“Interstellar” — A short review

Here’s a short review of “Interstellar”– I saw it over the weekend and I thought it was great. Obviously, no film is perfect, but the few flaws it has weren’t enough for me not to enjoy it. Usually, the amount of time I spend thinking about a film after watching it is a good measuring stick for how much I liked it. And I’ve been thinking about this film most of the week!

First off, though… I’ve come across more than a few negative, nit-picky reviews online. When I first started seeing these–especially the ones that seemed to take a lot of delight in tearing the film apart–I suspected that some of these reviewers were trying really hard not to like it. I am more convinced of that now. I wonder if their opinions would be different if the movie hadn’t been so hyped up for so long. Also, for some reason Nolan is a “love-him-or-hate-him” type of director, and I think that plays into it, too. FYI, I am a Nolan fan and am a big fan of his Dark Knight trilogy and Inception.

Visuals-wise, the film is a masterpiece. According to physicist Kip Thorne, who was a consultant on the film, the black hole simulations actually led to new discoveries about gravitational lensing around black holes. The story can be a bit confusing, and they throw around a lot of complicated science concepts, but I don’t think most people would have trouble keeping up. The acting is also stellar (haha). Music-wise, Hans Zimmer delivers a very powerful and surprisingly emotional score (can’t wait for the collector’s edition of the album). If there’s a flaw in the film, it’s the character-driven interactions. That tends to be the flaw in most of Nolan’s films–the stories are very plot-driven, and the characters just do and say what they need to get from point A to point B. This would bug me if it were a weak story, but in this case it’s not a deal-breaker at all. (And this is probably the “flaw” in many sci-fi films and novels.)

One of the messages of the film is truly relevant in today’s climate change era. If we’re to survive as a species, we MUST start thinking of going to the stars (or nearby planets, for starters). If climate change doesn’t kill us, then probably an asteroid or volcano will. We’ll definitely need to be off-planet when the sun expands to the point that it cooks the Earth some 5 billion years from now. The film addresses that type of thinking, and also some of the problems we’ll come across as interstellar explorers. One such problem is relativistic time dilation–time moves slower for you if you’re in a gravity well. The higher the gravity, the slower time moves. An hour for you might be days, weeks, or more for someone outside the effects of the gravity well. I can’t think of any other film that deals with this as dramatically as “Interstellar.”

Bottom line… If you’re a fan of Nolan’s previous work and/or are into realistic science fiction/space travel movies with “mind blowing” concepts, you will enjoy this film.

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Gunslingers and Xeelees, oh my!!

It’s been awhile since my last blog post! Just a quick update…

For awhile now my Dark Tower project has been pretty much finished. The goal of this project was to compose dramatic music, something with a modern orchestral sound, that might fit in a score if the Dark Tower series were made into a film. For those unfamiliar with “The Dark Tower,” it’s an eight book novel series that’s kind of different for what Stephen King is known for. Yeah, there are some suspenseful and horror elements in there, but it’s mostly a fantasy/adventure epic. The main character is Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers (kind of like an order of knights, except with revolvers). The stories take place in a dystopian setting, after “the world has moved on.” Throughout the stories, Roland pursues his life goal of reaching the Dark Tower, where he believes he can atone for his past and fix whatever is wrong with the world.

I used a lot of synths, electric guitars, saxophones, etc. in these pieces, but I think in the end result, the orchestra is still most prominent. In the description section in each of the tracks, I provided a bit of an explanation as to what inspired each piece.

The project I’m working on right now is also inspired by a novel series, written by another Stephen. This one is Stephen Baxter’s “Xeelee Sequence,” a space-opera sci-fi series. I think anyone that’s a fan of Star Trek or Star Wars would enjoy these. To summarize, the Xeelee Sequence is about humanity’s expansion into space, from around the 30th century all the way to a million years in the future, and beyond. Baxter is known for “hard science fiction,” which means that he meticulously researches real scientific ideas and concepts for his stories. He covers everything from quantum physics to evolution (in particular, the evolutionary effects on humanity once we’ve been space-faring for thousands of generations) to spacecraft engineering (Baxter himself is an engineer).

If I had to pick one main theme in these stories, it would be “survival”–how humanity adapts and survives, despite the odds against them (a common theme in his works). The other theme is the expansion of mankind throughout the galaxy. After a few shaky starts (humanity actually gets conquered by aliens–twice), humans finally set out into the stars, but not as Star Trek-like peaceful explorers. After the trauma of two alien occupations, humanity takes on a “never again” attitude and expand into the galaxy as conquerors, eventually becoming the dominant species in the galaxy. By then, their only rivals are the god-like and aloof Xeelee, who are too preoccupied with their own projects to really be bothered by humans. But every now and then, humanity gets their attention…

This project will consist of five tracks (for now… I might add to it later). Here are the track names…

1 – Closed Timelike Curve

2 – Expansion

3 – Anthem to the Exultant Generation

4 – Prime Radiant

5 – The War in Heaven

Anyone familiar with the series will understand these references 🙂 The first track should be ready in  a few days, so stay tuned…