“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” – Arthur C. Clarke
You may have as a father, as an older sibling, walked into a lovely field at night, an open space far away from bulbs, mobile screens and headlights. With a canopy filled with far-away stars and the misty hint of our galaxy, the Milky Way, looking down, you may have had to face a jolly volley of questions –
“ Papa, what comes after that last star there?”
“Didi, does that star have another Didi like you?”
“Is there ice-cream on Mars?”
Few things fascinate us like the vastness and mystery of outer space. One way popular culture reflects this is from our own childhoods; glued to the TV screen by enthralling space fiction shows. So many of us have cherished adventure stories at the cosmic-level, showcased by T.V. shows like Star Trek, and by a host of movies ranging from Star Wars to Sunshine, all exploring in one way or the other, the excitement and vastness of the unknown deep expanses of space, chasing that near-eternal question : who is out there?
Image Credit – Aegaeus Mann, CC 2.0
Why you should watch Interstellar – again
First released in 2014, my wife and I were able to watch Interstellar only a few months ago. Christopher Nolan, who also directed Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy, explores time travel and it’s connection with deep human bonding and longings.
Spoilers alert: Plot twists and ending of the movie Interstellar are featured below. You’ve been warned.
The movie shows the journey of the protagonist Cooper, who leads a team of astronauts in search of a new home for humanity, which is facing extinction due to intense crop diseases and consequent disasters.
Crop disease? The nemesis of mankind? That was a fun departure from the stereotypical rogue Hollywood comet or belligerent mega-floods.
Mankind’s hope lies in finding a habitable planet near a giant black hole (a splendid representations of a black hole at that ). The way to get to this impossibly far location? A wormhole, placed near planet Saturn by a civilization called “They”.
The problem: Time management.
Travelling between planets that are close to a black hole and Endurance, their spaceship, will cause massive time lapse. For instance, the minutes they spent on the water planet cost them 23 years of earth time before they returned to the Endurance. The team has to choose between planets before time runs out. Will they find a habitable planet before mankind dies?
The other problem: Cooper’s promise.
Back on earth, Cooper’s daughter Murphy lives in a room in their house that she claims has a “ghost” who keeps pushing books off the shelf and makes patterns on dust. More on that later. She would just not let her dad go on a trip that probably has no return. Cooper promises her he would come back for her. We realise the implications of time travel along with Cooper. If Cooper returns at all, how many decades would have passed? Will Murph be alive? How will Cooper keep his promise?
Image Credit – Aegaeus Mann, CC 2.0
Solution: Cooper’s sacrifice
In order to let his teammate Amelia reach the last planet in time, Cooper sacrifices himself and the team robot TARS (a cuboidal but endearing character)by jettisoning their space rover into the centre of the deadly black hole. But instead of being crushed into atoms, Copper realises the blackhole had been designed for him to communicate important fifth-dimensional data to his daughter Murph using her bookshelf (which means he was the “ghost” in Murph’s room).
This information lets NASA create a space ship that could defy gravity and take all humanity to escape earth. Cooper miraculously reunites with Murph (who’s frail and old by now) on a space -station, and they ride into the space sunset. TADA!
Question: Who were the “THEY” who placed the opportune wormhole for travel and who created the technology inside the blackhole to help humanity achieve fifth-dimensional travel?
It’s explained that “THEY” was not another civilization, but humans themselves who had created the wormhole in the future and had sent the blackhole technology into the past to show Cooper the way to save mankind. Incredible/ Incredulous stuff brought to you by time-travel.
A turn in space-based science fiction
Here is the point. Space and it’s enduring mysteries have for long been awe-striking for us on earth. Interstellar represents a new genre, where mankind travels into the unknown vastness of creation to meet their better selves. You no longer need aliens in space fiction. We are good with just our awesomeness.
No morbid thrill of meeting a Xenomorph?
No Prometheus Engineer (I admit they’re creepy)?
No Star-trek civilizations?
That’s how I felt towards the end of Interstellar. I wonder if we humans will achieve much if all we find is sufficiency in ourselves. We have been created to look to Another above us. Maybe it’s our inner brokenness that makes us long for a world not on earth, for an Alien life that is not like ours. Is that why there’s such hullah about water on Mars and other “signs of life”?
“True life” that the Bible offers really doesn’t need us to search afar, but points to an alien, altogether different Person, God himself, who came amongst us and offered brand-new life like we never knew it (John 1:3,4,5).
The Interstellar idea that mankind is it’s own problem-solver and it’s own saviour manages to take away the mystery and charm that space has to offer.
I am all for scientific progress and I would like to watch this great movie again, but I would be SO bored to know that we headed out into a deep space adventure at the cost of many lives only to be greeted by .. ourselves.
I would rather meet Hollywood aliens any day. Not without a lightsaber though.
What did you like or not like about Interstellar? Write in your comments!
“The reason for ‘wasting’ so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our Maker, not us..” John Piper
Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name –so magnificent! so powerful!– and never overlooks a single one? – Isaiah 40:26, The Message