25 Questions for Interstellar

This post presumes that you've already sat through the 167 minutes that comprise Christopher Nolan's sci-fi weepie. So turn back now if you want to avoid spoilers.

  1. In an unspecified future, the world is dying from a mysterious blight called The Blight. The eponymous disease is killing off crops and producing drought and massive dust storms and - wait. Dust storms of the magnitude seen here are the result of things like massive drought and topsoil depletion from overfarming, which clearly isn't the case here. The dying world of Interstellar looks like the result of climate change. Wouldn't this scenario make a lot more sense if climate change were invoked, even in passing? Why, in a movie committed to scientific accuracy and grounded, realistic detail, is climate changed turned into a vaguely defined Blight thing that's killing crops and making the atmosphere unbreathable? Did Nolan go through the script one night and replace every mention of climate change with "The Blight"?
  2. In an unspecified future, food is incredibly scarce, which would imply that the world is suffering from food riots, massive population upheavals and general unrest. Yet there are no more armies. Wouldn't an army be useful in this instance? There are schools and a functioning government, so why not a military?
  3. In an unspecified future, schools are gently totalitarian institutions that determine children's futures and teach that the moon landings were faked. I'll buy the former, but the latter? No. Nolan may be riffing on the current educational controversy over topics like evolution and contraception, but those are part of a political and cultural conflict that speaks to core issues of cultural sovereignty in certain parts of the United States. Moon landing hoax theories are the work of disaffected crackpots who need desperately to locate a truth that will crack open the mundane world and illuminate a secret order. Could it be that Nolan views public education with the same contempt that he displays towards the government, climate change and storytelling?
  4. In an unspec - hey, when exactly is this movie set? Not that I mind the ambiguity. Just curious.
  5. Matthew McConaughey's character Cooper enjoys a beer on the front porch of his farmhouse at sunset. Where did they get the barley and wheat and hops to make that beer? Is it corn beer? What would corn beer even taste like? If not, wouldn't that be some seriously expensive PBR?
  6. Say, can the characters hear the incredibly loud score that's drowning out their dialogue? Because the rest of us sure can.
  7. Cooper's brilliant young daughter Murphy ("Murph") claims that her bedroom has a ghost. Cooper explains that ghosts don't exist and tells her to apply the scientific method to the problem. Later, Cooper and Murphy discover that dust in her bedroom has fallen in a series of stripes along the floor. Murphy immediately says that it's because of "gravity," which Cooper just accepts. Is Nolan aware that gravity doesn't work that way? Why does Murphy conclude that gravity is sorting out dust motes into stripes? Why does Cooper take her word for it?
  8. The gravity-sorted bands of dust turn out to be binary code for geographical coordinates. When Cooper and Murphy go to said coordinates, it turns out to be the remnants of NASA, who have been driven into hiding but have still managed to build a rocket and a giant underground bunker that works as a centrifuge. This is a world with no armies and absolutely no money for space exploration, so how in the living hell did this happen?
  9. Michael Caine ("Dr. Brand") explains how The Blight works to Cooper. What, Cooper didn't already know? Does nobody know? Is NASA just keeping the information to themselves? No wonder they got their funding yanked.
  10. Within minutes of Cooper and his daughter inexplicably arriving at the secret NASA base with no other explanation than "it was gravity," NASA tells Cooper all about the wormhole near Saturn that has habitable planets on the other side. The wormhole was placed there by "they," a race of five-dimensional beings who appear to have an interest in humanity. Maybe they could have put the wormhole a little closer?
  11. Apparently the wormhole showed up "fifty years ago." Okay?
  12. Within minutes of Cooper's arrival, Michael Caine offers him the job of piloting a spacecraft through the wormhole, because apparently Cooper is the man for the job. Were they just twiddling their thumbs and hoping for a qualified space pilot to show up? Isn't it lucky that "gravity" sent Cooper there? I get that there's a potent element of American fantasy involved in sending a farmer to the stars, but did anyone stop Christopher Nolan at this point and tell him how ridiculous this whole thing was?
