Interstellar Movie Questions Answered | Interstellar Commentary by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Interstellar Movie Summary
The movie, Interstellar, is a 2014 science fiction film, directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine, among many other stars (see cast and descriptions below). Christopher Nolan also directed the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception.
Interstellar follows the journey of a team of astronauts who are seeking a new world after the Earth can no longer sustain human life.
Interstellar Top Billed Cast and Character Descriptions
A former NASA test-pilot-turned farmer who is recruited to lead a space team to explore a new world to save humanity o the spacecraft Endurance
Cooper’s inquisitive and intelligent 10 year old daughter
Cooper’s daughter as an adult woman, seeking the answer to the equation that may save mankind
Cooper’s daughter as an elderly woman
Cooper’s 15 year old son
Cooper’s son, as an adult
Dr. Amelia Brand
Part of the Endurance space team, and daughter of Professor Brand
Head of secret NASA team
Part of the Endurance space team; he waits 23 years for Cooper and Amelia Brand to return to Endurance after their visit to planet Miller
The first astronaut to land on the planet now named Mann, thought to be dead, but found in a hyper-sleep chamber by Cooper and Dr. Brand
Interstellar Questions Answered
This article answers a lot of questions which you may find are “unanswered” after seeing Interstellar. If you have not seen the movie, I would highly recommend seeing it! If you have already seen the movie, did you feel a bit confused after the end? Like me, did you feel like polling people around you in the movie theater to see if they understood the ending?
Interstellar Questions Answered
1. Why Should You See Interstellar?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of interstellar is: located, taking place, or traveling among the stars.
The movie, Interstellar, is well-directed, well acted and has an interesting storyline. Although sometimes bleak, the well-crafted cinematography and action-packed scenes made for a very good movie. Although the movie is lengthy, running approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes, it holds your interest and has several “sit at the edge your seat” scenes. This is the kind of movie that makes you think out of the box. You end up thinking about things you would never normally think of. It also provides an imaginative look at what it would actually be like if you traveled through a wormhole in space.
2. What is the Name of the Spacecraft Used for the Astronaut Team to Explore Other Planets?
The main spacecraft used in the movie for the astronauts is called Endurance. It has a rotating ring encompassing 12 pods, once of which links to the main cockpit for the Endurance crew team. It has hyper-sleep chambers for the crew members for their 2-year journey from Earth to Saturn’s orbit, which is where the wormhole is located.
3. What is Plan A vs. Plan B to Find a New World?
Plan A: Use 5th dimensional physics and use gravity to launch a space station big enough for the entire world to be on. In order to achieve this, astronauts must first travel through a wormhole in space. This plan saves the population on Earth. In the movie, Michael Caine’s character (Dr.Brand) believes this is impossible, but he does not divulge this until later on the movie, when he is on his deathbed.
Plan B: Use frozen embryos to populate a planet and start a new colony from scratch. This plan leaves everyone on Earth stranded and does not save the current population on Earth. It was a backup plan in the event that Dr. Brand could not figure out the gravity equation necessary to accomplish Plan A.
4. What Are the Planets That The Astronauts Visit and Explore?
Miller – This is the first planet visited by the crew of Endurance (the interstellar spacecraft that transports Joseph Cooper, Amelia Brand and the others on the crew through the wormhole); this planet is covered by water and inhabitable. This planet was previously visited by NASA but a tidal wave was encountered and the previous crew did not survive. Time is very different and distorted on this planet, so when the crew visits the planet, every hour they spend on the planet is equal is approximately 7 years on Earth. When Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Brand (Anne Hathaway) return to orbit, 23 years have passed on Earth.
Mann – This is the second planet visited by the Endurance crew. It was named after Dr. Mann, who was the first astronaut to land there. This planet is an ice planet that orbits the black hole which they call Gargantua. It has 67 hour days and 67 hour nights. When Cooper and Brand land on Mann, it appears to be an abandoned. However, they then discover a sleep chamber and Dr. Mann is inside, and alive. He had been marooned there for 35 years, and although he has not aged much physically, the abandonment has affected his mental health. Dr. Mann is played by Matt Damon.
The most surprising part of the movie for me is when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Dr. Mann (Matt Damon) are exploring and Dr. Mann attacks Cooper and tries to force him off an icy cliff. Dr. Mann was keeping something a secret: that there is no surface on the Mann planet. Also, Mann is aware that Dr. Brand (Michael’s Caine’s character) believes that Plan A is not possible; therefore, Dr. Mann wants to leave the planet and seek out another new world. After Dr. Mann leaves Cooper for dead, Dr. Mann takes off in his ship, and attempts to travel to the main spacecraft, Endurance, to take control of it and leave all the others behind.
Meanwhile, Cooper manages to crawl to a spot where an emergency device was located and he contacted Brand (Anne Hathaway), who rushes there to save him. Cooper and Brand then rush to their ship and try to beat Dr. Mann to the main ship. Dr. Mann tries to line up his ship to the main ship and interconnect but he fails. He then opens his hatch and the pressure causes an explosion, killing Dr. Mann. Cooper and Brand manage to line up their ship to the main ship and connect successfully, despite the fact that they are spinning. Cooper then makes a surprising decision: To jet off alone and leave Dr. Brand behind. To see what happens next, see the question below entitled “What is the 5th Dimensional World Found By Cooper?”.
