Charles Forman. Stuff I write down.

November 07, 2014


Is the emperor wearing any clothes?

I saw Interstellar. You should too. There is a lot of potential in the movie. From the perspective of someone creating a movie, I'm super interested in some of the choices made in this one.


I walked out of the theater thinking that the movie would have been an incredible 8 hour HBO show. As a three hour movie, I thought there was a ton of movie cut out that I wasn't seeing. Parts of it felt super rushed. I felt like I wasn't given enough to connect with most of the characters. The question I have is: With the goal of creating bigger stories with epic stakes, is the maximum acceptable length of three hours enough to fully develop a story?

Yo Ben Affleck's brother, why did you punch that dude from That 70's Show in the face? He's just trying to help your kid out. Maybe if we spent more time with him, I could get a sense of his point of view. It was presented like melodrama. There probably wasn't enough time to include that part of the story at all. So could the role of Casey Affleck been taken out completely without sacrificing the message of the movie? Probably.

If you think about the reverse of taking a very successful and rich story told in 8+ hours on TV, and try to stuff it into 2-3 hours of movie, the problem becomes clear. There is no way to develop the characters as well. If there are many characters, it is clear that a choice must be made about which specific characters to follow. Furthermore, some characters should probably be eliminated. I'm curious if Interstellar could have benefited from the removal of some characters to spend more precious time on the characters that matter.

Matthew with his family.

In the first sequence of scenes, they are in their natural world, on Earth. It's mostly like normal earth but there are dust storms and crops are dying. Dad spots a drone with his kids and they hack it and take control of it. That was nice. The reference to the moon landing being a hoax was really well done, cute, and funny. But then we learn that in his dead wife's room, books are falling out of the bookshelf. His daughter thinks it's a ghost trying to communicate in code, however never thinks that it's the ghost of her mother? Why not? After a dust storm, there is undeniable proof that something supernatural is going on. Dust has formed in lines of Morse code. What caused this? Not a ghost. Gravity. Wait what? How could they arrive at that? It's a moment of magic in a movie. It's awkward, but I'm going with it. What does it mean? It's coordinates. Wait. From the perspective of an engineer who knows some thing about codes and GPS coordinates, there are some technical problems with that. There would be many more lines on ground. But whatever, I'm going with it.

They arrive at NASA (Sign says NORAD) which is only a drive away. Matthew is tazed. He is being interrogated by a vending machine. They are really concerned how he found the facility. No one finds that facility. No one. Not even god. Except for the people that drive there to go to work everyday. It is very important that he tell them exactly how he got there. After fumbling around, his daughter says "Gravity!" Everyone's eyes light up. That's the same word from earlier! Like the secret password to a club, it sort of makes no sense, but they are granted access.

After some exposition, Michael Caine is all like "Yo - this Earth is straight up fucked. We need you, the best pilot at NASA to go find a new home on the other side of a wormhole." Matthew McConaughey is all like "But I have kids!" Michael Caine responds, "Yeah, you'll get older, but you age pretty well. You can come back when you're done and even though theres still a gravity thing I haven't figured out, I will figure it out before you get back. I promise. Do humanity a solid, alright?" McConaughey, "Alright, alright, alright."

He rushes home to break the news that he's going to space for some indefinite amount of time. His son seems indifferent, but his daughter is really not having it. In the same way a dad tells his daughter she can't have a pony, he's all like, "Deal with it." She's all like, "I HATE YOU. Just go!" He's all like, "Cool that was pretty easy." He drives off. She runs out of the house "NOOOO. I was JK about the just go part!!! BUT I STILL HATE YOU!"

The space suits and interiors were really nicely done.

Next scene: they are flying out into space.

While I was watching the movie, I was thinking that whole first part could have been reduced to a montage, with key scenes only for set up of the call to action. After seeing the whole movie, I think the whole first part was actually not long enough. I think they should have doubled down on the father daughter relationship. The struggle of whether or not to go should have had more feels. Build the bond, present dilemma and tear it apart. 2 characters could have been removed: his son, and the dad from Third Rock from the Sun. They have no purpose later in the movie. More time could be focused on that bond. Furthermore, when decides to go up into space, his daughter could be taken care of by Michael Caine, which you know he's good at from those Batman movies, and which ends up happening anyways.

In space: Matthew is all like, "It was hard leaving my kids because there wasn't enough time to show it in the previous scenes. Hey, must be hard leaving your Dad behind." Catwoman is all like, "Meh, fuck h'm. AND I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT PERSONAL STUFF." Audience is like, "Got it, you're unlikeable. But maybe you'll be redeemed later?" Nope.

Oh great. The vending machine is on this trip too. He was a robodick earlier, but now his job is to tell dad jokes. He looks like 3 lego pieces, but he speaks just like a regular human, whose voice is so similar to the somewhat generic space crew that it's unclear who is talking when he speaks.

