Contains nothing but spoilers!
There’s lots of impressive things about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and to a degree it made me want to go back and re-watch some of his earlier films and think more about his recurring obsession with time (plus the frozen planet is highly reminiscent of his second movie Insomnia, which I hardly remember at all.) It’s certainly all very clever, as you would expect, and technically accomplished but as per usual with Nolan you’re left wondering why the political vision of the film is in comparison so abysmally lacking.
The earth is running out of food due to The Blight, but despite this armies have been abolished. Oh aye? That seems unlikely. No ongoing resource wars then? No rich people stockpiling grub, no warlords sitting on top of dwindling fresh water supplies? Nope. But there is a benign secret NASA project to get man off the earth, this is despite the seeming loss of the questing American frontier spirit, as embodied by Cooper a last Man among Last Men, and his feisty daughter Murph, who gets into a fistfight over liberal revisionist histories that portray the moon landings as a hoax to sucker the Ruskies into a ruinous space race. Green liberals, here schoolteachers, would have us wallow in the dirt as farmers rather than head for the heavens, worrying all the time about squandering the world’s last precious resources when the earth should really just be viewed as something we use up in order to get out into space, fulfilling our godlike destiny among the stars. So essentially, in this film the world’s environmental problems are just absolutely insoluble but travelling through a wormhole into different dimensions then ultimately transporting the rest of humanity there, perfectly do-able.
Brand, the head of the NASA project has told a “noble lie” there is no plan to ship earthlings out, but to repopulate the new planet from scratch with some frozen embryos. Brand couldn't tell the humans this, they would never agree to go if it didn't mean rescuing their own loved ones and so have had to be tricked into it, sheeple that they are, though from a genuinely, scientifically disinterested perspective, why is the continued existence of humanity as a species of any importance whatsoever, unless, as the Nolans obviously do, you regard humanity as having some kind of transcendent value, to, in effect, be the meaning of the cosmos itself? Not merely the human as the apex of all existence, but specifically the ruggedly individualistic, American male, cornerstone of the divinely ordained American family with his love for his daughter and his powerful will, embodied in his unbreakable “promise”, a force powerful enough to shape and bend all of time and space to his ends. Better this than sitting quietly alone, waiting for the end, eh? Ah, man and his pathological sense of dignity!
And here lies the heart of Interstellar’s deep conservatism, remorseless natalism and nostalgia. Possibly the reason Cooper is so desperate to get those surviving on earth off planet is so that they can continue the great American project, maintain the sacred order of property, family, and tradition. The first thing Cooper sees on awakening in the space station at journey's end is some kids playing baseball outside his window in a dustless facsimile of 1950's USA. Paradise restored! Who knows, a whole load of awoken embryos might have decided to do it all differently?
But then again of course, being human, they couldn't. We might plunge through the event horizon and wind up in a five dimensional Tesseract, but that other horizon, a life beyond home and family, beyond the inevitabilities of reproduction, property, the grand kids at your deathbed, the couple, and that couple best expressed as love between a straight man and woman ( though in this the woman’s love, rather girlish and not to be trusted, leads them almost into doom, whereas Cooper’s love for his daughter is the force that ultimately saves us all), that horizon, internal, genetic, hard wired is impassable, breaching that, unthinkable.
In this respect Interstellar is just another conservative vision of American Renewal, a highly unlikely prospect that requires all kinds of increasingly epic torsions of time-space to seem faintly credible. One day, on distant stars, we will sit swilling beer on the porch with our robots, secure in the knowledge that there was only ever one way to live, one form of life we were just bound biologically into, which reached its apotheosis and then presumably went out into the Universe like a great cancer, strip mining and devastating everything it found, humanity metastasising identikit McMansions into the cosmos’s deepest folds.
This is almost certainly Elon Musk's favourite film eva.