
4. Dr. Mann continues to broadcast signals that his world is inhabitable [even though it isn’t] because, otherwise, he won’t be rescued.
This idea of humans as essentially deceitful creatures encompasses the protagonist Cooper too. Lying is such an essential feature of human psychology, we sometimes don’t even know we’re doing it.
5. Cooper tells himself he is leaving Earth because he wants to save his children. Cooper is full of shit. He is leaving Earth because the kind of life humans are living on Earth bores the hell out of him. Cooper wants TO DO something that fits his talents and abilities. In other words, a subsistence life is not worth living when one has tasted life beyond subsistence.
If you look very closely at all these deceits, you see they are supported by a character flaw which [this film states] is our underlying failure as a species– we are essentially selfish creatures.
Even this story’s second brightest ethical bulb, Murph, commits this sin. When her dad leaves her, she punishes him for it by not making the recordings the rest of the family members make. We humans are adamant in our desire to express our selfishness. We will do it by any means available. Call this selfishness idea premise one. Simplified it is:
It would be no loss to the universe if humans disappeared because humans are diseased by our selfishness.
Opposed to this, the Nolan’s also note that humans are [BECAUSE OF THIS SELFISHNESS], essentially resourceful. We may be diseased but, if the disease contains within it it’s own cure, then: Is the disease really evil and [therefore] not worth preserving. Summed, we have:
Even motivated by base desires, humans still achieve beauty.
1. The elder Dr. Brand may be a liar, but HE WAS TRYING to solve the problem of how to save the world. In the “trying to” the elder Dr. Brand is beautiful.
2. Cooper gave up his children in order to have an adventure, but without the insatiable curiosity that motivated this despicable choice, human life [according to the film] is not worth living. Cooper represents the beauty in humanity’s desire to know what can not be known.
3. There is no excuse for Dr. Mann. The message of his character is that some humans are just bad. He does have a foil, though. A character with exactly the same amount of screen time who shows us that some humans are just good– Murph’s grandfather.
4. Murph’s life is subsumed by a hatred of her father for leaving her and not listening to her when she knew she was right. Importantly, Murph is not made beautiful by forgiving the one that harmed her [the typical resolution]. She becomes beautiful because she insists that every problem has an answer and MOST IMPORTANTLY she allows her mind to look at the problem from every possible perspective until she finds the answer. Murph is the example which the film uses to justify the idea that human ingenuity is infinite.
Human ingenuity [so says Interstellar] is beautiful.
The Nolan’s weigh the filthiness of our selfishness against the beauty of our ingenuity and conclude:
Humans are worth saving.
The fact that they express this idea by way of a script with a deus ex machina ending might even be appropriate. After all, where in the ammino acids and other carbon compounds that made us up is it written that we should come with a trait as random as ingenuity. A humanist like myself can’t help but appreciate they’ve filmed a clunky story which still manages to capture the eternal question:
Why are we the things we are?
A humanist like myself also appreciates they conclude we are most guilty of being beautiful.
Rating: Worth Watching
1 They missed telling the perfect Time Travel Story by several miles. I’m thankful to them for this because it means the perfect Time Travel Story is yet to be told. As an author, I don’t want my future story choices limited.