Christopher Nolan Interstellar Movie Theories

Christopher Nolan Interstellar Movie Theories

This is new territory for me here at THinc.  But this is a Christopher Nolan movie that is coming so I’m guessing that all bets are off when it comes to the man.  So, just today, over on The Prestige thread, we were talking about Nolan and the coming movie, and I figured heck… let’s give it a shot and see what we kind of ideas and theories we can come up with for the most anticipated movie of the year.  (Well, for me anyway.  By the way, if you are looking forward to a movie more than Interstellar I want to hear about it immediately.)

Nolan’s Oeuvre Review

Before we jump into all the facts we have so far and potential theories of what could possibly be going on, I figured it might be worthwhile to discuss what the Nolan brothers have already done.  Because I think there is definitely some good juice there for us to consider as we talk possibilities later on.

FOLLOWING  – weird movie about a strange writer that follows people to get new material for his work and a thief that takes him under his wing.  Good heavens I hope there isn’t anything here to be drawn from.  Puh-lease!

MEMENTO – one of the greatest movies of all time about someone with a condition memory condition that doesn’t allow him to remember anything beyond ten or fifteen minutes.  The movie is told mainly backwards, which could be the most relevant piece to remember here.  (Hahah. See what I did there?)  Nolan has incredible editing and choreography skills when it comes to crafting cinema.

THE DARK KNIGHT – dark is the key word here.  Nolan took Batman and the super hero movie to all new levels.  Nolan went big from a cinematography standpoint with an IMAX negative that was truly amazing.  We can be guaranteed amazing visuals throughout this sci-fi special effects extravaganza.

THE PRESTIGE – this is my own personal favorite Nolan movie.  Unreliable narrators.  Deception, layers upon layers of deception.  The characters are lying to other characters.  The director and the script writer are lying to the audience.  Everybody is lying to everybody… and there isn’t even a hint of hollywood-ness to this at all.  The take away here is that Nolan will not be confined by the big box office or the demands of his investors.  Prepare to be surprised.

INCEPTION – 007 meets the dream master.  International espionage.  Fantastical environments and innovative new realities to play within.  Layers within layers within layers.  The layers of Inception and the rest of his movies maybe are biggest take away from this review of his work.  Nolan prefers his tricks to come in threes. By that I mean, threes within threes, within threes.  He likes his movies on the far side of confusing.

The Players

Christopher Nolan has pulled together a fairly impressive cast for Interstellar.  At first I wondered if Matthew McConaughey would be the right choice for a lead.  But after his year last year (think Mud, Dallas Buyer’s Club, etc) I’m thinking I may just have been wrong.  McConaughey has shown he has the chops to pull it off.  Anne Hathaway is in the role of Brand and will be accompanying Cooper into space.  Jessica Chastain plays the role of Cooper’s grown daughter, Murph.  We can definitely posit quite a lot from this particular casting choice.  The fact that so much star power was placed in this role means that a significant portion of the movie will happen after the launch into space.  Assuming of course that the trip itself will take years and years, or that there is time travel involved.  We also are treated to Topher Grace, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow and others.  But the obvious casting choice of the movie turns out be Michael Caine, who has worked on Christopher’s movies since he worked on The Prestige with Nolan.    

Interstellar – What Are The Facts?

Since everything we know so far comes from three trailers, I figured I would include them here for your review:

Interstellar Facts

So, what do we have? The big details seem to be that the world is a dust bowl. It looks like the world is heading towards Mad Max territory with an energy crisis of global proportions. So, the planet is on the verge of disaster. Enter Cooper, a farmer?, with two young kids that he is terribly worried about. Somehow, Cooper finds himself being asked to save the fate of the planet through a latch ditch effort to find a way for the human race.  Or something.

To continue with the information that we have so far, the script was originally written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher’s brother. (Who isn’t a slouch, seeing as though he was the individual that shared his Memento Mori idea with his brother initially and then from there Chris spun his idea out into the truly Memento.) The film was picked up to be directed by Steven Spielberg. (Which would not have gone well I’m sure of.) Spielberg, backs away and then moves on to Robopocolypse (Which has since be shelved for a rewrite I believe?) After which, Christopher decided to sign up as the director, and brings “His Original Idea” to the script. Right? Let’s remember all the times that Nolan has jumped in to help his brother out with an original idea of his own. Wait, its been basically every movie that Nolan has ever directed.

