Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar (2014) Time Travel

I just came back from the multiplex seeing Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey, and I was very pleased with the science portrayed in the movie.  For statistical purposes, I am a Christopher Nolan fan and I appreciate most of the movies he makes.  From a pure ratings standpoint, I give it an 8 out of 10, with points off only for some unnecessary heavy-handed drama toward the end which could have been presented in a more natural way IMO.

Beware, spoiler alert.  I am going to attempt to explain my thoughts on a time travel issue  essential to the plot of this movie, so please don't continue reading if you haven't seen it yet (are excited to do so).  If you couldn't give a shit less about seeing it and are just hard up for some meandering thoughts about time-travel paradox resolutions, please continue on since my blog could certainly use some extra views.

Interstellar deals with messages through time, and it falls prey to the classic chicken & egg time-travel paradox most similar-type movies have limited ability to handle.  For instance, if a message is received from a "future" that turns out to be the sole cause for that "future" to even be possible, how did this particular "future" come into existence without the all-important message being received in the original timeline?  In Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey is led to a secret NASA mission to save humankind by certain binary messages he receives in his daughter's bedroom one dust-stormy day.  By him receiving these messages, he is able to do what he needs to do to be in a position to send back an important encoded message to his grown up daughter some 30 years later.  The problem: future Matthew is the one that sends the binary message to original Matthew.  If future Matthew doesn't exist or get there, original Matthew doesn't go to NASA and all of humanity is lost it seems.

This is a problem for a lot of viewers, I am finding out.  However, I believe I found a way for some of it to make more sense (at least in my mind) after pondering it for a few hours, so please let me explain.  We are told in the movie about 2 plans to save humankind, Plan A & Plan B.  Plan A is for current humans to solve a theoretical physics problem with time & gravity to build O’Neill Cylinder-inspired spaceships to take a significant portion of humans off our dying world and hopefully transplant them (eventually) on a Type-M planet in some other galaxy accessible through a newly-discovered wormhole.  Plan B is to simply continue the human race by sending embryos through the wormhole (with a caretaker) to start a colony on an agreeable planet and give up any rescue-plan for earthbound humans.  At the end of the movie (with lots and lots of heavy-handed drama thrown in for good measure), we thankfully find out both Plans worked, it seems, only because future-humans made it possible for the wormhole to exist and for Matthew to find a way to send the all-important messages back through time to himself & his daughter.

I concede that future-humans are necessary for the blackhole "tesseract" Matthew is able to use to send messages through time using gravity waves, as that is the only thing that makes sense.  My contention is that the wormhole was not future-human created and just appeared at a fortuitous time through natural or otherworldly means completely unrelated to Earth's current food predicament.

Ignoring the messages-through-time alternative timeline which we watched over a course of 3 freaking hours, the "original" timeline must have gone like this: Plan B succeeds completely without Matthew McConaughey flying the ship.  Plan A fails with everyone on earth dying.  Remember, they were going to launch anyway even before they met Matthew.  Future-human people (from Plan B) eventually figure out the extra dimensions and the possibility of sending messages through time using gravity waves, so a subset of them create the blackhole "tesseract" to enable a potential human to do this very thing Matthew does in the movie.  They probably had no idea whether it would ever be used or even work, but perhaps they heard about original Earth and Plan A and perhaps some of them wondered if it would be possible to, perhaps at this future point, save some original humans.

Unfortunately, this doesn't solve the future Matthew problem, but perhaps this can be one step closer to having this movie makes more sense.  Thoughts anyone?

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