Humans have always looked heavenward. Our fascination with stars, planets, galaxies, and what lies beyond stems from our instincts to explore but also our awareness of frailty. Space beckons us and plays to our “what’s it like?” curiosity (and sometimes pride). But it’s also where we turn when things down here look dire. We’ve always looked up when we need grace, hope, salvation, escape.
Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi saga Interstellar explores space in both of these senses. It’s an enthralling, provocative, ambitious film that comes at a time when space exploration has had some setbacks (recent rocket and space tourism disasters, ongoing cuts to NASA’s budget).
“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars,” says one character early in the film, lamenting that “now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” Interstellar is the rare film that forces deep consideration of “our place” in both the terrestrial and celestial spheres, though its conclusions are perhaps less satisfying than the cinematic journey itself.
Interstellar is set in a not-too-distant future in which extreme drought and other ecological changes—causes unspecified—are progressively making the earth an uninhabitable place for humans. Most crops no longer grow, the air is hardly breathable, dust covers everything, and America (the only country we see) has become a struggling agrarian society straight out of a Dorothea Lange photo.
Because the earth appears to be on a hopeless trajectory, NASA is actively and secretly developing an escape plan for humanity, but first they must find a livable planet. Thankfully a Dylan ...1