Sci-Fi Fridays, Episode 36: Five Questions I Want Answered in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

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For this week’s Sci-Fi Fridays article, I’ve decided to ask some hard questions regarding a certain major blockbuster that hits theaters in exactly a month. It’s no surprise that the movie I am speaking of is Christopher Nolan’s science fiction family drama/space adventure Interstellar. Those who follow my tweets, Oscar predictions and past Sci-Fi Fridays columns know that I have been predicting the film to win Best Picture since the beginning of the year. However, that doesn’t mean Nolan can land smoothly into a Best Picture lineup unless Interstellar answers a few of our hard-hitting questions…mine, in this case. Without further ado, here are five questions I want answered post-Interstellar screening. Enjoy!

1. Are these “Spielberg meets Kubrick” rumors really true or just a load of reductive noise? – Nothing would make me happier than to see a merging of two of the greatest filmmakers’ best attributes with a Nolan twist, but can it really be that perfectly simple? Kubrick has always been great with visuals and ideas, less so with characters who we relate to, much less feel in the frame as living, breathing creations. Spielberg is a master of pure, raw emotion that grounds every one of his sweeping sci-fi epics with firm humanity, but his need to please often overshadows his cinematic worth as an auteur…which leads many to believe he isn’t one. I’m hoping Nolan is influenced by both of these legendary directors in ways that help him grow as a filmmaker…but that doesn’t mean I want Nolan’s sleek, cold yet vibrant voice as a storyteller to become drowned out. Either way, we should remain very excited about solving the validity of this rumor once and for all.

2. Is Matthew McConaughey the Oscar contender we didn’t see coming? – If you’ve monitored my twitter feed, you’ll have noticed I’m a strong supporting of the McConnaissance and the man at the center of it. However, you also might remember I was vocal in – while not downright loathing – my confusion over the love surrounding McConaughey’s Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Weight loss aside (which is admirable but not necessarily the most crucial element to nailing the craft), McConaughey played up his Southern drawl to dramatic heights that went over very well with the weepy Academy but came nowhere near the range in brilliance we’ve seen from stellar turns in True Detective, Killer Joe, Magic Mike and even Mud, to name a few. I’m now wondering whether McConaughey – who has all but worn me down with his incredible clips from each Interstellar trailer – might have another Oscar caliber performance on hand, but may get rejected because: HE JUST WON LAST YEAR. Even if he does get the predictable snub, I’m hoping to find out if the early buzz surroundning his performance truly has merit. Has McConaughey, arguably tackling the most ambitious leading role he’s ever been given, going to make us wish this was the performance he should’ve been given an Oscar far? The future awaits…

3. Will Christopher Nolan Solve his “Female Problem”? – Throughout his filmography, fans and critics alike have noticed one glaring problem: the characterization of females…or lack thereof. The actress who gets the brunt of this malnourishment is Marion Cotillard, whose Mal Cobb (Inception) and Talia al Ghul (The Dark Knight Rises) are one-note uber emotional entities who serve as obstacles for the male protagonist to overcome. In short, Nolan’s female characters are — for the most part — weepy, volatile, sadistic Bechdel test failures who clearly need a female perspective pick-me-up. There was some noticeable improvement with Hathaway’s Catwoman, who was sexy and over-the-top but also showed considerable empathy along the way we shouldn’t discount. Here’s to hoping Nolan completely fixes his “female problem” courtesy of the characters Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy and Anne Hathaway play in Interstellar.

4. This epic space quest really can’t be as predictable as it seems…can it? – While I’ve become smitten with each trailer of Interstellar that I’ve seen, I do worry that we can pretty much solve this “ambitious story” in a sentence, if we just go by the initial previews: Father goes on an space mission to find food for Earth, gets lost, and saves the human race on the return trip. I’m not going to entire condemn a Hollywood ending so long as the process getting there takes us on a higher level of thinking. This “Murphy’s Law” motif that kept getting brought up during the trailers needs to be touched on further, as does the idea that the world has overpopulated itself and run out of food. Stephen King-splaining isn’t going to cut it if you are positioning your film as cutting edge cinema. I am truly bracing myself for a narrative shakeup of epic proportions that can go hand-in-hand with the gorgeous visuals and presentation.

5. The most important question of all is: WILL THERE BE ALIENS? – Okay, clearly the fanboy in me has concluded this article, but it is something I genuinely wonder. The whole idea of not being alone in this galaxy provides a vast array of storytelling possibilities. Nolan can either give us a definitive “no,” show us aliens like every other Hollywood director does (overly aggressive or boringly pacifist), or give new form to the alien shape and/or behavior. Something tells me whatever life McConaughey and his brave crew discover will be to our liking. Just promise me, Nolan, that McConaughey won’t be besties with an alien before he’s forced to say a weepy goodbye at the end.

Now I turn it over to you, the readers. List five questions you’re hoping to have answered in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, the movie you should all be paying attention to as this Oscar race comes to a head. Have at it!