We know that Nolan utilized the IMAX 70 mm negative more than he has used for any other movie, which is really saying something.  If you had a chance to experience any of the Dark Knight movies or Inception in IMAX you know that it is a truly awe inspiring experience to witness.  When the action scenes kick in and the screen flips to the entirety of  that massive IMAX screen it can be even overwhelming to watch.  Data seems to ooze out of your ears its coming at you so fast.  But other than the fact that the movie will be amazing to watch, doesn’t help us much in our efforts to decode this enormous movie.

Probably one of the biggest details that has just been released are these two quotes from Nolan:

“It’s a very classically constructed movie,” says Nolan, “but the freshness of the narrative elements really enhance it. I liken it to the blockbusters I grew up with as a kid, family films in the best sense: edgy, incisive, challenging.”

 “It’s almost a mirror image of ‘Inception.’ It expands out in the way ‘Inception’ contracts inwards.”


Interstellar One Sheet Details

We also know from the one sheets that were released last week that there are four dramatically different worlds to be explored.  Earth, the dustbowl.  Space, the wormhole.  Unknown world 1, water world.  And unknown world 2, ice world.  What are these worlds that Cooper will be exploring?  I think that is the meat of what we will be discussing in the theories below.  That is where this conversation becomes truly interesting.  Where the most details come from isn’t the backdrops though, it may be their tag lines:

  • “Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.” (Desert)
  • “Go further.” (Space)
  • “Mankind’s next step will be our greatest.” (Water)
  • “The end of Earth will not be the end of us.” (Ice)


Interstellar Scientific Theory

We also know that there are key scientific mental constructs inspired by the theories of Caltech astrophysicist Kip Thorne. Doing a little digging, I learned that Kip’s key relevant theory in this space is that wormholes can be utilized for time travel.

Thorne basically posits that there are areas where the spacetime is ‘warped’ – and in these areas there could exist wormholes, which would be propped up by this warped spacetime. Very simply, wormholes (or Einstein-Rosen bridges) fit into the theory of general relativity; different masses could place varying amounts of pressure on this ‘folding’ of spacetime, resulting in a ‘shortcut’ or direct link between different areas, making travel across galaxies possible without the need for advanced technology or ships that would take millennia to invent and construct. Think of a piece of paper folded in two and a something thread through both sides – this would be the bridge. This is a simplified example to attempt to give an analogy to something that is potentially un-visualizable as we’re looking at four dimensions here – not just two.

If you didn’t get any of that, no worries.  But you should know that Kip Thorne is so instrumental to this picture that he is physically involved with the creation of the movie.  So much so that his work has earned him an Executive Producer credit on the film.  Bottom line, we should be asking ourselves why exactly is theoretical physics and wormhole theory such an instrumental part of this movie?

The answer has to be that it is because we know that Nolan loves to base his movie’s grounding upon the bedrock of scientific realism, even if fantastically spun.  Think Memento and the true mental disorder that movie was based on.  Or better yet Inception and the science of dream theory that that movie was based upon.  But the real movie that carried this even further was The Prestige which was largely based on the work of Tesla and Edison.  Kip makes sense for a foundational standpoint.  Nolan will take Kip Thorn’s scientific theory of Wormhole Time Travel and then turn it upside down again to take it closer to his “Original Idea”.


The Theories

First, let me say that nothing I’m about to say is intentionally a spoiler.  But it could obviously potentially be right.  So I think with all of that information I think we can already see some themes and possibilities playing out.  We know that Christopher Nolan is a Director that enjoys turning an idea upside down.  We also know that Jonathan is a writer that is capable of truly crazy ideas that can make your brain hurt to consider them.  We have a planet on the verge of collapse.  And a space agency that has ideas on how they might solve the problem for the entire species.

Theory #1 – Viable Planet Search – This theory is fairly basic.  The earth is in jeopardy and the human species is need of a new home.  NASA creates a new interstellar spaceship that utilizes wormholes in order to travel long distances by finding folds in space.  This is needed in order to discover a different home for the citizens of earth.  Cooper and Bran are our intrepid explorers and they will try several planets before they discover a suitable planet.  The movie then becomes a veritable Gravity, survive the chaos, sort of space travel movie.

Issues: This is an awful idea.  This may have been the initial idea when Spielberg was still at the helm and Jonathan was the main author of the script.  But only Spielberg would have been ok with that sort of a script.  But with Christopher leaning in to direct and with his input on the script there is no way this is how the script will play out.

Theory #2 – Time Travel Resolution – In this theory, instead of traveling to other planets, our fearless space travelers head into the wormhole and travel back in time in order to get the earth to resolve the issues the caused this problem to occur.  Maybe they are planning to do this by sending a message to earth to avert the deadly habits that lead to this inevitable outcome?  Or what have you.

