Fear of extinction tries to compete with the adrenaline high of exploring space.
Interstellar chronicles a future where human beings are dying in large numbers because dust has made a lot of food-yielding crops extinct. Desperate for food, most humans become farmers while despising any investment in technology or space exploration.
NASA has become a scrappy top-secret operation, lead by a Professor Brand (Michael Cane) who sends 10 ‘brave’ astronauts on a mission that takes advantage of a wormhole to find a planet in another galaxy for humans to emigrate to en masse.
A ‘Plan B’ (aside: was this a deliberate joke on the morning-after pill?) is to transfer containers with fertilized eggs that are “diverse” to create new human colonies in the planet that is most promising.
If you are someone who watches movies for their interesting premise, then Interstellar’s basis is troubling. Do I really want another alien race to suffer the same genocide that colonialists wrought on earth? Do I really want a new planet to be ravaged by humans just like Earth?
If you are someone who doesn’t care for troubling premises, but just for a Jolly Good Time™, Interstellar sadly fails on that front too. The calibre of acting skills on display is uneven — enough for you to notice. Matt Damon is highly miscast as a pioneering scientist gone rogue. Michael Caine reprises his role of Batman’s Butler but inexplicably in the garb of a Professor.
Maybe you are interested in the promising casting of more than 1 woman as a scientist? Not much good news on that front either — Brand (Ann Hathway) fulfills the role her father wants her to do. Murphy Cooper (Jessica Chastain) similarly hates her father but longs for his love. Murphy’s teacher who happens to be a woman claims Moon Landing was a hoax that US perpetuated to collapse Soviet Union. Tom Cooper’s wife barely speaks and follows his orders. No, this movie does not pass the Bechdel test.
Okay, maybe there is some hope for characters that look like you who might embark on interesting adventures! Oops, wrong there too. All non-white astronauts end up dead (yes there are also white astronauts who end up dead, okay). Robots make jokes about being slaves.
So, what should you watch Interstellar for? Lots of lovely lensflares and some edge of the seat action that is worth seeing in a movie theatre. The father-daughter moments where Cooper tries to get his daughter to follow Scientific Method are worth watching and I am glad to see a movie that has a father trust his daughter to execute his vision rather than the typical trope of Father-Son chronicles.
I think the premise of Interstellar sets it up for failure: Exploring space is about the spirit of adventure not that of fear. By making it about fear but also wanting to imbue the audience with a glorious spirit of adventure, Interstellar stumbles and falls.
2 hours and 45 minutes is a long time to watch a movie stumble to a conclusion. You could possibly watch 3 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series and come away more inspired by what space has to offer.