Voyage to the Stars Blogathon

Thanks to John over at Hitchcock's World for sponsoring this out of this world blogathon. I hope John doesn't mind, but the only way I can make a space mission work is to scrap the idea of interstellar travel in lieu of interplanetary travel. The only way interstellar travel would be feasible would be if it were a long term, slow moving space voyage--something similar to the new SyFy show, 'Ascension' (or how 'Ascension' was supposed to be), in which a spaceship with its own ecosystem carries generations of people for tens of thousands of years. Then perhaps after 160,000 years or so, we would arrive somewhere fun. Who knows? Thus, the mission I would embark on would be a mission to terraform and colonize Mars. The team I have recruited is listed below. You can see more about the rules and my reasoning behind this decision at the end of this post. 
Tom Hanks in 'Apollo 13'

There is a quote from the 2009 'Star Trek' film that embodies Jim Lovell. Spock explained to Kirk the true purpose of the Kobayashi Maru test. "The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain." 

Lovell (and the fictionalized version of him) experienced that same fear, but still managed to keep control of himself and his crew. Lovell was smart, capable, and level-headed--everything you would want in a mission commander. Lovell kept his crew on task and never gave in to any drama. He had one goal-- to get his crew home safely. It certainly didn't hurt that Lovell was also an experienced pilot who could successfully fly a damaged tin can through space that had as much power as a coffee maker. As my mom would say, "they don't make 'em like that anymore." That's why Jim Lovell, as portrayed by a young Tom Hanks, would be my mission commander. 

PILOT - William Xu 
Daniel Wu in 'Europa Report'

Similar to Lovell in 'Apollo 13,' Commander Xu was also an incredibly competent mission commander/pilot hybrid, which seems to be a common redundancy on fictional space ships. It makes sense that a mission commander also knows how to pilot the ship. As both a commander and a pilot, Xu would be my choice as our ship's pilot. SPOILER: Lest we forget, Xu also sacrificed himself for the good of the ship. (Xu unbuckled himself from his seat to remove the water shield to reduce the speed of impact, which saved the ship, but led to his untimely demise.)   

SCIENCE OFFICER - Dr. Ian Malcolm 
Jeff Goldblum in 'Jurassic Park'

In the original 'Jurassic Park,' chaotician/mathematician Ian Malcolm was the smartest guy in the room (even among a group of scientists who had managed to genetically engineer dinosaurs). Not only would Malcolm be able to manage the scientific principles of space travel, but he would also remind the crew of their ethical obligations. It was Malcolm who confronted John Hammond in the best scene (in my opinion) in the movie.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now [bangs on the table] you're selling it, you wanna sell it. Well... 
John Hammond: I don't think you're giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody's ever done before... 
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
ENGINEER - Ryan Stone
Sandra Bullock in 'Gravity'

I've heard people give poor Ryan Stone a lot of crap for being such an inexperienced astronaut. Admittedly, I thought it was a little odd that a novice with only 6 months of NASA experience could go on a space mission, but I think director Alfonso Cuaron wanted to reiterate that Stone really didn't know what she was doing, but somehow managed to figure things out anyway. And isn't that incredible? Space travel is dangerous and unpredictable. My crew needs someone like Stone who can really think on her feet. 

Hugh Jackman in 'The Fountain'

Tom Creo was more of a mystical astronaut, but an astronaut nonetheless. If you've seen 'The Fountain' than you know that it's both weird and lovely, as are all Aronofsky films. I've chose Creo as my navigator because if Creo could navigate a star system in a big sphere with a tree in in, then he could probably navigate a proper spaceship. 

GEOLOGIST - Commander Doyle
Wes Bentley in 'Interstellar' 

SPOILERS:  Commander Doyle didn't really get enough time to shine, but he had enough sense to try to avoid the planet with the big black hole near it. I don't know, but that seems to make sense to me. So in that regard he was smarter than both Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). I've added a geologist to my crew list because I think we would need one if we were going to terraform an alien world. It doesn't hurt that Doyle is played by Wes Bentley. In fact, most of the men on my list are hot. I wonder why that is? Hmmm, I'm sensing my own bias.

