Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Even-minded (Hopefully) Rant in Response to the Internet's Hatred of "Interstellar"*

*Note: This actually started off as my review of Interstellar, but it quickly devolved into responding to some negative stuff I came across online in videos and IMDb message boards.  I usually only passingly refer to that stuff in a review, but I feel a bit passionate about this movie, so here's 1,500+ words about it.  I'll get around to a review in a bit.  Also, this rant is inspired partly by the message boards for Dumb and Dumber To.  I went to those boards hoping to find the kind of hate I found on the Interstellar boards.  Not to disagree with, but to sympathize with as I thought that movie was abysmally unfunny.  What did I find?  The majority of the posts were defending the movie telling the haters (i.e. me) that we set our expectations to high and should just take it easy and enjoy  the comedy.  I'll explain why that situation is different than this one in my review of Dumb and Dumber To.  But seriously, internet, that's the movie you defend?
Watch out, McConaughey, you might step into one of those mythical "plot holes."

Ambitious.  A technical masterpiece.  Breathtaking visuals. Blah blah blah.  It seems like Christopher Nolan films have now reached a point that the review, positive or negative, has to state these things.  It always surprises me that people who hate his films will praise Nolan’s work as much as people who love them before they turn their sights on the “plot holes” and other “problems” the film has.  Interstellar is seemingly given this treatment simply because Christopher Nolan directed it.  Nolan, to be fair, kind of brings this on himself.  He has this super-serious quality to him (he wears a suit nearly every day on his sets), he is very secretive about his projects (he reportedly would not let some cast members keep a copy of the script before filming), and he has made enormously popular films (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception).  He’s all but asking people to nitpick his work and hold his films to a higher standard.  That said, I am one of those people who expect a lot from Nolan’s work, and I found “Interstellar” to be one of the best films of the year, on both a technical and emotional level.

Interstellar is labeled as ambitious for multiple reasons.  First, it’s a film about saving the human race.  Second, it mixes complex science with emotion.  Because of this second aspect, many have labeled the film “too” ambitious, implying that Nolan is unable to resolve any questions put forth by this film.  This is incorrect, however, because there are not that many questions in the first place.  The main query of the film is, “How can the human race survive beyond the planet?”  Interstellar provides the answer to that question.  Detractors simply don’t like the answer given or are not following the film closely enough to pick up on other “answers.”  That is fine, by the way, as the answer of the film is arguably cheesy and sentimental.  It’s just annoying to see a word like “ambitious” used to negatively describe something.  If you don’t like it, fine.  Don’t sugarcoat it to the point that it sounds like you can’t make your mind up.  Because, honestly, what film out there is not “ambitious”?  Are the rest of the movies made by a bunch of slackers who don’t ask and answer questions, or who don’t care if their film is successful or not?    

Before I go on, let me explain my defensive posture for this film.  I watched Interstellar over a week ago and loved it.  It did leave my head spinning a bit, though.  The science of the film along with some stuff about five dimensions and whatnot had me a bit confused.  So I decided to check online for thoughts and theories about the film.  I was surprised to find that the internet movie community (at least the loud part of the community) hated the film or were very dismissive of it.  Many people point to “plot holes” as the main reason for the film being “stupid.”  I watched a video by Screen Junkies on YouTube (not the height of criticism, I know, but certainly a good source for the opinions of the internet movie community) in which the majority of the participants (four out of five) disliked the movie (though they all acknowledged that it was very pretty and ambitious).  In that video, one person talks about a “plot hole” involving a character’s evil actions.  This character turning evil was a “plot hole” to him because (SPOILER) that person had been called “the best of humanity” by another character.  So his rationale is that when it is stated on screen by a character, it must be true.  First off, this logic is incorrect because the character is a person, and people are often wrong when judging another’s character.  Second, why do we take one character’s line as gospel, but dismiss other characters’ lines because we think their logic is “stupid”?  So only certain scientists (the majority of the characters are scientists) are to be trusted?  It’s never established which scientists are to be paid attention to and which are to be ignored. 

