Interstellar (2014): Creating a Future

interstellar-imax-movie-poster

      We complete the First Sci. Fi. Movie Week with “Interstellar.” “Interstellar” is by no means the greatest film of the year, or the greatest science film I have watched…but it is great and a favorite. The themes it explores with humanity at the edge as explorers and as a dying species speak volume to problems that exist or could arise and the possibility of something more. The folks in charge of this did their research as well, of course there are science fiction elements since this is a fictional film, but a lot of how they present ideas are solid. I’ll get into more of what I mean in the assessment.

    The film was directed by Christopher Nolan who was also one of the writers and producers. His brother Jonthan Nolan was the other writer and the other producers were Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst.

   The premise is the not so distant future where the death of crops has turned society into an agrarian society with limited means. This has lead to extreme environment devestation and dust storms are a usual occurrence. In this world former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is raising his children with their grandfather (), after tracking a strange occurrence he stumbles on the last of NASA who have a plan for discovering a new planet to settle since Earth is dying. He decides to take the mission, and the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – “interstellar” is a beautifully visual film. Be it the desolate wasteland Earth is becoming, or the Black Hole that they pass through or any of the different worlds…each feels large, unique and powerful. Hoyte van Hoytema really did an astounding job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful and great. It is Hans Zimmer so it makes sense. My one issue with it was sometimes it was difficult to hear the dialogue because of how loud the music could become. The techno rhyme throughout the film gave it a very real high science fiction feel though and Zimmer is once again amazing.

The World – The world is rich in this Universe. From Earth being a dying world where climate is making crops unsustainable, to a planet of Water, a planet of Ice and the planet Amelia settles and how Space is shown as well as Cooper’s Station at the end. It is a Sci. Fi. Universe that feels real and close enough to our own to inspire us to try and make that reality (the good parts anyway).

The Science – We are presented different scientific concepts that strengthen the film. From the bend of space and time in regards to Black Holes or theoretical wormholes would work, to planets with greater gravity where time is faster or slower than on Earth. These ideas haven’t really been tackled all that well in modern cinema (that I can think of) except this film.

The Main Cast – The main cast is fantastic. I’ll get into the details of the characters and their arcs next, but I found the drama rich and the dilemmas real.

Amelia – This is not Hathaway’s greatest role as her motivation is one of the simplest ones…to find her boyfriend. She has other aspects to like love of exploration but when it comes down to the final choice that is her focus and is part of what leads to her ending as she heads off to Edmund’s planet at the end. Hathaway does a good job with what she’s given though, and she does survive.

Tom Cooper – Is the son who becomes stuck in the mindset of the dying Earth as he has lost children but refuses to leave as his home is all he has left. When Murphy calls him out on it he asks he never come back again leading to her burning his crops and attempting to save his children. He is the one whose scars are the most blatant after Cooper left as he sends his father a video of him saying good-bye. He moves on and becomes a part of the world destroying himself and his family. Casey Affleck does great.

Doctor Mann – Matt Damon plays a character who has gone mad and sees the only end because of how Doctor Brand used him. He wants humanity to die because he’s stared into the abyss and seen only humanity’s destruction. He nearly succeeds too and it’s only due to TARS, Amelia and Cooper that he doesn’t. His story is a tragedy as he had to live alone with his fears on a strange world with no way of getting back and knowing he was sent to die…all he had was sorrow.

TARS – Is the Artificial Intelligence that travels with them. TARS is pretty cool as it has personality and wit and the ability to make choices and withhold information. It builds a relationship with Cooper by the end and saves Cooper and Amelia a few times. I like it’s design as it’s like dark metal Tetris cubes all put together, and the voice is human but alien sounding. Glad that it survives the film.

Professor John Brand – Michael Caine’s character is the one who sets everything in motion and who didn’t have all the answers. In this way he was sending the crew off on a suicide mission which Murph finds out later as he’s on his death bed. She takes up her father’s and Brand’s work and makes sure he doesn’t die in vain as all of his character drive is for the salvation of humankind. He’s idealistic, flawed and very human.

Donald – John Lithgow play’s Cooper’s Father-in-Law and is our glimpse into the past/our present as he talks about everyone owning electronics and devices and how people get anything. His view is a reaction to this as he is fine with the way things are and values being a farmer and having a family. He’s let go of the past and moved on.

