|"Interstellar:" Silliness in Five Dimensions!
||[Nov. 18th, 2014|11:57 am]
I just saw Interstellar,
misdirected by Christopher Nolan (who did a FAR better job with Inception) and wasting the talents of starring Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, and David Oleyowo (who I really hope will do better playing Martin Luther King Jr. in the upcoming movie Selma). To say this movie was less than stellar is too charitable; I prefer to call it a really good attempt to show what pure down-home-American-Heartland-Hallmark-card silliness looks like in five dimensions.
Our story begins with widower-dad and grounded astronaut Cooper (McConaughey) coping with progressively failing harvests in a near-future American Heartland where Earth's entire ecosystem is collapsing under the weight of years of overpopulation and overcultivation, and threatening to take the human species down with it. One day Cooper's plucky ten-year-old daughter finds a pattern of morse-code in some dust that's blown through her window, and realizes it's a set of map-coordinates; so she and her dad drive to the location described -- and are promptly detained by a secret NASA cell (yes, that's NASA, not NSA), who are building an interstellar spaceship and need Cooper to fly its shuttle (and somehow didn't think to actually call him until he blundered into them). The NASA project is secret because NASA has officially been abolished; and because they need to look for another planet, to be colonized either by pre-existing humans ("plan A"), or by a truckload of frozen embryos ("plan B").
There are, of course, no such suitable planets in this solar system, and no way of getting to any other solar system with the technology currently known to humans; but it turns out a nice big wormhole has inexplicably appeared just a few miles past Saturn, and this secret NASA cell have already sent people through it to look for suitable planets at the other end (which turns out to be in another galaxy). When the NASA folks hear exactly how Cooper and his daughter found their top-secret starship-and-shuttle-factory (they could have just followed the exhaust plumes from previous launches, but they used coded messages from unknown sources instead), everyone realizes the wormhole had been put there by inteligent beings, who may be trying to give Mankind a leg-up to save ourselves.
And at this point, I'll just skip over all the myriad scientific-technical objections to this storyline (which have already been better covered by Neil DeGrasse Tyson), and go straight to this question: If the five-dimensional enlightened beings really wanted to help humans on Earth, couldn't they have at least put their damn wormhole closer to Earth? I'm nowhere near smart enough to speculate about the nature of high-tech starfaring five-dimensional beings, but I find it hard to believe they'd suck worse at three-dimensional geography than two-dimensional Americans.
And why are these beings unable to communicate with more than ONE human (the ten-year-old girl) by any means other than morse-code hints in windblown dust and books knocked off of shelves? They can build a wormhole from one galaxy to another, but they can't build a robot with a sound system to land on Capitol Hill in a big shiny spaceship and give tech-support in plain English? Why not put all their advice on a thumb-drive, like they did in Lucy, and drop clouds of them over every national capital on Earth? Movies like this make me yearn for the realism of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Or even My Favorite Martian. Why not encode their wisdom in kitten videos on YouTube instead?
This a pet peeve I've had with certain science-fiction stories where humans are kinda-sorta contacted by benevolent aliens: if you have to tie yourself in knots making it hard for two species to even say hello, just to add suspense to your story, then maybe you should consider writing a better story. This is, in fact, the stuff of religion: "We have the ultimate answer to everything, handed down by God himself, but we can't prove its validity because God speaks in riddles and code, so y'all just have to have faith and stop expecting us to prove anything." Putting such obscurantist bullshit into a science-fiction story is just plain unoriginal, and/or a lame attempt to inject religious thinking into a story. There's plenty of religious thinking and empty "spirituality" injected into damn near everything else these days; we don't need it in our science-fiction as well.
And from an interstellar-security standpoint, why would any species want to, first, allow our species to grow desperately impoverished on our homeworld, and then give us NO CHOICE but to migrate forth en masse and conquer other planets? I'm willing to believe that more advanced species would not hate humans; but I don't think they'd see any merit in allowing/forcing us to become Vikings with starships AND nuclear weapons. A far more sensible idea would be to take a page from Lao Tsu, and help us to manage our own biosphere (and perhaps our population growth as well) so we'd all be a bit less inclined to conquer someone else's and upset whatever interspecies social order is already out there.
I will close this article by assuring my gentle readers that I've given nothing away about how this movie ends. Yes, all the silliness I described above is just in the first half! The second half is even sillier than the premise. (And we're not even told whether anyone survived on Earth!) How much sillier can it get? you ask. You gotta see it to find out. But trust me, if nothing else, you'll like the visual effects. They contribute absolutely nothing to the story, but they're kinda cool. Not as good or original as Inception, but kinda cool.