Barry's Time Travel Review Score
Interstellar was the much awaited 2014 Nolan film. It was visually stunning and had a pretty awesome story line. The Interstellar cast includes Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in the leading roles, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine in supporting roles, and Matt Damon in short cameo. Was it Nolan’s best science-fiction work? I personally don’t think so. In that genre, I still think Inception was his masterpiece, it was an air tight piece of work. Anyways, back to Interstellar. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the film, the concept, the visuals, and everything thing that came with the package. I know the film was confusing for quite a few with the whole time dilation and predestination paradox, so we’ll go over the entire plot. In the end, let’s also address a few of the glitches that the film seems to introduce. Here are the plot, the plot-holes, and ending of the film Interstellar explained.
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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
Interstellar: Plot Explanation
What happened to Earth?
So the Earth has finally hit a point where a disease attacks all crops. Soil turns to loose sand and the world (read: America, clearly one cares about what happening in the other parts of the world) is now in peril. Gaya the spirit of the world can no longer stand the destruction plaguing our planet. She sent five magic rings to five different young people … sorry, we digressed. Bottom line, Earth is messed up, Nitrogen levels are increasing, eventually everyone will perish by suffocation.
Cooper is an ex-NASA pilot who is now living a life in the dust ball with his two kids. You can ignore the guy kid, Nolan ignores him too eventually. The girl kid is Murphy or Murph for short. Murph believes there are ghosts in her house trying to communicate. Cooper can barely keep his kids in school, either they are too smart or too dumb. One day, when a dust storm hits, Cooper and Murph notice that the dust is falling to the ground in a specific pattern. Cooper figures it to be Morse code and it seems to be coordinates for some place. He sets off to those coordinates, Murph sneaks into his truck. The coordinates lead them to NASA. A NASA that was deemed shut down many years ago.
Endurance And Beyond
Enter the other characters in the movie – Amelia, an astronaut in the making. Dr.Brand, a professor and Amelia’s dad. One Romily and a Doyle for added astronauts. The NASA folk tell Cooper that the gravitational anomalies are basically some extra-terrestrial beings trying to make contact and save the human race from extinction. There seems to have been a wormhole opened near Saturn. Since wormholes are not a natural occurrence, their guess is that it was created by the extra-terrestrial beings. NASA mentions that they have already sent out 3 people on missions to find inhabitable planets and relay back information about the planet conditions – the Lazarus mission they’ve called this. They have some readings from each of the Astronauts. Based on this they were planning to send a large centrifuge ship (called Endurance) on a mission to repopulate the best planet. Cooper lands just in time to pilot the ship, but he has second thoughts because of his kids. He decides to do it for the sake of humanity and his kids. Dr.Brand says he should finish solving the physics problem of the whole mankind escaping the Earth’s gravity to flee to a better planet, in the meanwhile. Standard rocket propulsion ain’t gonna cut it.
Cooper’s Mission Begins
Cooper says bye to his son, his daughter is throwing tantrums about him going. She deciphers from her book stand a message in Morse code from her ghosts. The message reads STAY, Cooper goes. Cooper joins the crew of Amelia, Romily, Doyle. They also have two robots with them – CASE and TARS. After a two year journey to Saturn, they now head for the worm hole. They get constant video messages from their families and send back responses. They enter the wormhole, as they do Amelia gives what she calls her first handshake to an extra-terrestrial presence. The crew has two plans. Plan A – find a suitable planet based on the info from Lazarus, head back and get the rest of the planet. Plan B – screw the rest of the planet, they are carrying with them a set of human fertilized eggs, the population bomb, use that to create the human species on some poor unsuspecting planet and start over.
The wormhole here is a shortcut in space, but not time. Once they reach the other side, they are still in the same time as that on Earth. The problem however is that the first planet in their list is very close to a black hole – Gargantua. This means that as their centrifuge ship goes closer, their relative time will become much slower than that on Earth. Visiting this planet will cause everyone on Earth to age too much. Cooper suggests an alternate route of heading on the centrifuge till a point and then using the pods to enter the planet to investigate. They would lose a few years on earth, but not enough that everyone back home is dead. Cooper, Amelia and Doyle head in the pod.
