Generations Undiscovered Country Voyage Home
There is no sound in space, where no one can hear you scream anyway, but Interstellar blasts its music, hammers in three voiceovers its centennial birthday boy Dylan Thomas message, is 70mm IMAX gargantuan, overstays its welcome, and connects major themes through homespun bromides and obviously paralleled parent-offspring couplings themselves echoed in parallel universes.
Most unforgivable is that the hundred sixty-nine minutes totally lacks John Wyndham’s A Sense of Wonder. Real-life wonder, as in Apollo Program documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. Mystery wonder, as in unseen aliens and Dave Bowman’s reflashing the times of his life to death and Jupiter Zarathustra rebirth as a cosmic embryo in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The four ageing dudes in Space Cowboys are fun without much amazement, but Star Wars agilely combines both around its B-movie space cowboys. Contact matches father-child with intelligent awe, and there is not so far-fetched connection with corny fantasy magic of cornfield baseball Field of Dreams.
Gravity is a recent contrast to director/co-producer/-writer (with brother Jonathan) Christopher Nolan’s mega-overkill anti-gravity brontosaurus in science, conception and execution. Alfonso Cuarón’s, too, concerns returning home, mother and child, sacrificial gestures, but performs by underplaying and limiting itself to a single setting and time rather than the Midwest of Alberta, Canada, space, frozen or flooded wormhole planets and other dimensions.
Earth is dying, reduced to relying on corn and okra crops which are also doomed by conditions akin to the Dust Bowl recalled by faux documentary oldster talking heads. Technology is maybe to blame and, anyway dangerous, therefore dismissed in revisionist Newspeak textbooks. Test piloting no longer an option, widowed ex-flyboy engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) raises corn and pre-adolescent children Murph and Tom (Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet) with just-folks father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow), on whose library floor planks the grown scientist Murph (Jessica Chastain) will later figure out code in dust storm lines.
The Morse message may come from other dimensional aliens who as ”They” are both affirmed and denied. By design or incredible coincidence, “Coop” and Murph are led to the underground installations of NASA remnants, captained by Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), who cannot quite complete the formula to save mankind but does commission the convenient ace pilot to lead a select group to modular space station wheel Endurance and thence on to Saturn and the wormhole unknown in search of previous Lazarus Project explorers for habitable planets to which to flee.
His daughter in particular is resentful at daddy’s abandoning the family and rejects his promises to return, while themes of love, survival and the individual vs. the group greatest good are introduced and repeated round every space warp.
The crew is the boilerplate movie bunch of one female (Anne Hathaway, as Dr. Brand’s biologist daughter Dr. Amelia B.), one racial minority (David Gyasi’s astrophysicist Romilly) who will choose to grow older outside of relativity’s lengthening of time, a noble young scientist in Wes Bentley’s Doyle, and an ambulatory dry-humored computer-robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin).
What the intrepid cosmonauts will encounter are some special effects, surfing-tunnel tsunamis and ice, selfish pun-named rogue scientist Dr. Mann (Matt Damon, unbilled), a grave, and lots of razzle-dazzle mumbo jumbo razzmatazz about event horizons, singularities, time-space continua and such that if understood at all will come more from Star Trek (on which fan Stephen Hawking did guest cameos) than A Brief History of Time or anything in this movie.
Once air- or space-borne, actors really cannot do much, so it is not wholly their fault. Their bodies are swathed in bulky suits and their faces are obscured behind helmet visors which reflect pretty neon panel lights but are not conducive to displaying emotions.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some intense perilous action and brief strong language.)