Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interstellar, a parent's perspective

It's hard to miss the abundant cascade of varying opinion and commentary on Interstellar, the ambitious, 3-hour, and somewhat-science-accurate flick by Christopher Nolan. One of my favorite commentary pieces so far was this gem on by David Christopher Bell, where he uses terms like "dream journal" and "frogshits" to further explain how people love to critique Nolan movies.  I think this is mainly because Nolan's treatment and assumptions of space, worm holes, black holes, quantum physics and the Future boldly challenges the viewer to keep up with the story or at least, act like they do.

So Ken and I being the dutiful nerds we are, went and saw Interstellar in IMAX a few weeks ago since it was shot on that format--but for what important reason, I know not. Personally, I think you could see it in a normal theater and not miss much, even saving a few dollars to boot.  But what it did get us was Matthew McConaughey's 6-story-tall crying dad face.

And that is what I want to talk about.

Most of the discussion around this film is about the science and accuracy of the film OR the Nolan-esque qualities of the film OR the strange choices Nolan made in making the film.  What I haven't been able to find (hardly) is a parental perspective on this clearly parentally-themed film.


Survival of the species=ultimate parental responsibility

Here is a single dad (McConaughey, known as 'Cooper') who leaves behind his home planet and children in the hopes that he can save the entire human race. It's a bet on the future--a better future--which is something that parents inadvertently do. (BTW, the 'parents' I refer to are the ones who stick around and do the heavy lifting work of raising kids) Any way, 'hopeful' is what it is to be a parent because cynicism has no place.  Being cynical, it is a scary, hypocritical path to wander down once you've brought a defenseless, innocent mini-me into the world so you'd better find a way forward.

Being a parent is also taking responsibility for the propagation of the species which Cooper's character embraces whole-heartedly.  As he goes forth looking for a new home for the human race, he is figuratively and literally providing for 'his family.'  He and his crew are also shouldering the decision-making about what does or does not constitute a suitable environment--just as parents do.

What's interesting is that there are great efforts taken to make sure everyone else on the crew does not have ties maritally or parentally. But Cooper's fatherly instinct and connection to his child is what ultimately saves the entire mission and the human species.  People who have connections were initially looked upon as a liability or disadvantaged but the opposite is proven true.  Also when Anne Hathaway's character tries to make a decision based on love instead of science, she's rebuked but is later shown that following that path would have lead a habitable world and mission success.

I cried ugly when dying, old lady Murphy (Cooper's daughter) and Cooper exchange some final words as she's laying on her deathbed.  She says that no parent should see their child die, and well, that's true--it's not the natural order of things and so she pretty much tells him to leave. Yet the movie has been milking the tension of 'are father and daughter ever going to see each other again?' So when they finally do, after so much has happened, after being absent from so much of each other's lives but then only exchange maybe 5 minutes of dialogue--it's just, just so frustrating and heart-wrenching.  Uggh!

Now I can suspend disbelief like the best of them. But one thing I just could not get simpatico about was the logic of sending all those eggs into space--with one female astronaut.  Seriously though, who was expected to bear and raise all of the new human race? Not to mention, how much radiation is everyone and all the eggs on the ship being exposed during the journey?  (I suppose this is just stuff that comes to me because of being so focused on fertility to achieve both our pregnancies.) But Plan B didn't make a lot of sense unless you had an army of surrogates or the helper robots TARS, KIPP and CASE were equipped with some mechanical uteruses.  I'm just saying.
(UPDATE: I've been informed that there was a one-line throwaway explanation that there were 10 artificial wombs on board the ship.  So at the end of the movie that leaves Anne Hathaway being Decamom, single mother to 10 babies on an alien planet. Let the logistics of that rattle around in your mind for a minute.)

In closing, once you become a parent you have skin in the game. The game being the success of the human race and specifically facilitating a sustainable and fulfilling life for your own offspring.  So I think that's why the movie struck such a nerve with me. Interstellar may shoot for distant worlds but it really hinges on what it means to be a parent in this one.

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