5. What Planet Was Not Visited By Endurance Because They Did Not Have Enough Fuel?
Edmonds – This planet is named after Dr. Wolf Edmunds, who was the first astronaut to land there. After the crew returns to Endurance after their failed landing on the Miller planet, Cooper announces that they do not have enough fuel to visit both Mann and Edmunds. Brand (Anne Hathaway) is supposedly in love with Dr. Wolf and begs Cooper and the other crew member to pick Edmunds, who she also feels is better for human population. The crew votes and they end up selecting to visit the Mann planet.
6. What is the 5th Dimensional World (Tesseract) Found By Cooper?
After leaving the Mann planet, Cooper jets off by himself and finds a 5th dimensional world. This can be referred to as a tesseract (a four dimensional hypercube with 16 sides). He is trapped inside of the multi-dimensional world, but he discovers that he can see through the walls and sees his daughter, Murphy at a young girl and as an adult, in her bedroom. As a young girl, Murphy believed there was a ghost in her bedroom and that it was trying to communicate with her, but they (Murphy and her dad Cooper) discover that it is not a ghost; instead, it is an unknown intelligence sending coded messages through gravitational waves, which identify binary coordinates which leads them to Professor Brand at a secret NASA location (that was how Cooper ended up at the secret NASA location when Murphy was 10 years old, and when Professor Brand tells Cooper that he wants him to be the head pilot to save the world).
While in the tesseract, Cooper is able to communicate with his adult daughter by sending her Morse code through the second hand of her watch. Once Murphy receives the codes, she realizes that her father (Cooper) is communicating with her from beyond. Murphy returns to the NASA station and uses the Morse code signals to complete the equation which Professor Brand was unable to figure out. Murphy yells Eureka! and at that point, mankind is saved as they begin to put Plan A in motion.
Meanwhile, Cooper then finds himself out of the 5th dimensional world and instead, floating in space. Cooper then wakens in a hospital in the new world. It is not explained, but approximately 60 years has passed and Cooper, although not aged physically, is told by a doctor that he is 124 years old. It is assumed that during that time, stations were being built on Saturn to save humanity. The doctor explains that space rangers rescued Cooper minutes before his oxygen was about to run out.
7. What is the Difference Between a Worm Hole and a Black Hole?
According to NASA, a black hole is an invisible place in space where gravity pulls so much that not even light can get out.
In the movie, Interstellar, worm holes are described as a shortcut to jump from point A to point B in space. It’s sort of like a subway, to get somewhere faster than other means. It’s also explained like this: think of a piece of paper from point A on one end, and point B on the other end; if you fold the piece of paper in half then you can easily get to point B. In the movie, the Endurance spacecraft enters a wormhole to reach Miller's planet.
Interstellar Featurette - Building A Black Hole (2014)
How Does the Interstellar Movie End? (SPOILER ALERT!)
When Cooper awakens is in the hospital many years later, the movie doesn’t explain where they are. This is the confusing part. The doctor explains that Cooper can soon reunite with his daughter, Murphy, who is now an elderly woman. Cooper soon enters the room where an elderly Murphy (played by Ellen Burstyn) is overjoyed to finally see her father. Cooper is also amazed and overjoyed to see his daughter after all this time. Murphy, barely able to speak, tells Cooper to go find Amelia on the Edmunds planet.
At one point, Cooper hears some noise outside and looks out the hospital window. There is a baseball game being played nearby. This is the new world, and humanity is now living on the planet Saturn, in the 5th dimensional world (at least I think it's Saturn?).
Cooper then decides to go find Dr. Amelia Brand. He takes a spacecraft and heads to Edmunds. The final scene shows Amelia Brand (played by Anne Hathaway) on the Edmunds planet, at the grave where Dr. Edmunds is buried. She appears to be alone on the planet, but then nearby they show a camp.
Final Thoughts and Questions:
Do Joseph Cooper and Amelia Brand re-unite?
Does Cooper take Amelia back to the new world on Saturn?
Is the new world actually on Saturn?
How did the elderly Murphy know that Dr. Amelia Brand was on Edmunds?
What are space rangers and how did they transport Cooper to the new world after he was rescued?
After Cooper was rescued, where was he when the 60 or so years pass when Murphy was aging and stations in the new world were being built?
At the end of the movie, when they show the new 5th dimensional new world, where is the sky?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but if you have any thoughts and answers to these questions, please enter your thoughts in the Comments at the end of this article.
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Commentaries on Interstellar From Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. He is also host of Star Talk Radio Show.
According to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, we know there are worm holes, but we don’t know how to create them. In black holes bad things happen. You travel through worm holes, but not through black holes. You might be able to go around a black hole, but if you travel to the center of it, you will probably not survive.
In regards to the movie, Interstellar, the science of the movie was very ambitious. They had a science advisor named Kipp Thorne. Coincidentally, one of the robots in the movie was named “Kipp”.
More commentaries from Neil DeGrasse Tyson can be found on the videos below.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Interstellar Movie
Neil deGrasse Tyson Discusses Time Travel in "Interstellar"
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