Interstellar and the Unknown Frontier of Humanity

November 10, 2014

As a filmmaker, Christopher Nolan is often an explorer in his own right. He has journeyed into the complexities of memory, dreams and profound loss, and battled the psychological peril of insomnia and deception. In some form or another, these themes have been in the director’s back pocket in every project, from his small debut Following to The Dark Knight.

With Interstellar, his newest, and easily most ambitious effort, Nolan marches onward with the most conceptually majestic landscape of human exploration: outer space. Of course, not the simple expanse that Alfonso Cuarón addressed with last year’s Gravity, but different solar systems, black holes, and dimensions.

While the former film simply dropped right into the middle of a standard space mission, Interstellar gets to space via a pre-apocalyptic set up. Earth is on the brink of starvation, and the human race needs a new home. Cooper, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey, is selected to pilot the ship that will seek out this new frontier.

The road to the actual mission is a first act nearly packed too full with exposition, but ultimately, this information does not feel forced. While the film has its fair share of engineer and quantum physics jargon, the heart of the film is essentially, well, heart.

The power and scale of humankind against the infinite unknown of the universe is at the forefront of dramatic tension in Interstellar, which is why comparisons to the 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey ultimately must stop after the obvious. While the Kubrick epic is a clear influence in scale and the operatic approach to our world, Nolan’s chief concern is the emotional frontier of his lead characters. The fragility of time is a relentless notion that nearly devastates, while also dazzling, the men and women of this mission.

On a pure euphoric and sensory based scale, Interstellar is really the top of the line. The film pushes 3 hours, but never outwears its welcome, gliding by with gorgeous cinematography, lighting, design and a truly unique score from frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer. Definitely akin to some of the grand scale space films of the 20th century, like Kubrick or, say, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, this film really breathes and elegantly submerges in the atmosphere of this kind of journey.

While tracing Nolan’s science fiction influence is surely an interesting path to take, it is comforting to simply place Interstellar amongst his other work and see the sheer beauty in his similar approach to what happens in both the infinity above us and within us.

Don’t be fooled by what you read. Interstellar has a big heart, and it will rocket itself right into the center of yours.

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