Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can’t reveal in our review.
Interstellar is organized anthology-style, in chunks, each orbiting around a couple of twists, the most important of which is also the least unexpected. It doesn’t take a narratologist to figure out that the gravitational anomaly that sends Coop in NASA’s direction—a phenomenon that the young Murph refers to as a poltergeist, and which Brand believes to be a signal from an alien intelligence—will figure in the climax of the movie. Sure enough, after plunging into the black hole, Coop finds himself, along with TARS, inside of an extra-dimensional space, which allows him to affect—and set into motion—his past.
The space—visualized as an M.C. Escher-esque optical-illusion maze of cascading time-loops—is Interstellar at its most far-out imaginative. But the thing is that awe, like beauty, is something that viewers have to experience for themselves in order for it to register. Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey—another point of reference for the film—do this by connecting the audience’s perspective to the perspective of a single character. When Chris Kelvin wanders the hallways of the Solaris space station or Dave Bowman enters the vortex, the audience is experiencing their surroundings as they do. Solaris’ camera only frames what Kelvin can see, and, for all of its psychedelic imagery, the “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite” sequence in 2001 always returns to a reverse shot of Bowman or to a close-up of his eyes. There’s another important element at play in both films: Neither Kelvin nor Bowman say very much, allowing the viewer to think along with them.
Interstellar intercuts Coop’s discovery of the space and his role in it with the adult Murph’s realizations of the same; both have a habit of thinking out loud. The result is that every moment is double-punctuated—triple, if you count the occasional interjections from TARS. And somewhere, in all of that cross-cutting and over-explication, that crucial sense of awe gets squashed; the viewer is being told something they figured out minutes or hours earlier in the film, occasionally three times over. For all of its focus on the importance of discovery, Interstellar seems reluctant to let its viewers discover anything for themselves.
Only one thing in this sequence—which comes a good 20 minutes before the end of this very long movie—really merits being said out loud. That’s Coop’s realization that the space is not a natural occurrence, but something like a machine, and that, like the controlled wormhole behind Saturn, it wasn’t created by unseen, benevolent aliens—the movie’s stand-in for a divine power—but by humans of the deep, deep future, in an effort to ensure the survival of their ancestors. In one line, the movie reconciles its hard science with its metaphysical sense of destiny, forming a loop.