Interstellar is an epic study of evolutionary possibility


The theory of evolution proposes that all of mankind developed through natural selection from a single-celled organism to the species we exist as today over the passing of millions of years. Should this be true, there are implications that run farther than just the facts of our origins; philosophy, science, human nature, religion, politics and purpose of being are all impacted. Interstellar is about all these elements, using general relativity as a plot device and time as the motivator of suspense.

Christopher Nolan’s (Inception, The Dark Knight, Memento) monstrous three hour epic concerns an ambitious farmer, Cooper (well played by the resurrected Matthew McConaughey), who is launched into the cosmos, as the pilot of a NASA crew, in order to discover a new home for the human race since the earth has decayed beyond repair. Cooper is of a generation that has accepted the role of caretakers, not explorers who further the progression of our species.

The screenplay, written by Christopher and brother Jonathan, includes multiple recitations of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” wherein characters utter the stanza, “Though wise men at their end know dark is right / Because their words had forked no lightning / They do not go gentle into that good night.” Nolan sees everyone’s purpose to live, die, and make an impact towards a collective technological and biological progression. As Cooper puts it, when indirectly referencing this idea of natural selection, “Once you’re a parent, you’re a ghost for your kids’ future.”

Nolan’s latest will mostly please as popcorn spectacle with jaw-dropping visuals and a grounding emotional centre in the form of a tale of separation between a father and his daughter. But for discerning audiences, it’s an optimistic view on life which borrows heavily from philosophical ideas engraved in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Kubrick’s influential masterwork is a stoic examination of human evolutionary development from apes all the way to the monumental, transcendent star child in the closing shot. Space Odyssey hints at the idea of an alien race aiding us in our biological development and exploration of the cosmos.

Interstellar posses no such mysticism; it is through and through a humanistic tale infused with optimism and sentimentality. Space Odyssey was devised to inspire awe; Interstellar is intended to stir the soul. For a film marketed as a mega-budget spectacle, it has many poignant moments of characters crying out for connection and bridging of separation.

The link between the two works, other than when Nolan pays homage to Kubrick, is that they both centre on humanity’s evolution. Nolan sees it in humanistic terms, denying all possibilities of the supernatural. Like Kubrick before him, Nolan is one of our most audacious and best filmmakers, but as he reaches to make his grandest achievement to date, he overextends himself.

Interstellar boasts mesmerizingly imaginative imagery in the form of faraway galaxies, undiscovered planets, and most impressively a trippy different dimension that depicts a physical, perceivable view of time. Yet for all its beauty, the storytelling tumbles as many of the characters are solely mouthpieces for exposition making the supporting relationships cold and uninteresting. He tries to weave a complex plot but ends up making something overly complicated instead.

Hans Zimmer’s ear piercingly loud score often drowns out dialogue to the point where we get the sense that Nolan doesn’t care what his characters have to say because “THIS IS (SUPPOSED TO BE) EPIC”!

For a film entirely about evolution, it’s ironic that Interstellar represents a slight devolution for the director Christopher Nolan.