Apr 4, 2015

Interstellar --- Seattle (2)




We're late with this review because we're always late---plus, we're early in the sense that the movie hasn't yet been released world wide.

Unfortunately, the sound through the Delta Airline ear plugs on Flight 467 from London-Heathrow to Seattle-Tacoma is so bad that we have trouble following the plot---although, wait---now having read the flick's Wikipedia entry we're realizing we somehow did manage to follow the plot but failed to appreciate the redeeming influence of Caltech professor Kip Thorne, the only excuse for this movie ("highly accurate, the movie, scientifically, highly accurate," reviewers rave). Kip Thorne is a real physicist and knows everything about black holes and wormholes and Einstein ("gravitational waves"), and he's listed as executive producer of this sci-fi production set in the year 2060.

What is it? You normally know inside 60 seconds whether you're watching a bad movie, right? Is it because the titles stink? That's oft the case, but not now. No, its something about the Midwestern accent of Texas-born Matthew McConaughey. It's like when you drive past this sex worker and you need to look no further, there's one layer of makeup too many. There has been one script conference too many for this movie, and Christopher Nolan, the director knows, knows deep inside...


"MIDWEST"

So we're in the MIDWEST---so much so that the movie is possibly unfit for worldwide release---and planet Earth is in trouble. Mankind has to find a new planet to survive, and NASA and its scientific director, Michael Caine (the stand-in for Kip Thorne), are in charge. There's this large black hole  ("Gargantua") with three habitable planets out there, and---spoiler alert---an earlier scouting mission involving no less an actor than Matt Damon is somehow emitting distress signals from thither.

We're a bit slow to discover this because we need to link location and plot first, and need to learn that  McConaughey loves his children and is a former NASA pilot. Next he's led by gravitational waves (thunderstorm) to a haunted spot in the middle of the corn fields where a defcon-secret NASA facility requires his immediate planet-saving skills ("You're the best pilot we ever got.").

Us, in the meantime, here at an altitude of 35,000 feet on Delta Flight 467 continue to wonder whether our pilot has suicidal tendencies, or whether McConaughey had his first facial already (the tense skin around the eyes). Caine, in contrast, never had a facial, his countenance is unambiguously marked by concerns for the planet and by pensive efforts to "solve" the "gravity equation."

McConaughey has solved the hero-equation in the meantime (planet trumps family), Midwestern emotions triumph, and we're off on this three-stage missile from the 20th century. The next 30 minutes (the film lasts 165 min) are spent with us getting to Gargantua. McConaughey is clearly the best person we ever got when it comes to inputting flight plans on touch screens. There's a co-pilot who reads on his Ipad about how to bolt cockpit doors---just kidding---and between the two officers there sits a high-shine robot whose face is also a touch screen that gets agitated when its owner speaks, symbols scrolling---think of sci-fi from the 50's---remember the blinking light bulbs of the language-enabled automata then? Also, he's so human, the robot, and so helplessly raises his shiny arms when he's outplussed.

Thirty minutes is a long time...so we orbit Earth, we're relaxing in the zero-gravity, we input more flight plans, we go past Saturn in seconds so few they would put us in super-luminal, un-Einsteinian territory, and we enter this "wormhole" that takes us in no time to Gargantua---tired special effects---and to Miller, the first habitable planet.

It took us a little while, but now we understand: This is how the whole thing started before script conferences got in the way: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (the script writer;  they are brothers) got together, and the following dialogue ensued:

-"How about a movie with Matthew McConaughey?"
-"Indeed," (the Nolans are British).
-"Matthew is a surfer dude, though."
-"But the studio wants us to make sci-fi, because we are sci-fi experts."
-"Mmh."
-"I got an idea..."

"I got an idea..."

So, on Miller we have a shallow ocean and giant surf, conveniently caused by the gravitational pull of Gargantua, and Matthew will pilot the space ship down the cresting waves like a giant surf board. He's actually fairly restrained in doing this (he does it only twice): a little gaming console appears out of nowhere, he grabs the stick, and "vrooom."

Anyhow, planet Miller doesn't work, so we're off to the next planet, from which Matt Damon still emits distress signals (unclear to me why we didn't go there first, blame the Delta ear phones)...the second planet, which looks exactly like...exactly like Iceland, which appears below us on the horizon in real time...


We're not making this up.


...and Wikipedia will inform us later that the second-planet scenes were actually shot there (here):




We arrive on Iceland and need to deal with Matt Damon, who's a traitor, or mentally confused, or both. So we get into a fist-fight on the slippery ice, Matthew stumbles, but prevails, and it's downhill from there (here). Confusion reigns because we forgot to take the black hole into account. Black holes exert a lot of gravity, right? But gravity and acceleration are equivalent in General Relativity, (Einstein) right? So much so that time slows down near large black holes, right? Etc.

In the end, Matthew returns to Earth, while everybody else has aged a lot and a few more dimensions have been added to the world, making space-time look like an etch from Escher.

Open ending, but planet Earth is safe for now, since history has been "altered" "retroactively."

Alpha-cast that went unmentioned: Anne Hathaway (too much eyeliner), and Jessica Chastain (too snooty). Apologies, apologies. 165 million budget, 560 million box office. Kassa.

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