ON INTERSTELLAR – RORY ROWAN

Rory Rowan shared some thoughts on Interstellar a few weeks back. I included the following thread (all on facebook; I edited out a discussion on Children of Men):

 

Finally saw Interstellar – what a load of guff.

The Nolans can certainly be commended for bringing some Big Ideas in to a mainstream blockbuster, as with the Dark Knight, and for their ambition in depicting worm holes, black holes, planets in other galaxies and so on, aided by some great special effects.

But as many commentators have noted all the interesting aspects are bogged down in repeating the specifically white American form of frontierism, with family love depicted as a force that is not only stronger than species imperatives but can cross dimensions in time-space and a particularly aggressive form of human exceptionalism taking shape within well worn tropes of American settler-homestead endurance/cowboy machismo (the NASA logos …).

There are some great touches though: Matt Damon’s turn as – the wonderfully named – Dr Mann (the Uber-rationalist who in his commitment to the human species over and above any specific human attachments, including to his own life, goes insane and is overtaken by the death drive – he would have stolen the movie if the next ponderous 90 minutes hadn’t almost erased the memory of this episode). Best of all however was the frequent mention of war having been overcome and militaries disbanded so as to focus resources on farming (after a period of resource wars). This is something I can agree to: LESS WAR / MORE SPACE TRAVEL.

Comments:

  • Rory Rowan The great shot of Cooper and Mann fighting in the vast icey tundra was very evocative of Goya’s ‘Lucha con Palos’, the painting on the cover of Serres’ ‘The Natural Contract’
  • Quinn Dougherty ^^ I straight up cracked up at that moment
  • Mathis Gasser I fully subscribe to your conclusion burroughs would have too
  • Anja Kaa https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/interstellar-review/