Murphy Cooper – Murph is our main protagonist on Earth as she joins Brand’s team to try and find a way to get off of Earth or reach the team that went through the Black Hole. We see that even as a young child she is curious and really attached to her dad as she is unable to talk to him after he leaves and only talks to say that he isn’t there when he said he would be. Resolution is reached in this as she works with her dad to solve the equation that makes colonizing space possible and finding her Dad. In end they meet and she’s an old woman, but they are finally at peace. The Coopers saved the human race. I really liked her character.

Cooper – Cooper is the one who is reluctant, but goes when he learns how bad Earth is getting since it would be the last chance he has to save his kids. His story is sad as his actions destroy his relationship to his son and for his daughter for a lot of her life. In the end all he has is the mission until the Black Hole placed by the Future humans gives him a way to communicate the equation or Murph which leads to his eventual rescue and the colonizing of the Solar System. He is there as his daughter dies and in the end takes off to go and search for Amelia as he fixed TARS who he became friends with and the adventure is all he has left. It’s bittersweet but awesome as it captures the essence of his character and how living his dream…no matter how costly it was, shaped him to forever be that explorer.

The Messages – There are a few messages in this film, the greatest of which is our ability to create a future. The Black Hole that’s a Wormhole was created by us to make certain that we would have a future in the first place. We see this in how Murph working with her father through space and time is able to figure out the code which makes human colonization of space possible and we see it in how TARS, Amelia and Cooper work together to get the ship back and stabilize it after Mann attempts to destroy it and in the afterword where we see people worked together to create Cooper Station off of Murph’s vision.

Okay: Red Shirts – There are two crewmen who die, but they are so unmemorable that they aren’t really worth mentioning. There’s the one who knows the science and math who Mann kills and the other guy who dies on the water planet because Amelia tries to do the mission to the point of stupidity and puts them all at risk. Their deaths only exist to raise the stakes, so they are at least successful at that.

The Cons: The Beginning – I really didn’t like the beginning. It was showing interviews with old people who are implied to be the people we’ll be seeing (and we do) and this shows that everyone lives. We don’t know how the characters live, but they live. This takes away from what could have created good tension, since there already is so much tension in the film.

Doctor Mann’s Story – I wish we could have got more of his story…be it from Professor Brand, who was his friend…or more of his story when we meet him and find out he’s an antagonist. I get why he is mad but I still don’t fully get it…What was his life on Earth like? We know how Amelia’s and Cooper’s life was, why not Mann?

   This was a great film and a wonderful way to end the First Sci. Fi. Movie Week. I highly recommend this film if you like Nolan, High Concept Science Fiction and space travel as it executes all of these really well. The minor characters don’t get justice done to them, but the main is given good exploration in what motivates them and in how they relate to one another.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10. A few things could have got more exploration, and I would have cut out the spoiler beginning.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): A Great Retelling of the Origins and Rise of Caesar

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

      “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is the perfect reboot. It honors the original material while still taking an original approach to characters, origins and style. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt and rather than taking a Nuclear War approach or Time Travel in regards to how the apes became intelligent…he takes the route of an artificial virus that grants intelligence and regeneration of the brain. Without saying more here is the premise. 

    The Premise of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is Caesar becomes the orphan at a biotech company named Gen-Sys after his mother (Bright Eyes) is killed when she tries to defend him from the testing she went through that made her more intelligent. After the Chimps are ordered to be euthanized but Caesar is saved by the Chimp handler who gives him to the bio-tech scientist Will (played by James Franco) who takes him and raises him. From here the story unfolds.

Pros: Inspiration from the subject material – The movie clearly takes inspiration from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” with Will in the place of Armando…the one good human compared to all the abusive ones who Caesar comes in contact with. The slave camp is replaced by the Ape Sanctuary (tied to Gen-Sys who is doing testing on Apes) and Caesar’s break in this comes when he feels that Will and his wife Caroline are forced to leave by the owner of the Sanctuary. From here he chooses his people and rises to win them freedom and a home. The Simian Flu is in play as well with it’s beginnings here…but rather than targeting dogs and cats…it targets people. There is also news about the launch of the Space Flight that is the ship that crashes beginning the original “Planet of the Apes.” 

The Writing – The writing is fantastic. The idea of strengthening the human mind through drugs and healing it…in order to prevent or heal Alzheimers is what we are trying to do now. In that way the writing is relevant to today as well as showing the cost of Alzheimers on the person going through it and their family (via Charles Rodman played by John Lithgow). 

