When Insterstellar hit the theaters around the world in November 2014, the story about a farmer going to the space to save humanity achieved what very few movies in history have achieved before, leaving the audience both amazed and disappointed.
Amazed by the outstanding images of Gargantua, the Black Hole in which the 3 prospective planets of the film rotated, as well as the giant waves of Laura Miller’s Planet, and the ice clouds of the Planet of Dr. Mann. But likewise, there was something that felt completely off in this movie. Some blamed the plot, others the leading actor, other the format, and in the end no one agreed on what exactly was not working in this movie.
Today, 8 years later, and having seen the film more than 10 times, I might have an idea.
Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper
First blunder – Matthew McConaughey. Yes, the Texan actor had won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club , and had won the love of international critics for his participation in The Wolf of Wall Street and for the HBO series True Detective , but choosing him for the role of a loving father / astronaut, it was an astronomical casting blunder. Cooper’s character was meant to represent both his love of family and his desire to explore space, but McConaughey isn’t convincing in either role, and that’s partly his fault, and partly the plot’s. A male character representing the quintessence of parental love felt odd and even more so when the character was contradictory.
Christopher Nolan had access to two of the best actresses of that time: Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. Either one would have managed to make a much more accessible version of Cooper than McCounaghey did, plus the fact that it made sense in a post-war world, that women were raising their families, and the incident in The Straits was the perfect excuse to explain why she could make it alive at the end of the war.
Tom and Murphy
This is the blunder I consider critical for this film: the total waste of two great actors, Timothee Chalamet and Casey Affleck in a role that in the end was useless: Tom Cooper. And the worst thing is that they gave the emotional connection role to McKenzie Foy, who had nothing to offer more than a familiar face for her participation in… ¿The Twilight Saga? Please.
Imagine how powerful a family relationship between Jessica Chastain as Cooper and Timothee Chalamet as Tom would have been, that the conflict between them was that Cooper himself wanted to make his son a farmer, despite Tom’s genius, which would make the Cooper’s departure felt much more overwhelming. And a grown Tom Casey Affleck confronting his mother for abandoning him would have been a first-class powerful scene.
I believe that the role of Amelia Brand, like Cooper’s, suffers from an immense contradiction that prevents them from being seen as real human beings. Cooper wanted her daughter to be a scientist, and yet, every chance he got, he was extremely arrogant towards her. He wanted his son Tom to go to college and yet he always gave him only farming tasks. Now, Amelia, she was a cold and unsociable person, until suddenly, in the last act of the movie, she started acting like Victoria Ruffo in a Mexican soap opera and talking about the power of love. And Cooper suddenly stopped taking love into account, to lend credibility to a science he didn’t fully understand. Please.
If they had decided on a female version of Cooper, it would have been great to see how two women not only saved the human species, despite their differences, but one taught the other the value of science and family. With a Cooper, very much in the style of Sandra Bullock in Bird Box, who did not want to become attached to her son, and an Amelia Brand who reconciles science and human compassion, both could have learned from each other and Cooper’s character arc would have been completed.
The Betrayal of Professor Brand
And finally, the fourth blunder – Professor Brand’s secret. Neither Cooper nor Amelia knew about that Plan A was a lie, but Dr. Mann who was already presumed dead, he actually did. The emotional charge of the film would have been much more powerful if Cooper had indeed been informed by Professor Brand from the begining strategy and that Amelia was shocked to find that out. The guilt that Cooper would have felt, after realizing that she had abandoned his own son, would have given a much more effective dynamic to the final act, Cooper in the center of the Black Hole, trying to communicate with his son, to whom he never paid attention. That would have been powerful.
Imagine, a woman who never wanted to be on Earth and never paid attention to her son, there in the middle of a quantum singularity asking him not to let her go. That she would rather stay and die with him, than to be in the middle of nowhere saving the species. With those changes, it would have been easier to forgive Nolan, the endless exposition, the lousy dialogues and even the sequences in the space station with the old people and at the end, in the fake farm.
Now, what do you think? Let me know in the comments.