    Reactionaries in Space by Eileen Jones Interstellar celebrates American-style frontier expansion…
    JACOBINMAG.COM
  • Rory Rowan Thanks Anja, I saw this and largely agree with her critique of the cultural politics of the film although I am pretty sure she is operating a no ‘space exploration’ platform which I am not so in to.
  • David Rudnick Here’s my 2 cents… get ready folks… film criticism coming up…. Interstellar, is very bad
  • Rory Rowan I guess with these blockbusters the interest does not so much lie in whether they are good or bad but in the ideas (both implicict and explicit) they present and how they present them, given that they both reflect and shape to some degree dominant strands of thinking on all manner of things.
  • David Rudnick I think Interstellar is particularly egregious as its publicity campaign was centered on placing it literally among the forefront of human though, and that it ADVANCED SCIENCE.Its laugh-out-loud dumb in places, particularly in its woeful inability to contemplate societal collapse (the throwaway line about how NASA lost its budget because the military was *disbanded* during resource scarcity hinted at a lack of social intelligence so great it gave “Gargantua” a run for its money in terms of the biggest sucking black hole in the film). Also good was the implementation of the system of agricultural speculation first seen in Trading Places, a warm-hearted 80s comedy, where the world had only three crops, in an actual movie written by adults about the apocalypse.Edit – I just remembered Nolan’s “Dust Conquers All” expositionary strategy where, unable to articulate any political points of salience of what a human society in subsistent regression might actually look like other than No Apple Pie On The Drone Homestead, stuck post-it notes all over the script (which, in a demurring from standard hollywood logic, was just a J-Crew Fall Catalogue with pictures of Carl Sagan pasted into it) with DUST GOES HERE14 December at 16:25
  • David Rudnick *Any Given Frame* of Children Of Men contains more poignant insights into the next 50 years of political and social development than Nolan managed to bake into 4 hours of Imax tributes to Jodie Fosters Contact and Every Scene Around Jupiter in 2001 (only, please note viewers, for copyright reasons, in this movie, Jupiter has been changed to Saturn)
  • Rory Rowan Definite lol stupid in parts. There were several mentions of the demilitarization and to be fair the logic for NASA losing its budget was because the public (as if they would have the say) didn’t want to spend money on space exploration when faced with ecological collapse on earth (a real debate amongst some scientists and policy experts btw). The collapse of the crops also reflected a real possibility due to the massive dominance of a few monocultures in industrial farming in the US and elsewhere, and the clips of the people talking about how the wheat failed but corn survived were survivors of the real US dustbowl in the 1930s), so this was one of the least ridiculous parts. The redemption of humans as literal gods able to shape the structure of time space (the exchange of ‘they’ for ‘we’ towards the end) was really grating. This was a particularly disheartening brand of Prometheanism.
  • Rory Rowan I watched Trading Places again about 18 months ago and its a much better film that has some quite cutting social commentary on race and class very germane to the present.
  • Mohammad Salemy we can write a collective review of this. less war more space travel
  • Meur Sault Man, Interstellar gave me the shits big time. I think the idea was to get people interested in science and I’m all down for that, but I really resented the line drawn in the sand between EXPLORERS and NURTURERS, as if we can’t be both. As if we shouldn’t be both, as a society. As if to be a nurturer means to reject anything intelligent or curious or scientific. It was a movie full of holes that weren’t fun to try to explain away. And don’t get me started on the whole we’re-farmers-and-nurturers-and-yet-haven’t-realised-that-monoculture-farming-is-not-a-great-idea!
  • Rory Rowan ““Explorers, pioneers, not caretakers” was a really shitty line. Obviously they draw the line stark for the narrative effect but could have been made more nuanced to make a more interesting film. The account of Man as Gods via technology was so blunt and without any complications. Surely the admirable technological ingenuity could be put to use learning how to build just societies through adaption to environments rather than continuing to destroy the earth and hoping we can bugger off to space colonies that will be free of any social problems. The one or the other argument sets up so many limitations on what can be thought from the outset.
  • Meur Sault Somehow when you say it Rory it just sounds so much smarter. Also coz you got the quote right and I didn’t.
  • Rory Rowan haha, thanks but (i) its my job and (ii) I looked the quote up! I mean to say that those environments that we should learn to adapt to less destructively may eventually be off earth but there would be a hell of a lot of living on earth ‘in the meantime’ if it were ever to be possible, and indeed the very possibility would depend on finding other more sustainable energy sources to invest in trying to make it possible – something that inherently involves ‘care-taking’ (an ambiguous enough concept in itself as even the most Promethean conceptions of geoengineering are considered forms of planetary care taking).
  • Rebecca Bligh exactly. it’s such a patriarchal death-throe move, to despise caretaking.
  • Rory Rowan Its weird in the film. The main thing that really separates the sinister ‘thinker’ scientists (Brand and Mann – the names …) and the ‘doer’ pilot (Coop – who hates farming) is that the former want to keep the species alive over and above any social and emotional attachments, including to their children and even their own lives, whereas the latter realizes that love – or rather emotional and social attachments that take the form of heterosexual family units (including weird Oedipal structures) – is a phenomena that can cross time-space and hence acts as a bridge by which the species can survive. So the family and NASA end up being the only social formations that can survive climate catastrophe and produce human life off earth. There is some hint towards a state of future being that emerges out of humanity but transcends it but it ends with a sort of white picket fence suburbia environment complete with white kids playing baseball.
  • Rebecca Bligh have you read the Jacobin review?
  • Rory Rowan I mean it looked quite like Princeton, which was nice for a while if obviously creepy, but it would be a pretty sad state if humans developed the technology to develop spherical environments that could float through the cosmos sustaining life but their socio-cultural imagination was limited to old episodes of The Wonder Years.
  • Rory Rowan Yes, I think someone posted it in the thread above. Its good and I agree with most of it but I think its likely coming from a different place than me, as in, I am very sympathetic to space exploration but not to This space exploration!
  • Rory Rowan I really didn’t enjoy the film but at least it was useful in provoking thought.

 

 

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