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…).    


  1. Literally cannot thank you enough. This is exactly how I feel to a T. I was absolutely blown away by the movie in theatres, and came out thinking it was one of the best things I had experienced in a cinema, only to go home and find the internet tearing it apart for the dumbest of reasons, despite being original, heartfelt, and mesmerizing, while other films are praised because the audience laughed. I'm essentially restating this article, but that's because it really did articulate my feelings perfectly.

  2. Totally agree with you. Came home from seeing it and did my usual internet search and was just really surprised at the amount of hate for it. It seems really unjust :/

  3. I agree with all of you and the best reason I can come up with for the hatred is that this is a movie that was "smart" sci-fi, which means it makes you think, and we as a society are very dumb in today's world. The hatred proves it. The movie obviously went over some people's heads and they literally couldn't understand or get it, so they felt the need to put it down, to make themselves feel better. What's even worse about this kind of "hatred" is that back in the day, a film of this kind, such as "2001" or "Blade Runner" would get bad reviews but they would usually be praised at least for the visuals, cinematography, sound, etc. The critics in those time were not dumb; well not all of them anyways. They would at least ACKNOWLEDGE the film was a visual feast but if the story fell short in their opinion, it fell short. That was that. Today, that doesn't seem to be the case. We have critics and people on the internet that think they are critics, trash a movie all the way just because they didn't like it. They can't see between the lines. Everything is black and white. An example would be this: I saw "The Godfather" and "Raging Bull" finally after all these years of hearing them being called classics and I wanted to catch up. Guess what? They both bored the crap out of me. NOW, THEY ARE GREAT FILMS. The acting, direction, music, story, etc. are all on top of the game. I CAN TELL THEY WERE MADE BY DIRECTORS THAT KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD FILM. BUT, the subject matter is not my cup of tea. They both bored me and I will never own these two movies in my film library at home. But I still had the smarts to know that these were good films, they just weren't interesting to me to watch again. See what I mean? A lot of people--and critics--today can't see between the lines. And that is what is wrong with the entertainment industry today. My dad says he saw a lot of this going on with the critics back in the 80's and it pretty much continues today. I would LOVE, LOVE TO BECOME A FILM CRITIC BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE "NEWBIES" AND THEIR REVIEWS OF FILMS IN THIS PAST DECADE MAKE ME QUESTION HOW MUCH DO THEY KNOW ABOUT WHAT REALLY MAKES A GOOD MOVIE/CLASSIC AND ALSO HOW DID THEY GET TO EVEN BECOME A CRITIC? However I believe that "Interstellar" will rise above all of this crap and will be remembered as a classic in years to come. "2001" confused people back then; they didn't know how to take it. It STILL IS CONSIDERED THE GREATEST SCI-FI FILM AND ONE OF THE USUALLY TOP 10 GREATEST FILMS EVER TO HAVE BEEN MADE. "Blade Runner"? Flopped back then, and we see what's happened with it now. "The Wizard Of Oz"? Another surprise in a list of films that flopped back when first released but have become treasured classics in the film industry. So, I say Christopher Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway,etc all need to ignore the trashings and be proud of this movie they've made. It will become a classic in years to come.

  4. 100% FANTASTIC Movie!

    I read the 'Note' to your review and your first paragraph; put the laptop in hibernate mode, got in the car and saw the movie; came back from the theater, read your next five paragraphs and wrote the above comment.

    Re the part of your review "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." I thought the humor/comedy in Interstellar was pitch perfect: sardonic, trenchant, witty, and revealed character in a pithy manner. I thought some of the humor was ironic on level with classic irony, socratic irony - the true meaning of what had been said was understood later as we, the audience, also understood. And the reveals of character as each scene unfolded or occurred in this movie not only deepened each character, but deepened our understanding of other characters who had or would face the same choice or situation. Just a brilliant script, and even better showcasing of that script through action or scene and character interaction.

    Don't forget possibly the best fully developed robotic characters in any movie yet, and their handling of humor, too. In my opinion, I have to go back to the TV series Lost in Space for a better robot character (you remember B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot). I left the movie saying 'If that's robotics, I want one."

    What this script and movie did not dwell on, handle or even use, was live 'human mob' scenes. What does the movie say or want us to understand about mobs of humans under pressure? There are none, there are no more mobs, armies, or faceless unknown people. There are townsfolk, or some small group of scientists hidden from the world: but there are no 'mob' interactions - everyone has a face, a connection to's tribal because there are so few humans left. What is left is human interaction: what you do or say has a consequence to another, immediately related, person; and each decision you make is life or death for the other AND all of this humanity (the tribe that is left). Old school human interaction, say circa 1200 AD Middle Ages, or circa 1650 AD American Colonies.

    Nolan has made a rare movie. Good for him!

  5. Finally someone WHO has a better knowledge about films. People are trying to bring this guy down just because he makes awesome movies..with different stories..Dont get me wrong but Tarantino makes same movies (blood, blood more blood. He is a great director though), same is the case with Cameron (sci - fi). Nolan has made different kind of movies..Insomnia, Memento, Batman, Inception and now Interstellar and thats why I like him more. His movies make us think about ourselves.

    I liked this movie for many reasons. when it comes to Nolan's movies, people find extra reasons to hate the movie and come up with silly things which I think is not a good thing. Critics poured their love on Gravity which sucked (Visuals were great, acting was great but there was no story at all. Its a good movie ; 70% I would say but 97% on RT doesn't make any sense..)

  6. This is exactly how I feel! Loved this movie, saw it twice, cried both times. Ironically I've been discussing this with my girlfriend (who hasn't seen it yet, but feels the same way) and made the exact same argument about this vs. the marvel films. I'm a comic book geek all the way and love those movies, but there's something wrong with our society when a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy (which I really liked), a movie pretty much all flash & one liners gets a 90+% with critics, and Interstellar a movie that really makes you think, and is visually and emotionally beautiful, gets such hatred and a 73%. Our society is ignorant. Like you, I watched this movie not knowing how it was going to end, I couldn't predict a thing...And I loved that! People who see the ending as corny and thought it was too happy are missing the point. It's pretty tragic in a way. He missed out on both his kid's is that a happy ending? Sure he gets reunited with her one last time, but still. Brand also never gets reunited with the one she loves...And (for now) is living on the thought she is the last survivor of earth and living in isolation while trying to start a human colony. All and all a great film. Wish it would win some awards, but it probably won't

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  8. Great opinion piece. I mentioned it (along with a companion write up of my own) here:

  9. I usually treat with a great scepticism things which most of people like,but I can not hide my adoring Nolan's works,he is a very talented creator. Everyone who I know fell in love with his Batman triology that had to be not a good sign if it were not made by Nolan.
    I like it very much how you describe his films as "grounded",this is a very accurate word.Besides their esthetic part, all the works are full of more than simple action,it is powerful,significant and real,as good as their dramatic lines.There is no typical for Marvel films fake drama filled with epic fightings(which look great anyway).You are satisfied after watching Marvel films,but they leave nothing in your head,nothing mind blowing or mind shaking, unlike Nolan's works, Interstellar in particular.
    I did not read your other reviews but I hope they are as good as this one.
    I wanted to wish you good films but none of them are bad(except some maybe). They just need to find their own audience.
    So, good reviews!