Sunday, September 20, 2015

The spoiler beginning to Interstellar

There are some movies you expect to see a second time, and there are some you don't, even if you generally liked watching them. Interstellar fell into that latter category for me.

Yet I ended up rewatching it because my wife had never seen it, and it was the 99 cent rental on iTunes a couple weeks back. If I'm going to rewatch a movie about which I was lukewarm to positive, better that it be for 99 cents than for the price that was once envisioned for it, when there was talk of getting out to the rooftop cinema to watch it. That starts at $25 a ticket, then you have to factor in all the other costs of an evening out, including, potentially, a babysitter.

But I was certainly happy enough to watch it again at home, even though I didn't necessarily think it would contain enough on a second viewing to make me like it significantly more. Significantly less was a possibility, but significantly more didn't seem like one.

In fact, I did like it a little bit less, but my reason for writing today is a positive one. And it has everything to do with the ways Christopher Nolan has continued to be kind of a magician as a filmmaker.

We know that the magic of the movies is one of the things that specifically interests Nolan, as he has actually made a movie about magicians (The Prestige, one of my favorites of his). The Prestige in fact deals with the idea of showing you how the trick is done and then distracting you, though I'm sure that's a bit of a paraphrase. However, it's a method Nolan uses in Interstellar.

The key to the tension of the movie is that it leaves us in doubt about whether Earth -- or more specifically, human beings -- will survive, right? We don't know until the very end whether Dr. Brand's Plan A or Dr. Brand's Plan B will be the method of saving humanity that gets enacted, right? Or possibly, "none of the above."

Except that Nolan tells us with the first line of dialogue in the movie that humanity gets saved. Or if not that, definitively, then at least that Coop's daughter Murph ages into an elderly woman and appears in a video looking back upon the harder times of the past.

"My dad was a farmer," come the first words of the movie, spoken by Ellen Burstyn with extra aging makeup. "Like everybody else back then. Of course he didn't start out that way." And then a smash cut to our hero, Coop (Matthew McConaughey), in some kind of high-speed aircraft.

Of course, we don't actually know the characters at this point, the movie having just started. But if you had chosen to retain the movie's first words, you would have then remembered that McConaughey's daughter (who we meet as a young girl only moments later) has enough of a future ahead of her to age a good 80 years and then be telling her story to a documentary crew. You could then surmise that this would mean the Earth, or wherever they lived, would be in good enough shape to enjoy the luxury of a crew of filmmakers reflecting on humanity's history.

It's a credit to Nolan, then, that you almost immediately forget about this. You wouldn't ordinarily think that any information a filmmaker provides you should just be discarded, yet you do kind of discard the documentary bookends of this movie as soon as the story gets started. You really do feel like humanity could perish from the Earth, and from space as well. You really do wonder if it will all get sorted, or if human beings do indeed die in a cloud of dust on the Earth's surface.

I guess I don't entirely understand the point of Nolan's little trick, but I can vouch for its efficacy.

I don't really have many other thoughts from a second viewing of Interstellar, except to note that the score is indeed quite overbearing (I focused on it this time, having heard the criticisms of the score after I got out of my viewing last November), and to grimace at just how on-the-nose much of the dialogue really is. That said, the relativity stuff still cooked my noodle a little bit, which is ultimately why my feelings about this movie remain positive.

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