Issues: This is another awful idea.  We know that from the trailer that Cooper’s daughter and son are begging their father to not go.  But he will be back.  He has to survive in order to resolve the issues not just for the planet but specifically for his children.  Later in the previews I included above we see Jessica Chastain pining for the return of her father.  Time seems to move forward, not backward.

Theory #3 – Alternate Universe Decoherence

No let’s spice things up a bit.  What if the ice planet is earth?  What if the water planet is also earth? Let me back up. Cooper and Brand head into the great unknown in hopes of doing what I thought could happen in theory 1 or 2.  But instead drop through into another alternate reality?  An ice planet?Oh, no?!?  Try again… hope back in their ride, and head through the wormhole again.  And now we have a water planet?!?  GACK!  This topic was recently handled very eloquently in the movie Coherence wherein this idea of universal decoherence is handled at a dinner party of all things.

So then the movie becomes less about planetary survival then it does about Cooper’s survival.  It is probably true that most of the information that we see in the trailers happens within the first 20 minutes of the movie.  Problem: Earth is dying.  Solution: NASA will send astronauts into space to solve the problem!  Enter Wormhole.  And then we have the rest of the movie… wherein we deal with all the chaotic ramifications of such an event.  Maybe Cooper even finds his kids in one of these god forsaken planets?  It could get really dicey really fast at this point.

But ultimately, the question is going to be whether or not Cooper can find the right alternative path and either duplicate that on earth, or possibly he just decides to stay there?  But the problem there is that the audience will see this as a cheap victory.  And his kids are still abandoned to their terrible fate elsewhere, even if he has perfectly good duplicate copies here on this new planet.  Right?

Issues: By the very definition decoherence is a messy business.  Which aligns with Nolan’s quote that it is the mirror image of Inception – expanding outward where Inception contracted inward.  Nolan will have to mainstream the heck out of the idea in order to not be perceived as cheating.  (Trust me, watch Coherence to see how to do it right.)  But Nolan has pulled it off before, he can do it again.

Extra Credit Theory – The Prestige Theory

As an extra credit exercise I give you – in full – the theory of a Reddit user Bokononstop that states:

I’ve been thinking about the “Prestige Trilogy” theory and what it means for the plot of its final movie, Interstellar.

For those not familiar, the “Prestige Trilogy” theory is that the three Christopher Nolan films The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar, all form a trilogy. This trilogy will be based on the 3-step structure of a magic trick as described in The Prestige. This structure is:

1) The Pledge: a magician takes an ordinary thing that the audience is familiar with (a bird in a cage)

2) The Turn: the magician makes this object do something extraordinary (the bird and cage disappear)

3) The Prestige: the magician brings back the original thing in a way seemingly impossible based on the previous step. (the bird reappears)

By thinking about the movies in the “Prestige Trilogy” this way, a prediction for the final movie, Interstellar, can be made. Starting with the first movie:

1) The Prestige: The ordinary thing in this movie is how magicians manipulate people. They use the familiar concepts of lying and trickery to make their audience believe in magic. Simple deception is all that’s used to influence their audience’s belief in magic.

2) Inception: The ordinary concept of influencing someones beliefs in the simple magician way is heightened to an extraordinary height in this movie. The people in this movie don’t just use simple everyday deception, but actually go in with high tech sci-fi thingamajigs to manipulate their target’s beliefs.

3) Interstellar: So for this movie, the original concept must be brought back in a way is incomprehensible based on “the turn.” I would guess that this movie has something to do with man’s freewill. That somehow during the exploration that takes place during the movie, it is discovered that we are not capable of free will in the way that we thought we were. And that somehow (to go back to “the pledge”) our beliefs are being manipulated by some simple deception. This would seem impossible based on “the turn” (Inception), because in that movie, it is implied that the inception target has free will. The mind of the person that the inception team enters constantly fights back against the intruders that are trying to force even a slight change. So, it would seem impossibly difficult, based on the content of that movie, that some outside force could be changing the beliefs of all mankind at once. Which is why (because that movie is “the turn”) I think the realization in Interstellar will be exactly that. That through some simple way, our collective consciousness is being manipulated.

Issues:  No idea!  I can’t even understand it and I tried.

Conclusion – I  think it can easily be said that I am pretty excited to have a new movie by Mr. Nolan coming our way. I’m sure that whatever the Nolan boys bring us it is going to be mind-rocking in its enormity. I personally can’t wait. Do you have any theories about what its going to be about? I know that with all the evidence and details I listed above there has to be only about a million more possibilities out there! Share them in the comments section and I will add them to the list here.