Once they set foot on the planet, they realize that it has only water on it and giant tidal waves. Miller, from the Lazarus project has perished and in the attempt to collect her transmission device, Doyle gets killed and the pod gets flooded. They lose more time and when they get back to the centrifuge ship to realize 23 years have passed. Romily has aged, everyone on Earth has aged. Big screw up. Miller’s transmissions looked like they came a while ago, but they were transmitted merely minutes before their pod got on the planet. The relatively slow time gave the impression that the readings came a while back.
23 Years of Time Dilation
Back on Earth, Amelia is now a grown woman, working with Dr.Brand on the gravitation problem. She decides to send out her first message to her father because she is now the same age as Cooper when he left her. Cooper sort of promises that’s when he’ll be back. Soon, Dr.Brand starts fading as a result of old age, and tells Murph that he lied about the whole thing. The equation cannot be solved without the black-hole information. There is no getting information from the inside of a black hole. He sent the team only keeping in mind the hope of the “population creation” and expects people of earth to perish. Murph earlier notices this about his equations – that Dr.Brand has not bothered keeping time a variable while solving it. She relays information to the centrifuge saying Dr.Brand has passed and that his daughter knew about the unsolvable equation. She accuses Amelia of the knowledge that they had left Earth and its people to die.
Back on the centrifuge, they decide to go with Dr.Mann’s planet as his signals are more promising. Cooper and Amelia have an argument about this. Cooper wants to pick Dr.Mann’s planet as it does not have any major impact on relative time and Cooper can get back to his family. Amelia was in love with Dr.Edmund and hopes he’s still alive. However, that planet is close to the black hole and will have consequences to the relative time. Basically, they need to pick between the planets as there are resources on the centrifuge ship for only 2 trips. If they check out both planets, then there is no going back to Earth. Cooper wins; they head to Dr.Mann’s planet.
On landing, Dr.Mann is Matt Damon, ooooh the well-kept secret. Mann’s in cryro-sleep. They wake him up. He shows them about the awesome planetary readings. They are all happy. Murph’s message comes to them now. Amelia didn’t know about the fact that her dad was lying about solving the gravity equation. Dr.Mann too knows about the lie and says there was never any hope for Earth. Amelia apologizes to Cooper and asks him how she can help. Cooper obviously gives up and says he wants to go back to Earth to his family.
Dr.Mann Has Been Lying
Dr.Mann and Cooper take a stroll in the planet and voila a twist. Dr.Mann announces to Cooper how all the data sent by him was fudged. Mann just wanted to be rescued of the planet. There is no chance of a survival on the planet. It has too much Ammonia. Mann decides to kill Cooper and take the centrifuge on its final journey to Dr.Edmund’s planet and perform the population bomb thingy. Mann rigs the base to explode and Romily gets blown up. Mann escapes with the pod to the centrifuge ship. Amelia saves the suffocating Cooper. They take the other pod and chase after Mann. Mann gets to the centrifuge and tries to dock manually; he fails and gets blown up. In the process he sets the centrifuge into a spin. Cooper performs a spinaroonie with the pod and docks with the centrifuge and stops the spinning.
The Sling Shot
The centrifuge is busted and there is no way to get back home to Earth. Cooper has one final plan. By using the gravitational pull of the black hole Gargantua, they can try a sling shot to Dr.Edmund’s planet and work on the population bomb. In the process, they prep TARS to drop off into the black hole and relay out the information required to solve the gravity equation. Just as they are preparing for the sling shot, Cooper also disengages to drop off into the black hole. The extra weight he and his pod add to the centrifuge will not allow the sling shot to happen. Yes, a sacrifice.
Interstellar: Ending Explained
5-Dimensional Space Explained
Cooper gets pulled in and his controls start giving up on him. He then ejects and just as he’s heading to his death, he suddenly finds himself in a tesseract of multi-dimentions. Here time is non-linear. He is at Murph’s bookshelf through various points in time. He can see a young Murph on the other side. Cooper tries to send out messages to Murph using the books in Morse code. Gravity is something that transcends space time. He tries to get the message across by saying – STAY. He realizes that he is actually Murph’s ghost. He also realizes that Murph is the one who the extra-terrestrial beings are trying to reach out to. He also also realizes that the extra-terrestrial beings are in fact humans from a future time who have evolved into multi-dimensional beings and are simply trying to create the event that saves the human race from extinction on Earth. The multi-dimensional humans have built this tesseract to save Cooper and help them send a message across to Murph.
