Monday, 2 January 2017

Myth and A Hero's Journey | Film Review | Interstellar


Fig 1. Interstellar Movie Poster
Have you ever had the feeling like you're watching the same story recycled over a span of decades of films? It seems that after all this may not be just a instinctual feeling in the pits of your stomachs. It can in fact be backed up with theory, such famous theories have been thrown around over the years about mono myths and how they ultimately define the structure of a large collection of movies. The one theory that is certainly the most heard of and is potentially one of the best ways of categorizing and dissecting the layout of a movie. This theory is Joseph Campbell's 'A Hero's Journey.'. This theory categorizes a movie into  17 steps. The best way to describe these 17 steps would be to apply them to a modern day film to see if the codes and conventions of 'A Hero's Journey' can still be used.

The film I have chosen to review is Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar.'.  Interstellar is a film in which the earth is dying and there is only one way that the human race can survive, find another inhabitable planet in which human life can thrive again. This of course means space travel, wormholes, relativity and a bucket load of emotions and action to help you stay gripped.

The Hero within Interstellar is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA engineer who lives on an earth that its ravaged by overwhelming dust clouds, where economy has failed and everything in the world as we know it is broken. Cooper has two children; Murph and Tom, their mother has passed and the rest dedicate their lives to growing crops for food to survive. This means engineers are certainly not needed. But when all Cooper wants to do is explore and help find a solution all he can do is remain, grow and harvest.

Murph, Cooper's Daughter who is 10 years old firmly believes that she is being communicated with by some sort of ghost. Cooper is suffering with some conflicts within himself that make him question the 'ghost' as real or fake, this is until a series of books fall off the shelf with no explanation, its from this point that Cooper realizes that this can be read and deciphered to be some type of code. Its within this scene that Cooper goes through his call to adventure, but swiftly after comes in his refusal to this call. This is due to his commitment to his family and their survival, therefore he tells Murph that it is what is trying to communicate is absolutely nothing and she should not worry.

Fig 2. Dust settling on Murph's floor


It's not until the area becomes engulfed with dust during a local baseball game that the code is discovered to be binary code, this is found within the dust particles within Murph's room. After deciphering the binary code it is revealed to be coordinates to an unknown location. It's at this location where Cooper discovers it to be NASAs place of work and that they are still in existence. Professor Brand (Michael Caine) still works for NASA and can still remember Cooper as a tremendous engineer and an excellent pilot. It is Professor Brand who can easily represent Cooper's supernatural aid.

Fig 3. Professor Brand Conversing with Cooper

Due to Cooper's Technical skills and previous piloting skills he may be the only hope mankind has of surviving. Professor Brand explains to Cooper that the earth is dying and it doesn't have long left. He also explains that if the human race is to continue Cooper and his crew must discover a planet that can sustain human life. Crossing the threshold for Cooper presents itself as him leaving earth. He chooses to do so after a hard goodbye to his family, especially a difficult departure for Murph as she knows that her Father may never return.

Soon after, the threshold has been crossed and Cooper, Doyle and Brand's Daugther are in space, They travel across space to reach a wormhole in which they can transverse through to get to a complete new galaxy, It could be said that the wormhole or the new galaxy is the belly of the whale in this film.

Once through the wormhole the set of trials begin it is discovered by Coop and co that there are 3 planets and that they only have enough fuel to potentially explore one. It's at this point where Coop decides to travel to Miller's planet. Although upon arrival it is clear that the planet is completely covered in water, the crew find Miller's ship to find that it is destroyed and submerged in the water. The task is to recover the data and get away from the planet, A freak wave makes this task more difficult. Coop and Brand's Daughter manage to get back on board the Endurance but their comrade unfortunately does not make it. Therefore the remaining crew has left empty handed and also 23 years have past on Earth.

Fig 4. Miller's Planet of Water

It could be said that when Coop returns from Miller's planet and see's all of his messages from his kids from over 23 years that that is the moment he 'meets with the goddess'. This is because after seeing the messages it makes it clear to Coop that his mission is to find a habitable planet and see his kids before they die.

After seeing the heartbreaking messages, Coop is told by Brand's Daughter that there was never a chance that plan A would have succeeded. It is this moment that can be seen as the atonement with the father.

Fig 5. Dr Mann's Frozen Planet

It is with the failure on Miller's planet that forces Coop and co to take action and journey to the planet where Dr Mann is and where the apotheosis happens. It's on this planet where they discover Dr Mann is still alive but the planet is unhabitable. This becomes another set of trials because Dr Mann attempts to kill Coop and leave him left for dead. Mann manages to escape leaving Brand's daughter to save Coops life.


The ultimate Boon in Interstellar would come at the point that Dr Mann has been saved and the planets have been explored as intended in the first goals. He is also attempting to connect to the endurance when instructed not too. It's in this moment where it is unsuccessful and is killed in the process.

Which now leaves the Endurance in a state where Coop needs to attempt to reconnect to the Endurance so that it can propel him in the direction he needs in order to fall near to the black hole, this is so that he can sacrifice himself to allow for Brand's Daughter to locate the 3rd planet. This is Coops Refusal of Return.

Once this has happened Coop falls into the black hole, it's at this point where we as an audience think he is dying or about to die, but it is in fact him travelling into the 5th dimension. This could be considered his Magic Flight.

It is within the 5th dimension that Coop is allowed to access his past like a timeline. He uses this to send Morse code to Murph via the second hand on the watch. Coop refers to the 5th dimension as 'them', giving us a greater sense that someone else lended their aid to Coop. Therefore this scene being the Rescue from Without.

Fig 6.Cooper in the 5th Dimension

After successfully decoding the Morse code, Murph is able to solve the problems down on Earth.
Mankind is able to move away from Earth and live on Cooper Station. This is the point where Coop has crossed the return threshold. He is now out of the Endurance and is able to go see his Daughter who is also extremely older than Coop.

Fig 7. Cooper Station
But alas this Coop still misses the Astronaut life, but without the impending doom of the earth's dust death he is able to have the freedom to live and explore as he pleases.




Image Sources

Fig 1. Interstellar (2014) [Film Poster] At: http://www.interstellarmovie.net/downloads.php# ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)


Fig 2: No Ghosts Just Gravity (2014) [Film Screenshot] At: https://samcooney.com/2015/11/29/no-ghosts-just-gravity/ ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)

Fig 3. Three Rows Back; Interstellar (2015) [Film Screenshot] At: https://threerowsback.com/2014/11/13/review-interstellar/interstellar-2014-screenshot-michael-caine/ ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)

Fig 4. Miller's Planet (2014) [Film Snippet] At: http://en.spaceengine.org/forum/14-2526-1( Accessed on 02.02.2017)

Fig 5. Inside the 5th Dimension (2014) [Film Screenshot] At: http://cdn.studiodaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/960_tesseract.jpg ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)

Fig 6. Dr Mann's Planet [Film Poster] At: https://uk.pinterest.com/SkipsSkyPins/christopher-nolans-interstellar/ ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)

Fig 7. Cooper Station [Film Snippet] At: http://interstellarfilm.wikia.com/wiki/Cooper_Station ( Accessed on 02.02.2017)



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