Chris Nolan’s Interstellar raises a lot of important issues. The problem is – I feel we can only discuss them once you’ve seen the film. Why? Because I’m in danger of spoiling it for you if you haven’t. So – I’d recommend watching it first and then coming back to this blog.
Still here? Good – did you enjoy the movie? Personally I was a bit concerned about the long running time but as the final credits rolled, I realized that I had hardly noticed it. The story drove me along to the conclusion of the piece.
But I was struck by so many important themes during the picture.
- How precious time is to us – once lost, it can never be regained.
- Family is central to who we are – whether we view ourselves set against the backdrop of our day job, or compared to the vast mysteries of the Universe.
- Don’t fear technology. It’s our companion. Unlike Kubrick’s 2001, we see the truth that the real problem is not technology – it is people. We are the real danger. (Thanks for pointing that one out, David!)
I’m sure you can point to many more.
The theme grabbing me right now tho comes from a couple of specific plot points in the movie. We enter to a Planet Earth that ecologically is shutting down. The planet can no longer support life (presumably due to overpopulation, deforestation, pollution, etc).
Ten years prior to the start of the story, we learn that a Worm Hole has “randomly” appeared in our Solar System close to Saturn. Mankind has sent manned probes thru the wormhole and discovered the possibility of habitable planets on the other side.
In other words – a cosmic door way has appeared on our galactic doorstep. A doorway that lets us leave toxic Earth, and move towards a new future home for mankind. Our characters assume that “they” have placed the doorway there to help us save mankind. I don’t think we really learn who “they” are – it’s left as an open question at this point.
Our hero Cooper goes on his journey thru the wormhole to begin colonization of the new planet – many dangers lie there as explore a new part of the Universe. Long story short – Cooper finds himself falling into a Black Hole on the far side of the Universe.
And unexpectedly – this leads him into a strange experience. We aren’t sure at first whether this is simply his final moments before death. But Cooper suddenly finds himself in a place where he can view the life of his family – specifically his daughter Murph – as though he were flicking thru them like the pages of a book. He is able finally now to see the end from the beginning. He views moments of their past and their future laid out in front of him. And this gives Cooper perspective. Also, he is left wishing that he had made different decisions in his past life. But he feels he has information now that can help Murph in her future. He finds a way to make contact.
While in the midst of this dimensional construct, again we hear the assumption from the character – this is very convenient! Like the galactic doorway set in place ten years before as an escape hatch for humanity – this too must have been created by “them”. And we hear the character’s assumptions coming out at this point. “They” must be some future, higher evolved version of humanity. “They” must be setting all this up to rescue the human race.
What we seem to have here are two things going on here.
FIRST – helpful space time doorways unexpectedly appear in the right place at the right time.
SECOND – our characters reach towards these doorways to help them to fix the mistakes of the past, and also to help them find a better future.
And it’s here that I find myself on very familiar ground. Strip away all of the fantastic environments, CGI goodness and space-time relativity conundrums. Lay aside the science fiction trappings of the movie.
Who has not longed for our past mistakes to be fixed?
Who has not hoped for a brighter, more secure future for themselves and for those who they love?
Even though Cooper assumes that invisible people must be trying to help – I would suggest that the movie points elsewhere to the source of his help. Consistently Interstellar’s narritive portrays the human condition. People are weak, we are prone to acts of extreme selfishness. Even our heroes are imperfect and will twist and manipulate to get their own way. It’s just how we have always been. But there is hope.
Because there is One who knitted together the very fabric of our Universe. The One who can quite literally breathe life into the dead and give hope where there is none. It is interesting that in the movie the name of the mission to investigate other planets is Project Lazarus. Contrasting fiction with historical eyewitness account for a moment…John’s Gospel in the New Testament records that Jesus once raised a friend with that name back from the dead and gave him back to his family. Jesus is an expert at fixing what’s broken, giving hope to people who are devastated.
In a sense – Interstellar’s backdrop is one of a loving God who makes a way (in cosmic and fictional terms) to fix the past and secure the future. Is that just my perspective as a Christian? Perhaps. But it’s surely the most rational one – after all, people (however clever) did not ask to live in this universe. God carefully set the whole thing up with us in mind, and put us here in the first place. Whether Cooper or Murph recognize it or not, God’s fingerprints appear throughout the story. He is helping and guiding through the disasters and the heartbreaks.
I would suggest that whether you and I recognize it or not – God’s fingerprints appear throughout our personal story too.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Psalm 36:5, NLT
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV