Interstellar: a timely ode to space conquest

  • AFP, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Nov 06, 2014 15:57 IST

It has not been a good week or two for space travel. But Interstellar, the new Oscar-tipped movie starring

Matthew McConaughey

, may just get a boost from the bad news.

Days after a privately owned rocket exploded on take-off for the International Space Station (ISS), followed by the crash of a Virgin spaceship designed for tourists, film-goers just might have space on their minds -- and pick Interstellar as their weekend movie.

If they do, they will see a moving ode to conquering space by Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight trilogy and the mind-bending science-fiction film Inception.

"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now, we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt," says Cooper, McConaughey's character.

Cooper is a former astronaut who has become a farmer, having abandoned his dream of space exploration to grapple with the crisis on Earth caused by giant dust storms throttling agricultural harvests.

With his daughter Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy as a child, and Jessica Chastain as an adult), Cooper by chance discovers an underground NASA lab secretly planning a space mission led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine).

He agrees to return to space to seek out a new home for humans as their old planet dies, via an intergalactic "worm-hole" near Saturn.

The only problem -- well, not the only problem, but one of them -- is that one hour on the other side of the wormhole equals seven years on Earth, meaning he risks never seeing his daughter alive again.

"For me, this movie is about being a father and how hard it is to leave your kids to go to work," Nolan told reporters in Los Angeles ahead of its general US release Friday.

Nolan has a daughter, Flora, whose mother Emma Thomas is the producer of Interstellar, which was filmed in Canada and Iceland.

The movie is also "about what I see as a kind of inevitability (for) the human race, this moment where the human species will have to leave the planet and find another place in the universe," he added.

The film comes out as the space community licks its wounds following the October 28 explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corporation rocket in Virginia, and Friday's crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo in California.

"I've been asked a lot -- is it worth investing in space travel rather than take care of the problems we have here on Earth?" said the 44-year-old filmmaker, whose past films include Memento (2000) and Insomnia (2002).

"I think that's a false choice. We have to carry on exploring the universe. And I hope within our lifetimes we'll be able to do more because I'd like to be around to see it," he added.

Visually, Interstellar is as spectacular and inventive as Nolan's previous films -- notably 2010's Inception, which explored people's dream worlds.

The movie was shot using old-fashioned film as Nolan is an ardent fan of celluloid, even if digital has become the norm in the industry -- especially for big-budget films with lots of special effects.

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