Am I being nitpicky with my mini-rant above?  Absolutely, and that’s the point.  It is okay to hate a movie, but to judge it based on the director or how it is being presented to the public is ridiculous.  There is no reason why Interstellar should be picked apart to this degree.  Some claim that since the film is serious and asks big questions, then it should be held under a magnifying glass.  I agree if that scrutiny is for the science that the film almost brags about.  But no one is making any substantial claim to the science being wrong (and people like Stephen Hawking support the film).  Instead, they take issue with the plot.  They question why the characters are going to a risky planet, even though the characters discuss such issues at length on screen!  They complain about the blight in the film and wonder why they don’t just fix the blight when the film has established there is no solution (that information they ignore).  The equivalent of this would be like watching Star Wars and taking issue with Luke leaving with Obi Wan after his aunt and uncle are killed.  “Shouldn’t Luke stay home and deal with the funeral and estate of Owen and Beru?”  “Is he really just going to take off with some crazy hermit on a space adventure?”  Both of these are questions you can certainly ask.  You can even dislike the movie for Luke’s decisions.  But you don’t get to claim it’s a “plot hole” that makes the movie stupid.  Disagreeing with a character’s actions is not a “plot hole,” it’s just something you disagree with. 

The other problem (internet) people have with the movie is the time paradox created by the ending.  (SPOILERS, obviously)  So it turns out that the wormhole they go through was actually created by humans in the future, but how do the humans of the future exist without the wormhole?  There is no explanation for this, which is why the word “paradox” exists in the first place.  Nearly every movie with time travel has this element (see Terminator).  It just comes with the territory of science-fiction and time.  But I would argue that this film at least tries to explain it (Terminator never does; we just accept it) with all the fifth dimension stuff after McConaughey goes through the black hole.  He enters a place where time is a physical object that can altered.  Still, how does he get to this fifth dimension without the wormhole?  I don’t know…science?  Seriously, though, when you start nitpicking films that feature time travel/alteration you’ve entered troll land.  It is science-fiction, after all.  Sure, Nolan wears a suit, and his films are usually super-serious, but he’s still not claiming to be making 100% realistic movies.  He’s trying to make entertaining, interesting films grounded in reality and science.  If you don’t find them entertaining or interesting, fine, but don’t spout off about “plot holes” and paradoxes in this film while you sing the praises of whatever Marvel movie comes out next.  Full disclosure, I love the Marvel movies, but they get a pass because they are meant to be “fun,” and Nolan’s films get picked on because they don’t feature enough comedy.  Speaking of which, when is the internet going to turn on the Marvel universe, anyway?  Now that it’s beloved by seemingly everybody, isn’t it time for the internet to despise it?  That seems to be what’s going on with Nolan these days.  He makes a movie the internet loves (The Dark Knight), and his next few movies receive more hatred than any other films in the genre.

To finish up this messy response to internet hatred of a film I obviously really liked, let me just state that maybe we should be more thankful of Nolan’s films and less nitpicky.  Everyone goes on and on about the lack of originality in Hollywood, yet here’s Nolan directing films based on original scripts.  Sure, he is obviously influenced by other films, but at least Interstellar wasn’t a comic book or old TV show first.  I want him to continue to make “ambitious” sci-fi movies about new things that I don’t already know about.  I love all of the comic book movies coming out, but is anyone truly surprised by anything that happens in them?  Were you shocked when the Avengers put their differences aside and saved the world?  I had no idea what Interstellar was really about until I watched it.  I knew the ending of The Avengers before they even announced the movie: the good guys win.  Once again, I’m okay with the Marvel movies, but why heap so much fun-loving praise on them while we try to destroy one of the only big studio film’s not tied to Disney or some other existing property?  As I’ve been saying, it’s fine by me if you hate Interstellar, just hate it for the right reasons (not that I would agree with any of those reasons…).    

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