SHIP'S DOCTOR - Dr. Gordon
Viola Davis in 'Solaris'

Dr. Gordon was not known for her bedside manner, but she was perhaps the smartest person on the Solaris research station. She didn't allow her emotions to cloud her judgement and knew when it was time to go. I think we need an on board doctor who is smart, capable, and pragmatic. Space travel is difficult and arduous, so Doctor Gordon would be a welcomed addition. It doesn't hurt that I absolutely adore Viola Davis.

SHIP'S MEDIC - Bishop 
Lance Henrickson in 'Aliens'

Every doctor needs a medical team. Bishop would be the perfect medic because he could be programmed with whatever knowledge you would want him to have. It doesn't hurt that he was pinpoint accurate, as was evidenced in the knife game he played with Hudson (Bill Paxton) in 'Aliens.' It certainly doesn't hurt that he could be ripped in half and still survive. So if someone needs to be sent on a suicide mission...

MISSION CONTROL - Commander Bowman
Carrie Anne Moss in 'Red Planet'

There really aren't that many mission controllers in the realm of scifi films, which is unfortunate. A few of my top choices have already been taken and I can't chose two characters from the same film. So I choose Commander Bowman from 'Red Planet.' Bowman could think on her feet when needed and she was tough. Bowman was also completely dedicated to bringing her crew back to the ship safely. Technically she was a mission commander, not a mission controller, but if I had my way, Bowman would be on the ground in mission control taking charge behind the scenes. 

The rules
1.) Assemble a diverse team of astronauts for an interstellar expedition. 
2.) Use characters who are "astronauts" in some sense of that word.
3.) Humans from our solar system only.
4.) Same character in the same role cannot be chosen for another crew. 
5.) Cannot use two characters from the same film.
6.) Include a banner in your post.
7.) Deadline is December 31, 2014. So there is still time to join!

Interplanetary Travel Versus Interstellar Travel
Manned light speed travel is theoretically impossible for various reasons. The primary three reasons are energy, insterstellar dust and gas, and distance: 
i.) The energy required to propel a spacecraft at these speeds is enormous and likely unviable, ii.) Interstellar dust and gas would likely cause extensive damage to any manmade vessel traveling at such high speeds, and lastly, iii.) The distance between solar systems is too vast. 
For example, it would take about 187 years just to get to our own sun and 160,000+ years to get to the nearest star systems Proxima Centuri and Alpha Centuri. And Proxima Centuri isn't all that promising since it's a red drawf and about 500 less bright than our own sun. Alpha Centuri has one confirmed planet, but there are no guarantees that the planet is habitable.
With regard to wormholes, there are also no guarantees that a wormhole would lead somewhere you actually wanted to go and traveling through a wormhole would most likely destroy any man made ship.  

Merry Christmas...And Don't Blink

Merry Christmas! I'm super happy to be done with final exams. I'm taking graduate classes and I just can't believe how busy I've been. Between grad classes, my little one, my husband, my job, and my other extracurricular activities, I haven't had much time to devote to this blog, but I am still working on my big end of the year "best and worst list." Please be patient with me!

In the meantime, I wanted to share the craft project I'm working on: "Weeping Christmas Angel." My primary reason for making this is my own is frugality. I'm all about buying stuff online, but when I saw just how simple it was to make your own weeping Christmas angel, I decided to do it myself. I must give complete credit to this wonderful 'Doctor Who' site I came across recently (Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey). It doesn't appear that she's updated her site in a while, but she had some really wonderful posts! So check her out if you're a Whovian.

I wish I would have taken a pic of the before angel, but I didn't even think about it. I just got out my can of stone spray paint and went to work. I bought a cheap Christmas angel tree topper, then I trimmed off some of the feathers and embellishments. Then I spray painted her with Krylon Stone paint. You can add a coat of clear sealer if you like. I then krazy glued the hands to the eyes. Easy peasy. Total cost with Amazon Prime free shipping was around $30. 

'Nightcrawler' Review - Heavy Spoilage

With a healthy serving of 'To Live and Die in L.A.,' a smidge of 'Network,' and a dash of 'Drive,' 'Nightcrawler,' draws you into the perverse underbelly of sensationalized news coverage. It's a brave effort and a brilliant critique of the American "news" culture, by first time director (and Rene Russo's husband), Dan Gilroy. If you've ever watched American news (both national and local), 'Nightcrawler' strikes a nerve. 'Nightcrawler' touches on the psychopathy of the 24-hour news cycle and...then some. It certainly doesn't hurt to have to great leads like Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Gyllenhaal does a good job channeling Christian Bale's Patrick Batemen from 'American Psycho,' while Russo channels Faye Dunaway's Diana Christenson from 'Network.' 

