Front Row at the Movies
Christopher Nolan Gets Spacey With "Interstellar"
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Director Christopher Nolan (the "Dark Knight" trilogy) must have read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as well as binge-watching Morgan Freeman’s "Through the Wormhole" TV documentary, before sitting down with his brother Jonathan to co-write the screenplay for his latest movie, a science fiction blockbuster called "Interstellar."
The epic storyline is built around several principles of relativity such as distant simultaneity and time dilation. These mind-bending concepts are old hat to any nerdy kid who grew up reading Analog Science Fiction Magazine, but it is -- ahem -- relatively new for moviegoers to see these premises in a big-screen, state-of-the-art, special-effects production told with the "merchant of awe" verve of Christopher Nolan.
"Interstellar" is now awing audiences at Tropic Cinema.
In it, we have Matthew McConaughey taking on the Buzz Lightyear role of a man who goes into interstellar space to save life on earth.
"We’re not meant to save the world," Michael Caine corrects him. "We’re meant to leave it."
McConaughey starts off the movie as an engineer turned Texas farmer trying to survive a dystopian dust bowl caused by a plague that killed off all the livestock on earth. One day he and his daughter stumble upon a crashed space probe and while returning it to a decimated NASA base near Los Angeles he gets shanghaied into manning an interstellar space mission, flying through a wormhole in search of a new planet to which people on dying earth can migrate.
Well, sure enough, he and co-pilot Ann Hathaway find one, an icy landscape that looks very much like the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Iceland. But will our duo ever make it back to earth in time to save its inhabitants?
Okay, I know this is starting to sound like a Buck Rogers space opera, but Nolan swears he was influenced more by "2001: A Space Odyssey." He says he was going for the same sort of scientific accuracy with "Interstellar."
As the New York Times once put it, "Nolan’s movies require this thick quotient of reality to support his looping plots…"
Just to make sure the film got it right, Nolan hired theoretical physicist Kip Thorne as a consultant for the film. A former Caltech professor, Thorne says, "For the depictions of the wormholes and the black hole … I worked out the equations that would enable tracing of light rays as they traveled through a wormhole or around a black hole -- so what you see is based on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity."
Nolan also invited former astronaut Marsha Ivins onto the set to double-check his lost-in-space accuracy.
But "Interstellar" still comes back to Stanley Kubrick’s "2001," a film Nolan’s father took him to see when he was 7. He started making his own little movies with a borrowed Super 8 camera soon after that.
Nolan says, "Someone, an adult, once told me that the meaning of ‘2001’ was that going into outer space is like going deep into yourself. I don’t think that’s what it’s about. In fact I have no idea what ‘2001’ is really about. But I tried to make a film now that would be like that, a quest film like ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.’ "
This balancing act is how Christopher Nolan’s films manage to become both mainstream blockbusters and objects of cult appeal.