Interstellar — The wormhole in the drama
I listen to Zimmer’s heavy handed organ score after frantically trying through the night to get a hold of the album. Zimmer posted on Quora that he did not release the sound track earlier since he wanted people to get a sense of the music via “big, massive speakers”. I get a sense of what he means, since the layers of organ reverberations, shoot up , not only in volume, drastically as the tracks hit their climaxes. However I must confess that I am disappointed, apart from a few specific parts (Coward is simply brilliant!) , the album fails to work without the immersive visuals. I am still not sure why Zimmer didn’t release the tracks online, it’s been a week since the movie released and they’re still only on pre order on iTunes, but suddenly I’m not sure it was a bad idea.
The movie dabbles with physics beautifully, up until the point Cooper crosses the event horizon. Understandably, since physics breaks down at the event horizon, Kip Thorne must have paused his consultation with Nolan, giving him creative liberties as long as he stuck to the core underlying assumption that “Gravity can break through the space time fabric”. The essence of every creative bit of science fiction relies on a single core assumption, which if you believe in, opens up an entirely different world. The core of Nolan’s movie is that underlying thought about gravity. I must confess, having read the first 40 pages of a “Brief History of Time” hardly helps the understanding of this complex assumption, however it seems simple enough to understand that assuming quantum mechanics allows relaying of data back through a black hole, Cooper uses a series of gravitational anomalies through time and space to communicate with his daughter. Agreed, notwithstanding contact forces to strike down books, I broadly buy the science behind it. A visual representation of time as a dimension, a scene which would have been outstanding to watch in 3D, too bad Nolan’s a purist, seemed to be a great way to go. The theory of only Cooper being able to choose selective frames in an infinite dimension of multiverses, was great as well, so the science isn’t really what I have an issue with. It’s the drama.
The common, layman perception of a black hole is a point with infinitely high gravity, making return impossible. Leaving the science behind for a moment, the drama of a black hole, exists in the point of no return. Why change that? As if getting data out of the black hole wasn’t dramatic enough? Murph finds the data about the singularity and saves the poor people of Earth, and yet Cooper must be thrown out of the wormhole and picked up by satellites to be visiting his daughter a few weeks later? The central drama of the story relates to the emotions between father and daughter but if closure was all that required, since Cooper can drift through time, let him see the future from the walls behind the bookshelf, where Murph goes to talk to him.
Bringing back Cooper damages the story in 2 ways, it fractures a bit of the science — This almost seemed like a shortcut I wouldn’t have expected Nolan to take. Its almost like saying, since no one knows what happens when one passes over the event horizon, I’ll be free to do just about anything. From seeing Cooper relay gravitational anomalies back in binary to seeing this is a bit of the stretch and I don’t buy it. The second, more important reason, is just failing to answer why? It seems frail that a smiling, content, Murph, lying on her death bed asks Cooper to save Amelia — well, she’s content because she believes Cooper did come back (the magical wristwatch does help!) — so let’s send Murphy, akin the dark Knight, in the shadow of darkness, to save the lonely damsel in distress. Does sound a bit like out of a fable, instead of gripping science fiction. Not to mention the first handshake!
What made the visual experience even more surreal was the bit of reading that I did before I watched the movie. Kip mentions that while working on the visualisation, even some of the science cleared up. That singular fact told me, that if one were to ever see a black hole, that was probably how it would have looked, which notwithstanding all my cinematic criticism, was simply amazing. Strictly speaking, a little bit of science tells me, that the gravitational pull as one approaches the event horizon continues to build up, until a point where the difference in forces that your body felt between the closest and farthest points as you drift towards the singularity, would rip you apart. I always imagined, that is how someone would die, if they were intact drifting towards a black hole. Since Kip is a better physicist than me (arguably!) I’m ready to accept a complex quantum mechanical or a string theory based explanation which allows a human body to be sent through in one packet. Again, its not the science I have an issue with — its the drama.
TARS (which is an absolutely fabulous character!) talks back to Cooper, telling him he has the data and he can send it to him. That seems easy enough. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to assume that once you pass through a singularity, and you survive, you become part of the singularity, that you are the data yourself. Of course that is just one possible way to give closure to the storyline. The other is using love — a lot was talked about it, with Amelia’s heart wrenching speech, but nothing seemed to come out of it. Why not use the emotion to close the loop instead of a floating Cooper with “barely minutes of oxygen remaining”.
There were a couple of sequences that I loved. Relativity and 23 years going by in a jiffy, the sequence of scenes seemed remarkable. Dr. Mann’s basic banality and the ensuing drama (and Coward!) — why not instead of pushing the father daughter relationship beyond the point of no return (puns intended), allow for the drama of Amelia finding her love, recolonising another Earth, galaxies away! The drama of that sequence when she finds Edmund, instead of a pile of stones, could have been magnificent, giving Nolan yet another free pass to create another outstanding world, this time with life!
I have nothing but respect for you Mr. Nolan, but I’m not sure I’m going to enlist as a fan of Interstellar.