1 Jan 2017

mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Firstly, congratulations on surviving 2016 and welcome to 2017.

2016 was certainly an interesting year, not just because of the number of shock celebrity deaths (RIP). It showed us there are flaws to every form of government, including democracy, and it gave us a world that proudly preys on our fear of "them" and "those people".

“There is a curse.
They say:
May you live in interesting times.”
---Sir Terry Pratchett

But my subject is actually much more mundane. I recently watched The Martian and following that, because it's still touted as a masterpiece, Interstellar.

I'm beginning to think I'm not really a sci-fi fan.

They were both nice movies, though Interstellar felt about 1 hour too long. The pace was slow, perhaps to give the audience time to absorb the beauty of space and the gravity (hah) of the situation. I liked that Murph (and Brand) was a strong female who was pivotal to the plot (and to solving humanity's plight) without serving a romantic role. The trouble was, as clever as the conceit was, there was too much gobbledygook going on towards the end that, given how realism had grounded much of the movie, came to its undoing as it gravitated (hah) too close to fantasy. The snippet where Cooper enters the black hole and transmits the secret quantum message to his daughter was particularly gobbledygook. Nolan has authored some clever stuff, and you're much better off appreciating his genius in something like The Prestige or Inception, both of which were also better served by their pacing and atmosphere. The music was starting to really grate after 2 hours and 50 minutes of ominous swell of strings chorus, and again (?) you have Hans Zimmer to thank. As usual with Nolan's movies, the quality of the cast was superb, especially in the actresses for Murph.

To its credit, Interstellar's slow pace gives the audience pause to think about what humans are doing to Earth, about the moral dilemma of a world crises - do we choose to turn a blind eye and hide in a shell of ignorance, or do we take the higher intellectual ground of saving the species, or do we bank on our empathy and fight for those we care for? The movie seems to support the last option, and we like to believe that it's empathy that makes us human - but as it questions even in the movie, so often an individual's empathy is short-sighted, given only to those we have contact with. Is saving the species, rather than the individual, the real moral high ground?

Space, the final frontier, said Star Trek, but Interstellar suggests that there is another frontier out there, beyond the three dimensions, that the humans will conquer. Time, the one thing that has always been constant in our existence, the one thing we cannot escape nor alter. But Cooper suggests that humans conquered time to deliver him the message for him to save mankind.

The Martian is a much lighter film in terms of its mood but also philosophy. Quite a few of the same cast appears, supported by a bunch of MCU veterans (especially the two who've recently appeared in Doctor Strange). Like Interstellar, it's a story of survival but on a one man scale. It's a movie of optimism, not only in the old Chinese adage that "the heavens will not give you a road that ends you", but one that also believes in a world where people will come together to save one man. It's a story that empowers nerds and scientists, if that needed to be done, although it is a bit incredible the amount of knowledge Matt Damon's character possessed to survive on his own. Reacting hydrogen with oxygen? I don't think I learned that in biology.

And at the birth of another year, let's commemorate the passing of the last with the poem endlessly referenced in Interstellar.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
--- Dylan Thomas


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