I set high goals and I've been told that I'm persistent
[Lou Bloom to Scrap Metal Yard Owner]

In a tour de force performance, Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a petty criminal with an ambitions streak, who uses violence when needed. Lou starts out stealing scrap metal and robbing security guards. When he asks for honest work at the scrap metal yard, the owner tells him that he doesn't hire thieves, which is slightly hypocritical, as the owner is still willing to buy from a thief. What's interesting about Lou is that he doesn't think of himself as a thief. Lou treats his thievery as a business. 

If it bleeds, it leads.
[Joe Loder to Lou Bloom]

Lou goes from one small score to another, barely scraping by, and living in a tiny and sparse apartment, until Lou sees a freelance camera crew led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) videotape two police officers frantically try to free a woman from a burning car. Most people would be horrified to see someone videotaping this instead of trying to render assistance, but not Lou. Somehow Karma has fallen down on the job and Lou has found his calling.

Why you pursue something is as important 
as what you pursue.
[Lou Bloom to Nina Romina]

 Lou's first few assignments don't go well. He doesn't know the police codes and his camera is not professional grade. He finally hits pay dirt with a fatal carjacking. He does things that other videographers don't (or won't do), he gets graphic closeups of the dead and dying. His lack of morality and willingness to do whatever it takes appeals to ruthless newswoman Nina Romina (Rene Russo). This is perhaps Russo's best work in years. 

Think of the news cast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.
[Nina Romina to Lou Bloom]

Nina shows Lou the ropes, and tells him what her local news channel is looking for, which is "a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut." She also tells him plainly what sells and what doesn't. What sells is urban crime spilling over into the suburbs. If you can't read in between the lines, she says it in even plainer terms, white victims in white neighborhoods. Nina touches on something that I've long said, which is that local (and national) news loves to pump the public full of fear, anger, and pit some groups against others. Modern day news loves violence, scandal, and lacks a sense of decency-- just like Lou. 

Congratulations, you're hired.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]

At this Lou excels and develops enough business to hire Rick (Riz Ahmed), who is also down on his luck. So down on his luck that he responds to a job ad that doesn't specify what the job is. There's some inference that Rick has been prostituting himself up to this point. The audience never learns Lou background, but Lou looks like he hasn't had a good meal in a while and has suffered various abuses throughout his life. One would think that he would be nice to his new intern/friend, but the opposite proves true. Lou is downright cruel to Rick throughout the film, paying him a measly $30/day even when Lou is now making thousands and enough to upgrade his 1980s Toyota Corrola to a brand new bright red Ford Mustang. 
He's dead. Get the shot.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]

Loder at first pokes fun at Lou, but comes to respect him as a serious competitor for the freelance news junket. Loder offers Lou some friendly advice and tells him to upload his footage via ftp to the server. Continuing the conversation, Loder offers Lou a job on his second team, but instead of politely declining Lou rudely refuses. Loder tells Lou that with a second news team, his group will cover more of the city and will always be first on the scene, which causes Lou to lose it. 

You took my bargaining power. You used it against me.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]

In one of the few scenes in which the "true Lou" is revealed, Lou controls himself until he can safely flip out in front of his bathroom mirror. Lou has other plans and doesn't intend to be anyone's second fiddle. Instead of letting the cards fall where they may, Lou sabotages Loder's news van, which causes it to crash, sending Loder to the hospital in critical condition. Lou is there to film Loder as he grimaces in pain and anger. Rick reminds Lou that Loder is one of them, a nightcrawler, but Lou doesn't care. The news is merciless and so is he. Lou is not necessarily a violent sociopath, but he is a sociopath who can be violent. 

