I caught a matinee of Interstellar today, and I loved it. It’s beautifully made, and especially beautifully written, or at least that’s my impression of it right now. I should probably mention that I tend to get a movie-high that lasts a few hours after going to the cinema, sometimes even from watching something mediocre but emotionally manipulative, and my experience with those is akin to tasting something fantastic that leaves a bad aftertaste. I suspect the aftertaste for Interstellar will linger and be enjoyably complex, but that’s never a certainty.
Interstellar is a long movie, but unless you have a small bladder it doesn’t feel particularly long. The writing is efficient. Every bit of dialogue serves multiple purposes. Being a science fiction piece, there was a lot of world-building details that needed explaining, but all the information was parceled out organically and in service of character arcs. There were no cheesy exposition speeches anywhere, and that’s impressive for science fiction in any medium.
The person I watched it with said afterwards that the story pushed all of his buttons, and it did for me as well. For one thing, it addresses just about all of my fears about the future. I live in Alberta, Canada, which is where a good chunk of Interstellar was filmed. In theory, it’s a good place for future generations to be if/when the polar ice caps melt. We’re at a high elevation. The foothills of the Rockies used to be the shoreline of a great prehistoric ocean, which is why it’s a great place to find fossils and why our land (“our land,” she says, despite living in an apartment) is likely to remain land rather than become part of the sea floor. If droughts and our reliance on monoculture farming creates a food shortage though, surviving longer than places with lower elevation could well be a curse more than a blessing. There’s a threat in the movie that the last to survive starvation will suffocate to death from the dust.
Yes, yes that’s all theoretical, but it’s a theory with a lot of sources to back it up, and even if it didn’t, I write speculative fiction. “What if” is my bread and butter. Speaking of which…
The themes of Interstellar also hit home when it comes to fears writers have. Okay, technically all fiction, screenwriting included, is about a writer’s fears, but this is pretty specific.
All writing is an act of time travel. You aren’t getting this message as I type it. You’re reading it in the future. Or, from your point of view, I wrote this in the past, whether that’s minutes in the past or millennia. Not that there were blogs a millennium ago, but there was plenty of writing: messages from the past that we can receive now, which is kinda mindblowing. I suppose every person’s work, writer or not, becomes about legacy in the long run, but a writer does it on purpose (because we’re totally full of ourselves) and with messages. The legacy of the human species is at risk in Interstellar, and it’s saved by messages. Also, and here’s a big one, writers are dispensable in the face of natural disaster. We don’t want to believe that, and stories and the written word are critical to our survival as a culture, but it’s not a replacement for food and shelter. If there’s ever an emergency colonization of another planet, full-time writers will be among the last to be invited on the journey, if they have room for us at all, and everybody knows it. On the flip-side, writing through a global scale disaster has a degree of pointlessness to it. If no one’s around in the future to read your work, then there is no legacy, and everything will have been for nothing. Interstellar doesn’t allow that to actually happen, but the threat is there.
“But Erin, isn’t the story more about the legacy of parents passed down through their children?” Yes it is, and speaking of which, did anyone else notice how Steven Moffaty the story is, i.e. wibbly wobbly timey wimey alongside the fetishization of parenthood? Then again, it also has a lot in common with some of Russel T. Davies’ work on Doctor Who, and with Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, so maybe despite the American actors and funding and the Canadian locations, Interstellar is just a very British piece of science fiction.
As I said, loved it. I suspect that unless it gives me a bad taste in my mouth later on to the point of wondering “what was I thinking?” I’m going to want to see Interstellar again when it becomes available for home viewing.