“Mankind was born on Earth; it was never meant to die here.”

Having just watched Interstellar, the epic incredible super special awesome (running out of adjectives) science-fiction film from Christopher Nolan, for the second time, I have a hunch that this feeling of bewilderment and awe is going to be with me for many more viewings to come. I can’t get over just how incredible this film is, how much it appeals to me on a personal level as both a student of literature and other media as well as a human being in general. Telling the story of an intrepid group of astronauts as they travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for mankind, Interstellar leaves you thinking a long, long time after the credits role. The first time I watched it, I was up until about 4am trying to wrap my head around the issues it raised with me. Hopefully thrashing it out on here a bit will help me sleep tonight. Disclaimer: this post will contain spoilers. I’ll try not to be too blatant (SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE), but you have been warned. Much like my other favourite films, Cloud Atlas and Fight Club (based on books by David Mitchell and Chuck Palahniuk respectively), Interstellar tackles our humanity as both our greatest asset and our biggest weakness as a species: our will to power is both the cause of and the solution to our biggest challenges. Michael Caine’s character Professor John Brand concealment of the horrible truth behind humanity’s survival mission (the only way of saving the human race, as far as he knows anyway, is to send a pre-fertilised collection of eggs, leaving everyone on Earth to either starve or suffocate) presents us with a terrible conundrum: is it acceptable, as Dr. Mann proposes, to destroy one’s humanity in order to save the species? Put in a similar situation, what could any of us do to reconcile this awful decision? And yet, whilst logically Brand’s choice is sound, Cooper proves that there’s more than two outcomes when someone has a gun to your head: his stubbornness, which ninety-nine times out of a hundred would result in the destruction of his species and the death of his family, instead enables him to find a solution in the most unlikely of places. Whilst we must make allowances for the world of Hollywood, and trust that a happy(ish) ending was always on the cards, I still feel his dogged persistence against all the odds exemplifies humanity’s will to survive. And it is love, above all else, that pushes Cooper through. Amelia Brand, the professor’s daughter, observes that love is the only phenomenon that transcends both time and space: there is no social utility in loving those who have died. Cooper is obviously aware of the power of love to influence one’s decision-making, and not necessarily in a good way, evidenced by his calling out of Brand Jr for letting her desire to see the man she loves override her scientific reasoning. Despite this, the love he bears for his children is his sole motivation for chancing everything on a trip into a black hole in search of the scientific data required to save the people on Earth. He is guilty of the same emotional judgement that impedes Amelia, and yet is this belief in something more than science, more than what we can observe and reason about, that grants humanity salvation. Whilst Professor Brand’s rejection of his own humanity presents one solution, Cooper’s refusal to do the same presents a better one. Above all else, then, I feel that Interstellar presents one simple truth: above all else, even in the face of the greatest adversity, our humanity, our will to power and ability to love, is something that can not be compromised. Admittedly this is the world of Hollywood: real life is rarely so pretty and scripted, there is never a satisfying denouement or resolution that leaves every question answered. Sometimes bad things have to be done for good reasons. Sometimes life asks a lot of the individual. But there is a line. And you don’t have to cross that line to do the right things. Toe it, stretch it, but don’t break it. I leave you with a poem often quoted in the film. Written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in an ode to his dying father, it is a defiant challenge to the universal certainty of death, and reaffirms human spirit as the answer to life’s vicissitudes. Honestly, it’s beautiful, and sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


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