Solving The Gravity Problem
TARS resumes communication with Cooper saying he is unable to transmit the black hole information out. Cooper realizes his role in all of this. He is the bridge that the multi-dimensional humans are trying to use to get the black hole information across to Murph to ensure their own survival. Cooper is able to identify at which point in time and where he needs to send the information so that Murph will identify it. Cooper gifts Murph a watch, which he knows she will keep dear to her. He relays the information of the black hole to the watch’s second’s hand in Morse code. He does this by altering the gravitational fields around the watch. He relays this information to the watch of the grown up Murph who is working on the solution of the gravity problem. The multi-dimensional beings are unable to pin point how the message can be sent to Murph. Cooper’s help is required for this as it is his love for Murph and vice versa which helps him locate the way in which he can relay back the information. As he expects, Murph puts together that the ghost is in fact her father and he’s trying to communicate from another timeline via the watch and book stand. She collects the information from the watch heads towards the solution of the gravity problem. She succeeds.
Journey To Dr.Edmund’s Planet
Cooper’s job is done, the tesseract starts dismantling and he is thrown out of it and exits back at the mouth of the wormhole near Saturn. As he does, he passes the time when Amelia does her handshake. Amelia was merely witnessing Cooper passing by in another timeline. Cooper gets picked up by a NASA station nearby. Though Cooper has not aged, being in the black hole has cause more time to pass for Earth people. Murph is now very old and is on her death bed, she meets with Cooper. She confirms that he was her ghost. She asks him to go unite with Amelia who had headed to Dr.Edmud’s planet. Cooper steals a NASA craft and heads out while Amelia is shown setting up camp on Dr.Edmund’s planet alone. I believe Dr.Edmund is dead, after all he would have been the first to set foot on that planet.
Interstellar: Plot Holes And Gaps
This section is up for discussion, there is going to be some subjectivity.
- Dr.Mann’s story – well this wasn’t a plot hole, but the time they spent on him didn’t have any effect on the story other than the cool spinaroonie. They could have done without the hassles of the second planet, it didn’t really add to the story much.
- Relaying the information of a black hole through Morse code to a watch’s second’s hand. This is going to be tonnes of data! How long would the data need to be relayed for? Murph is shown seeing the watch with the “broken” second’s hand and ignoring it. Since the information has been relaying for a while, she’s obviously going to miss a good deal of the information. Tonnes of Morse code data could take any amount of time to construct into usable information. It appeared to be a weak mechanism to send the data through. Mysterious how Murph put together a solution with only portion the data. Ideally she would have had to put it down on paper the minute the seconds hand started “malfunctioning”.
- The gravitational forces in a black hole are so high that light can’t find its way out. Going in to it would mean getting sheared into bits and pieces. Not comfortably ejecting out and floating towards the center. Yet Cooper stays in one piece while entering the black hole.
- This again is not a plot hole, just a point to note. Amelia doesn’t enter the black hole. Time for Cooper passes much slower than Amelia’s. This is why Murph is on her death bed after Cooper exits the black hole. Amelia too would have aged significantly or perhaps even died on Dr.Edmunds planet by the time Cooper gets there.
- Funny that the tidal waves had such high crests and the trough was merely 2 feet of water. Wouldn’t there need to be sufficient depth for the waters to rise that high. If it was because of the gravitational pull of the black hole, how does that not affect the crew too? They seem to be able to walk around on the 2 feet deep water with out any upward gravitational forces.
- If the plan was anyway going to be Plan-B, the Lazarus people knew of this, they could have simply each taken a bunch of fertilized eggs and started a colony of humans in which ever planet was suitable. Why build a centrifuge ship and send it with a bunch of fertilized eggs in it as a second step?
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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