I want what you promised me! I want something people can't look away from! 
[Nina to Lou Bloom]

Lou's intentions for Nina are soon revealed when he threatens to take his footage elsewhere unless she goes on a date with him. Nina reminds Lou that she's his employer and she's also twice his age, none of which seems to faze Lou. Lou's coercion of Nina doesn't stop there. Lou is smarter than he looks and does his homework on her. Lou knows that Nina is near the end of her two-year contract. She's a former anchor woman, turned news director. She never seems to keep a job past the two-year mark. Now Nina is near the end of her two-year contract of the worst rated news station in the area. Nina doesn't have anywhere else to fall. Nina needs Lou's exclusive relationship with her station and Lou wants Nina. What Lou wants Lou gets. Lou manipulates Nina into a sexual relationship with him. They're both bottom feeders feeding off of each other.

I'm starting a TV news business. I film breaking stories.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]

The climax of the film occurs when Lou comes across an active home invasion before the police arrive. Lou records two armed men kill three people. He records their faces, their vehicle, and their license plate as they leave. Under the guise of "rendering assistance" he goes into the house and records the recently deceased and still dying victims. Nina's vulnerable position with the network causes her to dismiss the ethical considerations of other (reasonable) people on her team, and air the footage.

You sat on it until you could get something you could film.
[Detector Fronteiri to Lou Bloom]

Any decent person would immediately turn the footage over to the police so the murderers could be brought to justice, but Lou isn't decent. Lou takes his footage directly to an increasingly desperate Nina to show her his prize. He demands a large sum for the gut wrenching footage or he will take it elsewhere. He also demands that Nina continue to give herself to him sexually, that his new company be given production credit, and that he be introduced to the news crew (including the anchors). All of which Nina complies with. 
You've gotta call the cops.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]
When the police do get wise, Lou reluctantly turns over his footage (sans the parts identifying the killers). Why you ask? Well Lou has other plans. Lou follows the killers around until he can find a better venue in which to shoot the video of their capture. Lou doesn't care if other people get hurt or killed. Lou wants to collect the $50,000 reward and sell the footage of the inevitable shootout. The chase scene that ensues is probably one of the best scenes in the film. It was a pulse pounding chase scene similar to other muscle car/noir films like 'Drive' and 'Vanishing Point.'
What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them.
[Lou Bloom to Rick]
After months of living in a garage whilst living off of $30 a day, Rick demands and gets a modest raise. When Rick finds out Lou's plans to collect the reward money Rick objects for moral reasons, but later demands that Lou give him half of the proceeds. Feeling trapped by the same type of blackmail Lou wields so easily, Lou sends Rick into the line of fire purposely so that he is killed. In Lou's most heartless moment, Lou films Rick as he lays dying.
What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you? 
[Lou Bloom to Rick]

Of course Lou takes this footage to Nina who wants to air it. A savvy police detective (Michael Hyatt) is on to Lou. She confronts Nina to turn over the footage, but Nina refuses without a court order. Detective Fronteiri accuses Lou of what we know to be true, that he set up the arrest so that he could film it. Now three people are dead, and a police officer is in the hospital. Detective Fronteiri accuses Lou of murder, but can't prove it. The movie ends with Lou failing "upwards," as he steals Loder's idea of having two news crews. Unlike Loder, Lou staffs the news vans with unpaid interns. 

I think Lou is inspiring all of us to reach a little higher.
[Nina to the Frank Kruse]

Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds to give Lou that "hungry" look. Gyllenhaal felt like Lou was "hungry" in more ways than one. With a 20 pound weight loss, Gyllenhaal makes Lou look slender and scummy. The weight loss also turned Gyllenhaal's slight bug eyes, into big bug eyes. There's a scene when Lou is degrading Rick that Gyllenhaal's eyes look huge and creepy. His facial expressions almost look non-human. I've always liked Gyllenhaal, but some of his commercial roles ('Prince of Persia') have put me off. With Gyllenhaal's recent performances in 'Enemy,' and now 'Nightcawler,' I hope he at least gets an Oscar nod this year. If there is one thing missing from 'Nightcrawler' it would be the soundtrack. 'Nightcrawler' did not have a pumping soundtrack like 'Drive.' 'Nightcrawler' was much more subdued and slickly focused. It could be seen as both a negative and a positive. 

