Just a short funny Interstellar anecdote

So I’d decided I was probably never going to watch it and I wanted to know what the movie was about…so I read the wiki plot breakdown.

I’d needn’t worried about beating myself up for spoiling a movie I should have sat down and watched, cause I didn’t understand a damn thing i just read.

Seriously, I could sit down and watch the movie right now and not a thing will have been spoiled that I didn’t already know before I read the plot synopsis.

Earth in trouble, space, black holes, Matt Damon (?) Matthew McConaughey cries. That’s what I knew before and its still all I know.

Reminds me of another space movie I watched: guys in space, computer goes nutzoid, freaky head trip.

Seriously, Interstellar was mostly impressive for its visuals. I would say the same about Arrival as well (and 2001, for that matter).

I’m going to be “that guy” and pop in to say it is the epitome of reductive to just look at the plot sequence to understand all you need to know about a movie. A good movie is more than “what it is about”, a good movie is “HOW it is what it is about”.

Fun fact: The science advisor for the movie was Kip Thorne, the foremost expert in the world on wormholes. When the effects guys made the visuals of the wormhole, based on Thorne’s equations, they showed it to him and asked him if they got it right. His answer was “I don’t know, let me see your code”, because it was the first time anyone had created the visuals based on those equations.

I’d have to agree.

Protagonist encounters problem. Protagonist solves problem.

There, I’ve just spoiled nearly every book and movie ever made or that will be made.

Protagonist doesn’t solve problem. Pathos ensues.

A better CGI verson of Black Hole ,more or less.

There’s a movie that could make a decent Disney remake.

Except what was great about The Black Hole was the practical effects work. Spectacular miniatures, unique production design, some great wire work, and a background that actually looks like space with molecular clouds instead of a uniform scattering of generic pinpoints that you see in every other space fiction show and movie (including, disappointingly, The Expanse). It even had an intriguing premise and an interesting antagonist, and the John Barry score is fantastic and ominous if it becomes a bit monotonous by the end. Unfortunately, it did not have a completed script and it basically spirals out of control with a pseudo-messianic ending and the inclusion of ‘cute’ robots in an effort to capture some of that Star Wars marketing voodoo are cringeworthy to say the least.

As for Interstellar, if reading the plot summary did not make sense to the o.p. then that is entirely consistent with the film, which also does not make much sense. Much has been made about how accurate the visual representation of a black hole is, which is great (although it is almost trivial to do so with modern CGI software since the equations of general relativity around black holes literally describe the lightpath of photons, so using a ray-tracing model just means mapping the Riemann tensor into your code which is way easier than having to represent ‘cloaking shields’ or other aphysical effects) but the physics otherwise is really questionable at best, and the resolution is one of those “ Love conquerors time? What the fuck just happened?” moments. It is basically a distillation of the best and worst of Christopher Nolan; spectacular imagery, outstanding meshing of practical and CGI effects, underutilizing good actors, and a plot that makes no sense if you even try to think through it for more than a couple of minutes.


If you think it’s trivial, try making such a code. Yeah, it’s trivial with Hollywood software, but that’s mostly a tribute to how good the Hollywood software has gotten.

Which is why I said:

Ray-tracing software works by essentially defining a manifold with curvature that represents reflection, refraction, absorption, and other contributors and distortions such as luminescence, diffuse interreflection, chromatic distortion, et cetera. In the case of simulating the appearance of a black hole, animators can literally just take the Riemann curvature tensor and input it directly to the ray-tracing engine with a suitably short path length, and then zero out anything with a singular curvature. The math of general relativity is difficult, of course, but the animation of the paths through the defined manifold is just about the easiest problem in ray tracing since the path lines are literally just the geodesics. Making a photorealistic sunset, or hair and skin that look real, or animating the distortion of hot air rising from a fire are all way more difficult.


I feel like im reading the wiki plot again.

