I’ve just watched Interstellar.
I’m a massive fan of the science and of all of the possibilities that come with advancements in technology and I see such an enormous realm of possibilities with each new step rather than just the evil black shadow of impending doom. But the translation of science into fiction isn’t as easy as just talking about robots and aliens.
For me, Interstellar was a great film dealing very well with some deep topics like relativity and the impending death of the species but it didn’t seem to maintain as strong a bond with the human characters as it did with the science. Indeed, the ending for Matthew McConaughey‘s Cooper, on the advice of his daughter, felt like a bolt on to the end of the story because it would have been a waste of Anne Hathaway for her character to not appear on screen one last time. As you’d expect in a film which deals with a topic which still has holes in the knowledge, the climax inside Gargantua could be open to interpretation but there seemed to be an almost desperate attempt to inject the required sentiment to the story which up to that point had veered almost totally towards the fact, not feeling, end of the spectrum.
To me, it highlighted that most delicate of tasks in storytelling, balancing the different threads of the narrative so you don’t overplay one at the expense of the others.
Have you ever read a book where the action was just all encompassing but the characterization just seemed undercooked? What about feeling absolutely for the characters but there not really being anything going on around them? What about if the world that the action takes place within was constructed so wonderfully in every way but is then populated by cardboard cutouts?
Factual accuracy is important to any story. If there are basic errors which the narrative relies upon, then this drags us out of the world the author is trying to create so the nuts and bolts can’t be overlooked, but you can’t expend all of the energy on information without adding much needed ballast to the humanity, to the central thread.
The human element, or at least the characterizations should you be dealing with robots etc. is what draws you into the story. I watched the Matthew Broderick Godzilla film when it came out and ended up feeling more for the creature than I did for the human cast because they hadn’t been put together that well.
In the same way, I ended up feeling more for the predicament of T.A.R.S., the robot in Interstellar, thaN the human cast as everyone seemed just a little too sterile, all just fact over feeling.
I commend anyone who goes to the kind of level of detail that the makers of Interstellar went to but for me, they could have benefited from a little more time making sure we cared about the people as well.