I would never ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do myself. 
[Lou Bloom to his new interns]

It should be noted that just because Russo is married to the director, that doesn't mean she wasn't well cast. Russo nails her role as a cutthroat newswoman. It's good to see her back in the movies. Perhaps it took her freaking husband to put her in a great role like this, as the Hollywood machine seems to openly snub actresses like Russo, just because of her age. If you're not a young fame whore, then you don't exist in Hollywood. So kudos to Russo. It's rare and refreshing for an older actress to be the "love interest" of a much younger man. My final critique would be that all of the love scenes are inferred, so it would have been nice to see a love scene between Gyllenhaal and Russo. They had incredible onscreen chemistry. Nightcrawler is definitely the must see film of the year. Top marks all around. 

'Interstellar' Review + Heavy Spoilers

There are so few directors in Hollywood who are as ambitious as Christopher Nolan. And make no mistake, 'Insterstellar' is an ambitious film. It's also a beautifully flawed film and a pale shade of the film it's attempting to emulate, '2001: A Space Odyssey." The film begins sometime in the mid or late 21st century, perhaps 50 or 100 years from now. The world of 'Interstellar' is set in what looks like the American dust bowl of the 1930's. (I read somewhere that Nolan used actual footage from the Ken Burns documentary, 'The Dust Bowl.') 'Interstellar's world is in climate collapse and the earth's soil can no longer support it's population. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a widowed farmer with two young children and an aging father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow). He's also an accomplished pilot and an engineer.

Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here.
Professor Brand [to Cooper]

We learn more about Cooper's dying world through a parent/teacher conference between Cooper and the school principal (David Oyelowo). This is another thing I liked about 'Interstellar,' accomplished film stars were cast in even the smallest roles. Film stars like Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Red Tails) are just one of the cameos. The largest cameo comes much later in the film.

We didn't run out of planes and television sets. We ran out of food.
Principal [to Cooper]

Back to the parent/teacher conference--Cooper's daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) is considered a disruptive influence because she brings an old textbook to school that acknowledges the moon landing.All of the modern textbooks have been changed to reflect the world's "new" history. The revised history books claim the moon landing was a hoax to bankrupt the Soviet Union. NASA itself has been decommissioned, which may as well be the case nowadays. Seriously, what has NASA done lately? At least the ESA (European Space Agency) tried to land an unmanned spacecraft on a comet. That's incredible. NASA is living off 50 year old glory. But I digress, so the entire educational system has been reorganized so that dreamers refocus their attention on this world, not traveling to the stars.

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.
Cooper [to himself]

It's for this reason that Cooper's teenage son, Tom (Timothee Chalamet) is denied access to college and told that he needs to be a farmer like his father. Things are so desperate and farmers are in so much in need, that there aren't even MRI machines anymore. That's how Cooper's wife died. She had a cyst in her brain that went undetected. To cheer everyone up Cooper takes his family to a baseball game. It's here that we learn that the film is not set in the dust bowl of America, but in rural New York or perhaps New York proper. The Yankee's baseball team is now akin to a local high school with small bleachers. It's at the baseball game that we see a horrible dust storm overtake everyone.
Our destiny lies above us.
Cooper [to himself]

Back at the house, the "ghost" of the house is making noise and throwing dust around in strange ways. Despite what her teachers think, Murphy is an exceptionally bright girl, but she is convinced that the ghost is trying to communicate with her. She starts to take notes of how many books the ghost knocks off the shelf, which her father discovers is a binary code. That's not the only weird thing happening at the farm. Geocaching farm equipment and a agricultural drone, all hone in on the farm, as if driven there by some unseen force. It's this unseen force that reveals a set of coordinates that Cooper and Murphy follow.

We must confront the reality that nothing in our solar system can help us. 
Professor Brand [to Cooper]

They find a secret NASA base run by a skeleton crew that includes Anne Hathaway (Dr. Amelia Brand), Wes Bentley (Doyle), David Gyasi (Romilly), William Devane (Williams), Michael Cain (Professor Brand and Dr. Brand's father), and a sassy emotive robot named Tars (voiced by Bill Irwin). Professor Brand explains to Cooper that humanity's only hope is interstellar travel, which Cooper, as well as the audience, knows is impossible.
This world's a treasure, but it's been telling us to leave for a while now. 
Cooper [to Professor Brand]

Traveling within our own galaxy is hard enough. It would take 180 years just to get to our own sun, whereas the sun's light reaches earth in eight minutes. Proxima Centuri is the closest star system outside of our galaxy. It's also a red drawf with about 500 times less brightness than our own sun. It would take 167,000 years to get there. This is why interstellar travel is essentially impossible. Organic beings simply do not have lifespans long enough to make the trip and traveling at light speed is equally impossible.