Catwoman with Astronaut #3.

Right before cryosleep, Matthew asks the vending machine if Catwoman is in love with some doctor we never heard of before. Vending machine doesn't gossip. Unless you set him to. Dang. Matthew is into Catwoman? Nope. She is in love with a guy on another planet and therefore they can not go to that planet. What? It doesn't matter now... or later.

Astronaut #3 explains a wormhole to Matthew because when they first told him the plan, he obviously faked knowing what it meant. He is only familiar with flat circles.

They have to go to the first planet. Because the planet moves almost the speed of light, time on that planet is way slower than on Earth. You age way slower on that planet than on Earth where Matthew gets older but the girls stay the same age. So if you spend too much time there, everyone you know will be dead by the time you get back. They go and of course they leave the black guy. He's also not even on the first page of 15 actors on the IMDB page.

Time is of the essence. In and out. No funny business. Unfortunately, the planet is filled with water. But there is data on the planet, and they need that data. What are those mountains? Like everyone else, I've seen the trailer, no surprise, we already knew those aren't mountains. It's a wave. Better hurry up. But Catwoman isn't leaving without the data. Even though if she dies, that totally wouldn't make any sense either way. But she gets the data in the knick of time. Wait. Wasn't there 3 astronauts and now theres only 2? Yeah, one got washed away. It's a good thing it was the guy with no previous speaking parts but who is also listed 3rd on the cast list on IMDB? Anyways.. They didn't need that character.

Time on that planet was a little longer than expected. That setback cost them 23 years. When they get back, David, the astronaut #3 left behind is 23 years older. He's bald now. He says "I gave up hope you were ever coming back, but hey, I'm chill about it." What?? This guy is living in solitary prison (sleeping most of the time, but still) for 23 years and everyone is like, "Sucks to be you. Next mission." I really think that he could have been one of the more interesting characters in movie. No family, half his adult life as an engineer, the other half sleeping and solitary. Does he have regrets? Does he have insight on moving forward? I guess not. But anyways, time to check the video messages!

Whoa. You already know this, but Matthew's son turns into Casey Affleck, who turns into bearded Casey Affleck. This is incredibly exciting considering he is the next Batman's brother. He probably gets to see Batman before anyone else. But the sad reveal is that Matthew's daughter doesn't want to send video messages because she is really mad still. So mad that she is working with Michael Caine to solve some gravity problem so that her father can come back, and she can really let him have it. It's a pretty elaborate grudge. But as tenacious grudgeholder, I respect that level of dedication. She finally sends him a message on her birthday saying that they are the same age and yet, he is still not back, which I think is pretty powerful. I think there is more that could have been done with that.

Time for the second planet. Too bad we ran out of time and fuel. We can only pick 1. Instead of rock paper scissoring, which is the norm in the scientific community, Matthew reveals Catwoman's love for unseen Dr. Whatshisface to 23 year older astronaut #3 thusly cockblocking the planet Catwoman wants to go to.

Matthew about to be stabbed in the back by Matt Damon.

Off to the other planet. Hey this looks promising, except for frozen clouds. There is an outpost. There is a cryosleep guy ziplocked fresh. Who is it? FUCKING MATT DAMON. Fucking Matt Damon says, "YOU GUYS CAN NEVER KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE ALONE FOR YEARS." And then Astronaut #3 from behind says, "Actually, I do." And then everyone else ignores him - for like, the rest of the movie. Fucking Matt Damon continues, "Bros, glad you came. This planet is super awesome. It has all the things we need." - Even though the music says otherwise - "Hey let's go for a walk just you and me." Matthew Mcconaughey is cool with that. He could use the exercise. Just as they look out onto the beautiful frozen vista, Fucking Matt Damon says, "There can be only one Matt on this planet." Fucking Matt Damon cracks open other Matt's helmet like a total dickhole. Other Matt radios in with his last dying breath: "FUCKING MATT DAMON cracked my shit and he's lying about the whole planet, and theres no life here for real. So yeah. I'm going to need you to pick me up. And quick. Because I'm almost dead." But instead of saying all that, he just says AMONIA and he says the rest with his eyes, because thats how good of an actor Matthew Mcconaughey is. Catwoman picks up Matthew right before he dies, and she gets to give him an awesome I told you so look, but chooses not to because that would be too easy. Vending machine was out making love with the other vending machine and had to scissor fly back to the ship. I really want to know how that works. They fly away and let out a collective, "FUCK YOU MATT DAMON!"

Then there's a part where Matt Damon is jettisoned into space because everyone knows that is the only way you can kill a Bourne.

Fuck. Catwoman was right. You have to believe in love. She was right. Matthew was wrong. Matthew won't admit to that because then she will have another opportunity to give him an awesome I told you so look.

