Friday, January 23, 2015

Interstellar (Part One): Utopian Dystopia

If you haven’t seen Interstellarand you’re the kind of person who hates even mild spoilers, stop reading now!

Are they gone?  Okay, let’s get started.

Interstellar is one of the best philosophical science fiction movies to come out in the last several years.  (At least it's the best of those that I’ve seen, maybe you can suggest others?)  There’s so much to think about, from mind-bending physics, artificial intelligence, environmental issues, and much, much more.  There are also some things to criticize, such the film’s apparent identification of the human race with mostly white Americans (how do they know that the Indian, Chinese, European, or Russian space programs didn’t already save the human race?).

In any case, I’d like to concentrate on two issues, one in part one and the second in part two.

Dystopias are all the rage these days.  One thing I appreciate about Interstellar is that it shows us a path out of dystopia to something better, perhaps even utopia.  And it doesn’t require teen-agers thrust into guerrilla warfare (The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.) or regular people inexplicably imbued with fighting skills that would impress warriors from Achilles to Rambo (The Walking Dead, every zombie movie, almost every post-apocalyptic story, etc.).  To get through the dystopia of Interstellar, you just need some smart, resourceful humans (and a few robots) with the vision, the will, and the knowledge to get us into space.  

Maybe this isn’t as sexy as revolution or zombie slaying, but this is far more hopeful and less prone to produce sophomoric worship of violence and simplistic narratives of revolution (the revolution may be televised, but it’s never as clear-cut as it is in the movies).  Interstellar shows that we just might survive, even in the face of a potential extinction due to an environmental catastrophe.  And if we could survive that, then we might survive ourselves.

But why is the survival of the human race such a good thing, anyway?  That will be the question of the second, much longer part, “Interstellar (Part Two): The Meaning of (Human) Life.”

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