Murph I love you, forever. 
Cooper [to Murphy]

"Theoretical physics" ENTER STAGE 1. Traveling at light speed may be impossible, but travelling vast distances through wormholes isn't. Although the most likely scenario would be that the spacecraft would be completely ripped apart, but this is fiction, not a documentary, and to be fair, an actual physicist (Kip Thorn) did come up with the concept for this film. And Nolan's brother and co-writer, Jonathan Nolan studied for several years at California Institute of Technology just to get the science right. So clearly these guys know their stuff, so the sciency bits of 'Interstellar' are actually quite intriguing. The problems emerge when the film departs from science and jumps into boiler plate scifi-movie-stuff, like time traveling through black holes. I mean, come on? If a human being or anything a human being made were to get anywhere near a black hole they would be flattened into pancake batter.

Everybody ready to say goodbye to our solar system?
Cooper [to the crew]

So the NASA scientists tell Cooper about a wormhole that simply "appeared" near Saturn 48 years ago. Dr. Brand believes an alien intelligence put it there and may have also guided Cooper and Murphy to NASA's secret lair. Professor Brand predicts that earth will succumb to starvation and suffocation, as all of earth's crops are falling to blight (a disease that typically just strikes tomatoes and potatoes). The last Okra crop has just been destroyed by blight and humanity's last remaining crop, corn, will soon be next. As blight grows best in a nitrogen-rich environment, earth is slowly being strangled of oxygen. Again, this seems a little shaky on the sciency end. I'm not saying that earth is not likely to face an ecological disaster--that is totally possible and unfortunately likely. I'm saying that they could have come up with something more fearsome than blight. Any atmospheric scientist could tell you that blight would not likely be able to suffocate the earth. If you wanted to invent an environmental disaster, take your pick, but blight wouldn't be one of them.

Potentially habitable worlds right within our reach.
Doyle [to Dr. Brand]
Professor Brand explains to Cooper that humanity's last hope is finding a new planet to call home. NASA has already sent probes and other spaceships through the wormhole and have discovered several habitable worlds. The problem is picking the right one in "time." It takes several years to reach Saturn, then space travel itself will cause time dilation. Geez, another physics term to explain. I hope I'm explaining this correctly. High school physics, don't fail me! Time dilation occurs with space travel. For example, when astronauts leave the earth they are orbiting the earth faster than earthbound humans. Thus, upon their return to earth they are a few seconds younger than we are. Well, if you multiply that distance by millions of light years, then a father could theoretically be the same age as (or younger than) his children when he returns. Hence the setup of 'Interstellar.'

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.
Professor Brand [to Cooper]

Cooper has long felt unappreciated as a farmer and former NASA test pilot, so he jumps at the chance to get back in the cockpit and pilot Endurance, which is the fourth interstellar spacecraft to go through the wormhole. Unfortunately Cooper's decision devastates Murphy. She never really forgives him even years later. Cooper is joined by Dr. Brand, Doyle, Romilly, and two robots that look like small versions of the monoliths from '2001.' It's an interesting take on artificial intelligence. The crew are placed into hypothermic sleep chambers, which is a nice touch. From what I've read online, the sleep chambers are hypothetically possible. Such a sleep chamber would put them into a hibernation-like sleep, called "torpor." It would lower their body temperatures to 90 F (32 C), which reduces their metabolism, caloric intake, and slows muscle atrophy. Then it's wormhole time. What I've described above are the best parts of the film. It's at this point that the film starts to lose it's cohesiveness, which is somewhat surprising.

