Interstellar: Time, Space, and the Prestige Theory

Earth is running out of resources to sustain human life, so pilot and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) must leave his children behind as he heads out on a space expedition to look for new, livable planets in a faraway galaxy. With each visit to a new planet with NASA scientists Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), and Romilly (David Gyasi), Cooper’s children age several years and lose faith in his return to Earth, as does Cooper.

Interstellar is Gravity on steroids. It’s as beautiful, panic-inducing, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking as Gravity. It will probably be nominated for original score, special effects, cinematography, and direction. The differences? Interstellar is three hours long, and the plot is more complicated. So, yeah, it’s a Christopher Nolan movie.

When I say Interstellar has a complicated plot, it’s because it’s a long-ass movie that combines slow-building character development with abstract concepts and theories that fall somewhere between actual astrophysical science and science fiction. This is where a lot of the “Interstellar, like Inception, will blow your mind” talk comes from. Because people who’ve never heard, watched, or studied anything about astronomy and physics will have the same existential crisis I had when I first learned time and space aren’t linear (I won’t go into details because the movie explains these concepts pretty well).

If you want something that’s actually kind of “out there” to think about, a writer at Cracked.com wrote an article a few years ago called “Advanced Batman Theory,” in which he predicted Bruce Wayne’s death in The Dark Knight Rises based on the three steps of setting up an illusion in Nolan’s The Prestige (2006):

“[The Prestige was] all about The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige. The Pledge is the setup. It presents to you something ordinary that is most likely not ordinary at all. The Turn takes that ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Something unexpected. And then there’s The Prestige, which basically just blows your f***ing mind. It takes the unexpected something from The Turn and turns it on its head, making you believe in magic.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because this writer also theorized how Nolan would end his Prestige trilogy (which he may or may not have consciously created). The idea is that The Prestige is The Pledge, Inception is The Turn, and Interstellar is The Prestige. In all three of these movies, there are layers upon layers of time, space, and reality deconstruction with each movie presenting more complicated ideas. Hence Interstellar‘s climax where Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper falls through a blackhole and passes through the dimensions of time and space to contact his daughter in various stages of her life. Quite frankly, this guy’s theory is more mindblowing than Interstellar‘s plot.

But back to the movie. Mortality, humanity, exploration, family, and time. Interstellar starts all of these conversations and leads them into its central message: Sacrificing yourself provides a better future for your children, through whom you will live forever. This is why the movie spends so much time building the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain, and Ellen Burstyn through various life stages).

One last thing: If you read my reviews regularly, you know I love composer Hans Zimmer, who regularly works with Nolan. His music for Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy was brilliant, and Interstellar‘s is no different. Pensive, deep, lonely, mysterious—it’s what a movie about traveling through space should sound like.

Also, it’s interesting that Zimmer chose to use a slow, repetitive progression with a pipe organ for Interstellar‘s main theme. Because Watchmen used Phillip Glass’s “Pruit Igoe and Prophecies” in a scene where Dr. Manhattan reflects on the concepts of time, space, and reality from Mars. They’re not identical in any way; I just think it’s funny how two different movies have used slow pipe organ music in combination with scenes where time, space, and reality are discussed. (Did I just analyze the music more than the movie? Yep.)

Overall, Interstellar seems much deeper than Christopher Nolan’s Inception and The Prestige. I personally think that’s because this movie focused less on the wow-factor of its abstract concepts and put more effort into developing its characters and underlying message. That’s not to say this movie isn’t visually spectacular. In fact, I have a feeling it will be this year’s Gravity (meaning it could very well sweep awards in the technical categories at the Oscars).

My only complaint about the movie is how long it is. The slow build in the first two-thirds of the movie was fine since it was purposeful for plot and character development, but the back third drags to the point that you’ll be thinking, “Can we just conclude this already?”

Interstellar: A

For my radio review of Interstellar on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:35 mark).

One thought on “Interstellar: Time, Space, and the Prestige Theory

  1. Thanks I really enjoyed your review. Especially the Philip Glass part. I’ve listened to ‘Prophecies’ on radio today in my car and was instantly reminded on the pipe parts in Interstellar. Overall my conclusion of I. is somewhat similar to yours. The part I liked most about this movie was that it made me think out the box and the crumbling feeling of our small self generated reality which is nothing compared to the raw power of the universe.

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