Sunday 27 October 2019

Film review: Interstellar

We haven't had a home cinema for quite a while, but last night E suggested she wanted to re-watch Interstellar so we all watched it. It was fun to watch; there are many implausibilities in the science, and arguably in the people too, but it kinda hangs together as a film. It's quite long and could perhaps have done without all the self-indulgent tying up of loose ends at the end.

Of the science, it's hard to know where to start. Our Hero is launched by what looks suspiciously like an Apollo-era rocket, and yet his craft turns out to be capable of landing and then taking off from Earth like planets with no booster and no refueling. Repeatedly they make the mistake that everyone needs to make in these films for the purposes of the plot: they don't trouble themselves to examine the planets from orbit at all. The idea that anything orbiting a black hole deeply inside it's gravity well (at 1-hour-to-7-years dilation) would be habitable is absurd, as indeed now I come to think of it is the idea that you could ever get out again using chemical rockets. Skipping over many others, the encoding of observations in a watch by sprinkling gravity dust on it is similarly weird, as is the idea that the information density would be sufficient (both time to encode, and decode, and structure for storage).

The film ends with everyone happily inhabiting a space habitat somewhere out near Saturn, with fields of corn to feed them and baseball fields to play on, just like home. Buuuttt... why stick your hab out by Saturn? If you're harvesting sunlight, there's not much out there, you'd rather be closer. Like, near the Earth. Speaking of which, why leave Earth? Yes, there's the rather sketchy "blight" but if your solution to blight is to grow crops in a sealed-in environment: why not seal it in on Earth? So much more convenient.

Coming now to the human plot, this does I think work fairly well, except. Part of the "working well" is the shameless appeal to stereotypes: the little house on the prairie type farmer, the doesn't-fit-in space cowboy type. His daughter is implausibly sad and angry at him for leaving - perhaps this is a nice fantasy, wouldn't it be nice if your own children cared that much, oh Hollywood moguls and bizniz execs, but of course they don't.

[Update: M chides me that my last is too pessimistic. She it right. It is too abrupt, too. I could add a note about "Moon" which we watched on D's recommendation a couple of years ago. A much smaller budget and a more prosaic storyline but with the same emotion of speaking over time.]