We have a mission.
Doyle [to Cooper]

You would think the best part of the film would be when they actually land on an unknown world, but it's not. It's certainly dramatic, but problematic. The first planet they land on is water world near a black hole. Now I'm not a physicist, but if a planet is near a black hole named Gargantuan, that can't be a good thing. Not only does the planet have crazy tidal issues (like 500 feet/152 meter tides), but there's some crazy time dilation stuff happening here. Please don't ask me to explain it, but it has something to do with the theory of relativity. The gravitational pull of the black hole causes a time dilation for anyone landing on the planet. One hour on this planet is equivalent to seven years on earth on earth. It's here that the lovely Wes Bentley (Doyle) predictably becomes a red shirt and not even in an interesting way. Needless to say things go wrong, so when Dr. Brand and Cooper return to their space craft, 23 years have passed and poor Romilly is still faithfully waiting, somehow not insane.

You can't just think about your family. You have to think bigger than that. 
Doyle [to Cooper]

The most interesting thing to happen in this part of the film is the introduction of Matt Damon as Dr. Mann. Dr. Mann was a revered NASA scientist who piloted one of the first shuttle missions. He landed on a desolate ice planet, somehow lost his crew, and went a little cray cray. He knowingly transmitted false information about the ice planet to lure the other astronauts in. Mann knew that if he transmitted the correct data, that the planet could not support life, that there would never be hope of rescue. IMO, the other astronauts should have known from the moment they touched down that the planet couldn't support life, but whatever. Dr. Mann tries to kill Cooper, succeeds in killing Romilly, and then manages to accidentally kill himself when he tries to unsuccessfully dock with Endurance.

Love is the one thing that transcends space and time. 
Dr. Brand [to Cooper]

Meanwhile on earth, Murphy and Tom are all growed up as Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck. Murphy is still the embittered woman she was when she was 10 years old, only now it's not so cute anymore. In her spare time between pouts, she works at NASA herself with Professor Brand. They are working on an equation to help humanity leave earth en masse, which isn't explained very well. Cooper recognized that the entire NASA facility was actually a humongous terraformed space shuttle, which I assume would have difficulty clearing the atmosphere. It takes quite a bit of energy for a lone space shuttle to clear the atmosphere, let alone a biosphere of some sort. Still, although it's hinted that the earth's population is much smaller due to starvation, I still assume that the vast majority of the population would still be left behind..but it's not explained...

We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible.
Cooper [to himself]
When Professor Brand dies, Murphy realizes that that Professor Brand knew that there was no hope of solving the equation, and that plan B (which was was to transport fertilized embryos to a viable planet), was the true plan all along. I'm still a little unclear about this. If plan B was the plan all along, you would think that mission control would have sent a few more of us women folk, since I assume women will still be the ones to birth 'dem babies. So either Anne Hathaway was going to be a very busy girl, or that was another thing not explained properly.

If we find a home, then what?
Cooper [to Dr. Brand]

Endurance doesn't have enough juice to make it to the third planet and go back to earth so Cooper has to give up on ever seeing his children again. Cooper and Dr. Brand decide to send Tars the robot into the black hole to transmit data that could help the people on earth figure out the calculation needed to leave earth. Supposedly, the only way to figure out the equation is to gather data on gravity from a black hole. Ok, just go with it.

I'm not going to make it. 
Dr. Brand [to Cooper and Doyle]

It's a particularly desperate move anyway because as most people know, even "light" itself cannot escape from a black hole, so I doubt sound waves or other forms of transmission could escape either, but it's worth a try to save the human race. What I didn't understand was why Cooper decides to take a portion of the ship and jump into the black hole too? I didn't understand this part, unless it was just for plot development. If Tars is already going into the black hole, then why would Cooper break away and go into the black hole? Who knows?

Those aren't mountains, they're waves.
Cooper [to Dr. Brand]

But it's convenient and unlikely that Cooper falls into the black hole and isn't immediately crushed to death from the immense gravity. Cooper is pulled into a "tesseract," or a fifth dimension, and the singing group is no where to be found, but the "alien" beings are. It's akin to what Dave got pulled into in '2001,' but less spacey. In the fifth dimension Cooper appears behind his daughter's bookshelf. Cooper was the "ghost" communicating with his daughter years earlier. Time is relative here. The alien beings (who are future humans) exist outside of space and time. Similar to '2001,' they are lifeforms that have evolved past the three dimensions. Had the "aliens" interacted with Cooper in a different manner it wouldn't have been as bizarre. If they can survive black holes, then why couldn't they communicated with Cooper while he was safely aboard his ship? This leads me to my earlier point--time traveling through a black hole is just so cliched and kooky.