The Special Effects – The Apes look like Apes with Andy Serkis once again owning his role, this time as the main character Caesar. We see how he is like an ape but how different he is too (his standing tall) and his voice sounds like how a talking Chimp would probably sound like. 

Caesar – Roddy McDowell was a great Caesar, but Serkis is better. The reasons behind this is the change between “Battle” and “Conquest” isn’t handled as well and neither is his getting the Apes to join him in a slave revolt. He just looks at them. Caesar learns from Maurice how to earn the respect of the Apes and what he needs to make them intelligent (the virus). Serkis’s Caesar’s arc makes much more sense…and his reason for not hurting people makes sense too given that he was raised by humans and we see that being raised by humans. In “Battle” he is already fully grown. 

Will Rodman – Great work to James Franco. His character is complex – Ethics versus Job…and you can see how he grows to care for Caesar and is in the end the one who needs to let go because Caesar has chosen to lead his people. He is fantastic in this movie. 

Charles Rodman – John Lithgow gives us a reason to motivate Will to find the cure to Alzhiemers and he does it masterfully. We see his powerlessness and the moments of hope when the virus is helping his brain become sharper…to when it is all lost. 

Maurice – The Orangutan adviser is the one who teaches Caesar how to integrate and become a leader and is also the one shows Caesar that the apes as they are currently don’t have the wisdom to get out of anarchy, leading Caesar to get the virus and use it make the apes as intelligent as him. 

Dodge Landon – Tom Felton plays a wonderfully cruel character. He is the character who says, “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape.” Showing how the words are used to oppress and how the apes are seen by most people. His death when he tries to kill Caesar is rewarding because of how despicable he is. Playing Malfoy taught him well. 

Buck – The Gorilla who Caesar frees first and goes through the cycle of healing from his abuse. He is a great character who has a sad death. It is a fantastic death too though, he fracking punches a Helicopter out of the air! 

Gen-Sys – We see a complex corporation! The Chimp handler stands up for the chimps even though he caves and Will even quits at some point. We see that it isn’t simply a bad company even though profit is it’s main drive…and not people…which leads to the spread of the Simian Flu, so there is that. 

The Apes – We get to see the social dynamic between them as Caesar integrates and becomes their leader. There is complexity with Rocket as the Alpha before Caesar takes him out and makes him a leader underneath him. It is great since Rocket uses brute force but Caesar uses it with a mixture of knowledge and tact. He doesn’t want fear, he wants respect…unlike rocket who just wants fear.

Liberation – We see Caesar organize and teach them, build connections and free the other apes from Gen-Sys. It is great rising action leading to the climax of the battle as all apes in San Francisco become free. 

The final fight – We see strategy as the Apes and Police fight on the Golden Gate bridge…from a bus being used to protect from gunfire, to a gorilla punching a helicopter out of the air…and apes using the upper and lower part of the bridge to reach their opponents. It is a great fight, far better than the one in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”  

The Message – The message is one of cautiousness, that before new technologies are used they should be tested and that all life that we know to be intelligent should be respected. It was a good message. 

Okay: The antagonists John Landon (Brian Cox) and Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) – John owns the Ape Sanctuary and doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything more than greed, same goes for Steven. They do this well but the roles aren’t memorable and could have been played by anyone. They don’t elevate the role the way Dodge was. Steven goes between being seen as super cautious and super reckless…he is what the script needs him to be basically. 

Caroline (Frieda Pinto) – She’s generic love interest who I wish had been given more to do. She is their for Caesar and after their for Will and that is the most of her role is. Still, much more depth than Areanna and Nova. 

Cons – Not enough time with the Apes – We’ll probably get this in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the upcoming sequel…but I wanted to see more of the relationship between the different types of Ape. We never really got that outside of Caesar’s relationships. That is the only con I can think of besides fleshing out the characters I listed as okay. 

    After re-watching this film after not seeing it for some time…it is one of my favorite films. It is better than the Original Planet of the Apes Series as far as execution of the story is concerned and even has a better Caesar…which is saying something since Roddy McDowell was quite amazing. I would highly recommend this film. 

My final Score for this film is 9.75 / 10. 

     Only reason it doesn’t have a full score is because of the issues of the okay characters and the con of not giving us more of the complexity among the apes. I must admit that I am quite excited to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” after watching this and can’t wait to review it in a few days.