Summary without the spoilers: Interstellar’s message is, that the indefinable reality of human love is so powerful, it can transcend time, space and all other dimensions, so that mankind can be its own savior.
Now if you do not want to read about the details of the plot – stop here. Whether or not my summary statement above makes the movie more or less attractive is up to you.
WARNNG: SPOILER ALERT. BIG SECRETS REVEALED BELOW.
I love Science Fiction. Blend that with an apocalyptic storyline (the two are usually together tho not always) and I’m ready to make tracks to the theater. Hence writer/director Christopher Nolan’s (The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises; Batman Begins; Inception) Interstellar had me from the get go.
The apocalyptic problem – earth is suffering from an irreversible blight on vegetation which is about to wipe out its last remaining crop – corn. The whole planet is turning into a giant dust bowl.
The Sci-Fi solution – find a new habitable world (Plan A). And if there is no way to get back and move the remaining population there – start a new human colony with a whole batch of frozen embryos (Plan B).
A series of previous explorers had already been sent out years before searching for habitable worlds. NASA (now working undercover since the Government feared reprisals from the populace if it were discovered they were spending money on space exploration instead of solving the blight problem) is ready to send out its Plan A/B ship to one of the worlds which they’ve received promising data back from. They have 3 which are particularly promising.
Matthew McConnaughey is the former crack pilot turned farmer who obviously is the best one suited for the job. His getting into the mission is a bit convoluted and in some ways poorly written. The dialog makes giant leaps.
Anne Hathaway is the scientist daughter of McConnaughey’s former professor, Michael Caine, who is head of the entire operation. She’s mission ready.
Jessica Chastain will eventually be McConnaughy’s grown daughter, also a scientist by then, who as a little girl cannot understand her father’s leaving her to go on this mission.
As it turns out, Plan A was a sham all along, known only to Michael Caine (whose brainchild the mission was) and Matt Damon, who they find in stasis on one of the reportedly habitable worlds – which is nothing but a giant ice ball.
Why did Caine and Damon keep it a secret? Because no one else could deal with the moral dilemma of realizing there was no hope for those still on earth. Flatly, these all needed to be abandoned so that humanity as a species could survive as the embryos who were to be reconstituted on the new planet. Actually, the entire scene on that frozen planet is oddly confusing and useless in my opinion.
All of the above considered, I do want to mention the spectacular array of special effects. The visuals in Interstellar are in some cases truly exciting. The water world waves in particular were very powerful and the perspective shots around Saturn were staggering.
Of course, the biggest problems in interstellar travel are time and distance. To get to another galaxy with possible habitable worlds means only one thing – going through a wormhole. A wormhole which has mysteriously appeared near Saturn. One which will require the crew to enter stasis and travel at speeds which will cause time to alter in their case, keeping them young. However, time will not be standing still on earth. When they reach the water world for instance, Hathaway notes each hour there will be approximately 7 years on earth. Kind of a twist on dog years.
The wormhole it seems was a created one. Created by a mysterious “They”. A “They” who also used gravity to transcend space and time to communicate with McConnaughy’s daughter when she was just a little girl, getting her to involve her Dad who then figured the coordinates to the secret NASA base where he was recruited to become the mission captain. I know. Just see the movie. It’ll make more (if not actual) sense there. But as with almost all time-travel scenarios, one cannot postulate cause and effect events without creating an endless time loop. So we go forward (or backward) in time to impact an event which will end up being the solution to a problem which has to be met only if someone goes forward or backward in time. Endless cause and effect. But I’ll leave that problem to the time travel aficionados.
It turns out, the “They” is actually us! Who knew? McConnaughy had promised his daughter he would return, and so he did – but somewhere locked in a new dimension. In this new dimension, he can use gravity to communicate with his little girl to get the coordinates she and he needed, back before the actual mission, to find the secret NASA base. And, to communicate with his grown daughter (since time is transcended in this dimension) that he is still there and she can get data on the wormhole by means of his manipulation of the second hand on a watch he gave her as a little girl. Whew!
By means of this data which he in his new dimension gathered along with his robot Tars (voiced pleasingly by Bill Irwin who sounds eerily like Alan Cumming playing Eli Gold) Jessica Chastain gets the secrets to wormholes and is the force behind getting space colonies launched saving the lives of many on earth.
By some means unexplained, McConnaughy returns to real time and space, still about the same age as he left, only to awake on the artificial “Cooper Colony” (named for his daughter) who is now the aged Ellen Burstyn. McConnaughy gets to see her as she is dying. He kept his promise to his little girl.
He then steals a space ship and heads out into the universe to find Anne Hathaway who is burying her former love – the commander of one of the original expeditions, on what was apparently a truly habitable planet.
And once again the – as I said above – message is: Tho human love is indefinable, it transcends space and time, and will someday prove to be the means whereby mankind can be its own savior from extinction. Lovely.
Sadly, Johnathan Lithgow, Topher Grace, Matt Damon and William Devane are basically wasted in this movie. Though Lithgow the least of the four.
As a side note, and I have but my faulty memory to go by here – I do not recall the word “god” ever used in the entire film, even as an expression (e.g. “Oh god!”). I would love to read the screen play to verify that. Perhaps someone else will watch the movie looking for that and let me know for certain. But in that sense, it is truly Godless. And plainly, there is an attempt to theorize (at least) that there is nothing at all supernatural in the universe period. Only altered states. Other dimensions. Facets of time and space not yet discovered or harnessed. All there is (as Carl Sagan was wont to say) is the universe itself.