You've got mail. "Catwoman, your dad is dead, and a liar. DAD, YOU KNEW I WAS GOING TO WORK ON THE GRAVITY EQUATION MY WHOLE LIFE AND YOU KNEW IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, DIDN'T YOU?" Matthew puzzled, "What is she talking about?" Astronaut #3, "Actually I know what shes talking about." Matthew, "Didn't you used to be white?" Astronaut #3, "I've been on this mission the whole time, you dick. Anyways, the only way you can solve the equation is by going into the black hole. Everybody knows that." Matthew says, "Cool - I'm going to send the vending machine into the black hole." Vending machine is like, "!!?!?!?"

Let's go home. C-ya robojerkface.

But wait, Matthew Mcconaughey is going into the black hole too! Why? Who knows? Catwoman is all like "NOOOO! BUT I GUESS WE NEVER GOT ALONG ANYWAYSSSSS...."

Insert pretty awesome sequence of going through the hole with some really nice sound design. He ends up in this pretty cool room in the 5th dimension. Visually, it's pretty fucking rad. I haven't seen anything like it before. It looks like a videogame glitch. He is on the other side of the book case. It was him all along. But the real major reveal is that through the whole movie, you thought Matthew Mcconaughey hated vending machine, but he actually was secretly in love with him, and wanted to spend an eternity in the abyss with him. Slow clap.

Matthew quickly realizes that because vending machine has the data to solve the gravity formula, all he has to do is translate the data into binary and send it through the watch that was set up in the first sequence. It's connected by entanglement. They never say it in the movie, but it's a real thing. Knowing about data systems, sending the gravity data over binary one clock twitch at a time will probably only take 1000 lifetimes. I spent the next three minutes thinking about how she would know the format of the data. What about error correction? What is the format of the checksum? How would she know!? For all the work they did to make sure the science was correct, they seemed to be completely fine about overlooking computer science. But you know, I'm going with it. If anyone can solve a problem it's the girl from Zero Dark Thirty.

She solves it in a montage, because that is how you solve stuff in a movie. History is altered. A white flash happens. He is transported into the future.

Matthew asks, "Where am I?" Doctor #1, "You're in Cooperstation.", Matthew says, "Nice of you to name this place after my movie name." Doctor #2 rolls her eyes. Doctor #1, "Hey buddy. Slow your roll. Did you solve a near impossible gravity equation in a montage? No. You just ventured to 2 chaotic planets, almost got murdered, and went into a black hole like a maniac. Shut the fuck up. It's named after your daughter. But I have 2 special treats for you!"

Uninterested in hearing his story, Doctor #1 takes Matthew to a creepy wax museum replica of his house, revealing who all the old people talking are. Old people. Talking about the way things used to be. Thats it.

Matthew's daughter is still alive, but she's mad old. When she heard that Matthew was alive, she got on the next spacetrain. She's in a hospital bed surrounded by her family. Matthew walks in. She starts crying. People in the audience start crying. She hasn't seen him in like 80 years. He hasn't seen her in like 10 or so. She says, "No one should watch their child die. So go." At this point the girl behind me is bawling. Yeah, I know its a bad cliche - but not so bad you should cry about it. So the theme of this movie is to believe in love, but she doesn't care to hear his story? Catch up? Meanwhile, his entire family is in the room and he wants to talk to them but all they want to do is ask him questions about True Detective. Time to blow this joint. Let's steal a spacecar and go to the last possible planet to inhabit because no one thought of that while you were gone.

Some notes

The space ships, stations, suits were really well done. The wear was nice and believable.

The sound design was very nice.

The photography was good.

I would love to see the shooting script and what was cut.

I'm really curious how the movie would feel if the following changes were made: These characters were removed: Son, Father-in-law, Astronaut #4. Expand on father daughter relationship. Make the departure much harder. Lighten tech exposition. Don't receive messages from Earth at all. Matt Damon's plan is found out in person and we get to see gut wrenching reactions from the characters. Verbal conflict. When near the black hole, Cooper notices his wristwatch hand moving, causing him to later make the leap to go in the black hole. In the black hole, it is shown for the first time his daughter aging as he goes through time. He transfers the data. She figures it out. Flash white. Back to moment where his daughter tells him not to go. Cut to black.

Casting reconsideration: Winona Ryder or Rashida Jones or Kerry Washington instead of Anne Hathaway. In case of Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker or James Earl Jones instead of Michael Caine. Willem Dafoe or Javier Bardem instead of Matt Damon.

What did you think?

Hi! My name is Charles Forman. I love to make stuff I dream up. A while back, I founded a videogame company called OMGPOP that developed Draw Something, that sold to Zynga. Remember that? No? It's ok. I also co-founded Picturelife, a great place to store and organize all your private photos. I am originally from Chicago, and I've lived in Tokyo, Seoul, and New York City. I am currently living in NYC and I'm working on developing a movie.
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