(This column is written by BerkOp's English columnist Jaeho Paek.)
WARNING: This article includes spoilers for Interstellar.
As a great fan of the famous director Christopher Nolan (and really, who isn’t?), I was very excited to watch the widely popular movie Interstellar. After watching this almost three hours of “epic” science fiction, however, I was extremely confused and ended up with mixed feelings. Let me try to describe my understanding of the movie here, as I believe the enthusiastic and rather unconditional praises of the movie should be properly balanced by the other perspective.
The fourth dimension is the limiting dimension we humankind can understand, at least intuitively. With the three orthogonal dimensions defining our space and the fourth dimension, time, completing the world we are living in, we have never observed the fifth or further dimensions. Interstellar, however, makes a grand attempt to portray the fifth dimension, along with images of the black hole and wormhole.
As I am not an expert on the Kaluza–Klein theory, on which the speculation of the fifth dimension is based, I should not comment on whether the fifth dimension (“the Tesseract”) described by the movie has any accuracy. Nonetheless, the plot has a serious flaw: that the present Earth is saved by people in the future who constructed the fifth dimension in a form that could be fathomable by someone in the fourth dimension, Cooper (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey).
Cooper guesses that the “architect” of the fifth dimension is some descendant of humankind, which raises a fundamental question. Those god-like people in the future can possibly exist only if the present humankind is saved. Then how was the humankind saved in the first place so that Cooper can be helped by those in the future to save the present Earth? The movie leaves this question unanswered, making the whole purpose of Cooper’s journey uncertain. If Christopher Nolan intended to create a movie that reflects (close to) accurate theoretical physics (which seems to be what he intended as the movie advertisement widely boasts Caltech Physicist Kip Thorne as its executive producer), then the movie should not have ended with such a logically flawed conclusion.
In the movie, the ambitious depictions of only theoretically proven beings are accompanied by the theme of love, which is described as the power that transcends dimensions of time and space. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) speaks of the power of love and Cooper’s love for his daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) proves love as the key that crosses the limit of dimensions and changes our fate (which is, of course, saving the humankind). Nolan himself assured us that the movie is more about the love between a father and his daughter, instead of the outer-space exploration.
The problem is that most of the audience who choose to watch this movie probably do not expect it to center around the value of love, but instead on how the humankind takes the noble challenge to pioneer the outer space. Thus, the detailed depiction of Cooper’s agony caused by his love for his family could bring boredom. Besides, Amelia’s lengthy lecture on love as the all-powerful force, in the midst of the explorers’ debate on which planet to explore, almost seems unnecessary as the message can be delivered to the audience through Cooper and Murph. Moreover, dense concepts of gravitational singularity, multidimensions, and general relativity distract the audience away from the theme of love.
It seems that Christopher Nolan wanted to impress his audience by showing jaw-dropping images of the outer space and at the same time touch their hearts by depicting Cooper’s love for Murph. However, the movie fails to seamlessly combine these two most popular themes in movie production. It almost feels as if Nolan added truffles into spicy ramen, and their individually respectful flavors are now spoiled as a dull mixture.
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