Unlike Christopher Nolan, I’ll make this fast.
It’s not the acting (which is actually quite brilliant on all counts) or the father-daughter love (which is super) or the gravity/quantum physics/time travel (none of which I really understand) that bother me. It’s that Interstellar is such a theological disaster.
My Facebook feed is popping with excitement as movie-watching friends spy the death and resurrection themes, and yep, I see them too. (Christopher Nolan, obligingly enough, keeps bringing up Lazarus in case we forget.) But these motifs are just hitching a ride on the back of bleak, evolutionistic crap.
Interstellar’s universe is completely closed; a hard, Darwinian fist. Nolan keeps cracking open the door to the idea of an Author, letting us peep through wonderingly, before at last slamming it in our faces. Whom should the heroes thank for putting that black hole in space? Um, no one. Or rather, that’s one question Nolan raises and never answers. The heroes just save themselves—quoting themselves silly on Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night.” Christians may baptize the ambiguous poem for their own use as they choose, but it’s pounded to a pagan beat here, as if survival were somehow a noble undertaking in this godforsaken universe.
Evolution is the name of Interstellar’s game and there isn’t a noble bone in its body. Evolution is selfish and desperate; evolution is Dr. Mann. The whole point is shedding the exoskeleton of our doomed forefathers in order to become something better; who gives a fig for Lazarus? It marches blindly into a hopeless night, droning:
Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.
— C. S. Lewis (Read the rest.)
What Christopher Nolan has created is a black hole: vast and empty, lots of raging, little light. If you want to watch an infinitely better film about space that will leave you grateful and exhausted (in half the time), watch Gravity.
I think you’re missing a lot of hints to the contrary if this is what you took away from it. A recurrent theme of the film is that evolution cannot make sense of love, a transcendent force that extends through time and space and actually seems to fly in the face of the principle of survival of the fittest.
The movie opposes the evolutionary logic—it’s the future of the race that matters, not your silly loved ones (Dr. Mann, ultimately Prof. Brand)—against the logic of love: only by loving another human being can you actually save the race.
Thanks, Brad. That’s a good point, though I’d say that the evolution vs. love tension throughout the movie is never satisfactorily resolved (despite Cooper going back for Brand). Even if the movie winds up opposing the evolutionary logic, it has nothing really deep enough to offer in its place. Given the nature of the movie’s theological debate and how explicitly they raise the God question (only to put future man on His throne), love (no matter how transcendent) isn’t good enough.
Fair enough, but in such cases, I think it’s up to us to pick up on the hints and show how we can offer a more compelling answer to the dilemmas the movie leaves itself than it seems to offer itself. Build up rather than tear down and all that. So, as far as “putting future man on his throne,” here’s what I just said in an email to a friend:
“Well, as always, I think Nolan leaves things a bit open-ended. The robot, TARS, says “Only they could’ve done this” (created the tesseract and such); Coop retorts that they must be the human race’s descendants, evolved into the fifth dimension or whatever. But who’s to say he’s right. As incomprehensible as a five-dimensional being is to begin with, it’s far more incomprehensible that a three-dimensional being could somehow evolve into one. I doubt Nolan or any theoretical physicist actually believes that. However, these beings sound an awful lot like the eldila of the Space Trilogy—i.e., angelic beings, or what we will become after our glorification. Or actually, when Cooper is describing them as beings for which there is no past and no future, or whatever (again, I’ll have to see it again to the get the quote right), like God himself. So, it’s one of those things where I say—if Nolan really thinks that Coop’s interpretation is right, then yeah it’s Pelagian and silly. But a Christian interpretation makes a lot more sense.”
Sounds viable! One of the things I do enjoy best about Nolan’s movies is how they make you think—even if I disagree with what I conclude his conclusion to be.