  13. So they're approaching the wormhole and one of the crew members takes time to explain wormhole physics to Cooper with the aid of a pencil and paper. Wouldn't it have been more useful to brief Cooper before the flight? Also, didn't this exact scene happen in Event Horizon? Does the world of Interstellar not have Event Horizon on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming on demand? 
  14. Once they're through the wormhole, Anne Hathaway (another "Dr. Brand") tells Cooper in detail about three nearby potentially habitable planets, the gigantic black hole lurking in the vicinity, and the time-debt incurred by visiting planets close to the black hole. Did Cooper just sign on for this mission with absolutely no background info? Was he just, like, "Don't bore with me information, you squares. I'll learn the fundamental and excruciatingly relevant details when I get there"?
  15. At a crucial point, the astronauts have to decide which of two remaining planets to visit. Hathaway-Brand delivers a lengthy monologue about love being a force like gravity and time, so they should definitely go to the planet where her boyfriend lives. Cooper rejects her logic of love and heads to a different planet, which is the moment on which the entire next two hours of the movie hinges. The question I'd like to put to Nolan here is whether or not he is fucking kidding us.
  16. The movie has two robots named CASE and TARS. Why do they get the best lines in the film? Why do they consistently come off as the most sympathetic and plausible characters in a film that's ostensibly a celebration of the human spirit?
  17. Matt Damon lives on the second planet. He tries to kill everyone. This takes at least 90 minutes to happen and and makes no sense at any point. It's a convoluted and confusing means of putting Cooper in a position where he has to fly into the black hole. Damon's character is named Mann, which lets viewers reflect on the nature of Mannkind. Wouldn't it have been more accurate to call him Human D. MacGuffin?
  18. Also, Damon claims that the "surface" area (is that sea level, maybe?) of the planet has breathable atmosphere and conditions hospitable for life, but his camp is elsewhere. Why isn't his camp situated in the habitable zone? Why don't the trained astronauts ask this question immediately? Maybe there were reasons that I missed.
  19. During a sequence on Ice Planet Killer Damon, Nolan starts cross-cutting between various characters in a way that is meant to build tension and suggest danger, but there's nothing tension-worthy happening, so the effect is a mix of confusion (why is the film acting as if something bad is happening?) and impatience (when is the film going to show us the bad something?). The result of this misleading series of cuts is to make Damon's assault on Cooper feel like it's solving a problem, not presenting action or character. Why is Nolan a revered director when he can't even ramp up tension?
  20. Cooper enters the black hole and doesn't die. Fine. He ends up in a mind-bending tesseract where he can spy on his daughter from behind the walls. Creepy but mindblowing. He realizes that he's the ghost from Murphy's childhood and says "I'm the ghost." The adult Murphy figures out that he's the ghost and says "you're the ghost." We get it; Cooper has been dropped into Tralfamadore. But then he encodes the second hand of his daughter's wrist watch with a Morse Code message that contains an equation which solves the problem of gravity. How did Cooper know the equation? Did he get some trippy knowledge from bouncing around inside a black hole? He didn't seem to have much insight into relativity and gravity beforehand.*
  21. Did you know that Topher Grace shows up two-thirds of the way through? Just, one minute there's no Topher Grace, then there's Topher Grace? Why not Nestor Carbonell? That guy should get more work.
  22. Given that the climax of the film involves Cooper spying on his prepubescent daughter, what do you make of the fact that his wife is dead? Aren't you glad that the wife is out of the way so Cooper can lavish all of his attention on his daughter?
  23. What do you make of the fact that Murphy's entire character is based on her childhood abandonment issues, and that the only thing that can heal her is the realization her disembodied father used to watch her from behind her bookshelf?
  24. Also, what do you make of the fact that Cooper says to his daughter, "When I get back, we might be the same age?"
  25. At the end of the movie, Cooper is finally reunited with Murphy, who is now an old woman. They have a tearful 30 second reunion and then she tells him to go away because she's old. They're surrounded by Cooper's descendants and she doesn't introduce a single one of them. They don't even speak to him. So he steals a spacecraft and goes off in search of Anne Hathaway, presumably to put a whole bunch of babies in her (which isn't even counting the cargo of frozen embryos that she'll be raising to form a new civilization). What is wrong with Christopher Nolan?

*Apparently Cooper used data from TARS, who dropped into the black hole ahead of him.