The “love” theme is odd and has been rightfully criticized as undermining an otherwise excellent film. But aside from that, I think Kip Thorne would disagree with you about the physics in the film being “really questionable at best”. Sure, some of it (like the wormhole) is highly speculative, and other aspects, like a black hole that is sufficiently quiescent that it can be entered without exposure to massive doses of radiation, is unlikely but certainly within the realm of possibility. The goings-on inside the black hole are fantasy that can be excused as artistic license, and by the fact that we really don’t know what the inside of a black hole looks like beyond purely speculative extrapolation of the Einstein field equations.

Kip Thorne in fact wrote a book, The Science of “Interstellar”, in which he justifies the scientific feasibility (in the sense of “it’s not impossible”) of most of the things that happen in the film. Indeed, the wormhole idea came about because Nolan wanted to introduce the device of faster-than-light travel, and as technical advisor Thorne absolutely refused to give in on that point. It was the only really serious disagreement Thorne and Nolan had during the production, and IIRC it went on for weeks.

I’ve read the book and I think Thorne was being generous in describing the plausibility of various elements of the film and plot. Setting aside the radiation environment and a supermassive black hole with gravity gradients small enough not to shred someone falling beyond the event horizon into component atoms but still capable of generating sufficient tides to cause one of the planet to have regular megatsunami-sized waves. The notion of using gravitational waves to manipulate the watch is also pretty nonsensical unless they have some kind of extremely fine control over very low frequency waves. After hearing about how scientifically super-accurate the film I was just pretty disappointed by the film.

There is, of course, the inherent temporal paradox that some future humans travel to another galaxy to find the habitable worlds their predecessors will travel to to live on but have to enlist Cooper to do all of their work in getting current humans to discover the worlds and work out the physcis of antigravity propulsion or whatever. I general, I hate time travel movies treat the the topic too seriously because the whole notion of some kind of retrocausal loop is both philosophically absurd and nearly impossible to write without gaping plotholes. Back To The Future gets it just about right by constantly contradicting itself about whether time travel is good, or bad, or will cause the space-time continuum to fracture or is necessary to prevent Marty’s grandkids from starting a neo-Fascist movement that takes over the world, because travel to the past is so inherently ridiculous that it should only be a source for comedy.


Fair statements. My point, nonetheless, is that Interstellar (and Christopher Nolan) deserves credit for making a big effort to be scientifically plausible, unlike most sci-fi movies that barely make any effort at all (and I say this as someone who, perhaps naively, believes that wormholes would violate causality just as much as FTL). There may be valid differences of opinion about the extent to which this effort succeeded, but they deserve major credit for bringing Kip Thorne on board in a senior advisory role, and listening to him.

I tend to fixate on the little things. Like how the mission had a shuttle craft capable of landing on and taking off from planets with seemingly earthlike gravity with no booster rockets or massive fuel tanks. Seems like they solved the “problem of gravity” before the film even started.

It takes a heck of a lot more tide to shred a human than it does to raise megatsunamis. There’s not even a fine-tuning problem there, much less an inconsistency.

That’s really nothing compared to being able to match orbits with the planet, then shed that velocity to return to the ship.

The planet was not within the event horizon, it was at least a few schwarzschild radii away in order to have a stable orbit. And yet, at that distance, it was able to raise mega tsunamis. (“Realistically”, the planet should have been tidally locked as well.)

Entering the event horizon puts him much closer, so encountering much higher tidal forces.

Now, there may be a range of black holes that you may be able to get these effects, but it would have to be within a fairly narrow range.

The very worst thing about the film “Interstellar” was the usual thing with Christopher Nolan movies - the goddamn muffled and inaudible dialogue. “Tenet” was the same, only worse. Impossible to follow when you can’t hear the protagonists’ dialogue, and they’re not clever enough to have visual ideas and representations like “2001” etc.

The funny thing is that same shuttle required a massive booster rocket to get it off Earth at the beginning. I think it’s because audiences exposed to pop science know “Earth liftoff = big rockets” and “Alien liftoff = no sweat.” I choose to believe when they went through the wormhole it took them into an entirely different movie with worse scientific accuracy.