This is not about saving my life, it's about saving the human race.
Dr. Mann [to Cooper]

Whilst in the black home somehow Cooper is able to relay the equation to Jessica Chastain-Murphy. As soon as he does so he ends up floating in space near Saturn 50 or 60 years later. Luckily for Cooper, humans are orbiting Saturn and getting ready to jump into the wormhole. They also conveniently find Cooper minutes away from death. Cooper is reunited with his daughter, now in 80s and near death (Ellen Burstyn). Cooper never asks about poor Tom, and he spends like 30 seconds with his daughter, who tells him that she doesn't want him to watch her die. She encourages him to fly off to meet Amelia at the other planet. The end.

Decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race.
Dr. Brand [to Cooper]

Overall, I really enjoyed the first half of 'Interstellar,' I thought Nolan set up the first half of the film very nicely, even with the crazy "blight" stuff. I also enjoyed some of the spacey and metaphysical bits. The philosophical aspects of 'Interstellar' didn't bother me like it bothered other people. I actually like spiritual scifi films, so I'm not quite sure where 'Interstellar' went wrong or if it did go wrong? Maybe it's one of those films I just need to see it again? I guess my problem with 'Interstellar' is that it over epxlains in some areas, and doesn't explain enough in others. It also takes a few predictable turns. Yes, we get it space travel is dangerous, but did Nolan have to predictably kill off the only other characters of the shuttle crew who were NOT McConaughey and Hathaway?

Well, we got this far, further than any human in history.
Dr. Brand [to Cooper]

There are also some serious audio problems in 'Interstellar.' Or was there? According to Nolan, this was done purposefully? This makes no sense to me. If Nolan wanted the dialogue to be ambiguous, he could have done that with actual dialogue, not with most of the audience vocalizing a simultaneous "huh?" There was one scene with Michael Cain and Jessica Chastain that was completely inaudible. I've seen countless Cain films and I've seen all of Nolan's films, most of which include Cain. I've never had a hard time understanding Cain's thick Cockney accent...until now.

Maybe we've spent too long trying to figure all this out with theory.
Dr. Brand [to Cooper]

Another problem with the movie is the music. I personally like Hans Zimmer's minimalistic musical style, which has worked well in the 'Batman trilogy and 'Incpetion,' but it doesn't work so well here. Zimmer was clearly giving a nod to '2001: A Space Odyssey," which was cool. There is an "churchy/organ" chord played throughout the film. Again, it's a cool homage to '2001,' but it should have been coupled with more.

We find a way Professor, we always have.
Cooper [to Professor Brand]

The brilliant thing about '2001' was that it was ambiguous. Kubrick never bothered to explain anything to the audience, but he still followed the science meticulously. This fits in well with Kubrick's style, as Kubrick was a visual director. He told stories visually and wanted to provoke an emotion from the viewer. It's the reason that '2001' felt very spiritual to me, even though it was written by a staunch atheist (Arthur C. Clark). 'Interstellar' tried to be both a Kubrickian film and a "hard scifi" film.
We're still pioneers, we barely begun.
Cooper [to himself]

There's also a bit of confusion between hard and soft scifi. For those unfamiliar with the terms: "soft scifi" refers to science fiction stories that lack scientific focus. Think 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'The Walking Dead.' 'Battlestar Galactica' is set in a scifi world, but the show's focus is not science fiction. They never explain how the "FTL" (faster than light) drives work, nor do they need. The scifi world is merely a backdrop to the story. "Hard scifi" is the opposite. 'Interstellar' is somewhere in between. It tries very hard to be a hard scifi film, but it gets a little lost along the way.

Your daughter's generation will be the last to survive on earth.
Professor Brand [to Cooper]

Ultimately, 'Interstellar' is a love story between a father and his children, but it doesn't find the right balance between the scifi, the philosophical, and the love story. That's my main issue with 'Interstellar,' it's a good film, but I kept saying to could have been so much more. Overall, I recommend seeing it in theater. It's a beautiful thought-provoking film, with an intriguing story, fine acting, and good special effects. It's just not what I had hoped it would be, but it certainly had an awesome trailer!