Don’t Understand 'Interstellar'? You're Not Alone

by Michael Arbeiter

You stumbled dazedly out of the IMAX theater, falling prisoner to the tides of the buzzing crowd. Outside the multiplex, everyone was calling back to his or her favorite part of Interstellar . The wormhole! The passage of time! The fifth dimension! Even those who found fault with the movie’s science seemed to appreciate the effort. You smiled nervously, hoping only that no one would call upon you to toss in your two cents. After all… you didn’t get it.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Too many victims of this plight have taken to the Internet since enduring the confusing Christopher Nolan film to express paramount dismay. Confusion over the ending, lapsed understanding of the sci-fi tenets, and a particular befuddlement over one secret guest star’s odd position in the story have landed a growing number of Americans in desperate need of an Interstellar support group. Well, here you are.

No matter what brand of consolation you seek, we’ve got you covered. Hoping for an explanation into any of the scientific concepts thrown at you by ambitious writer/director Nolan? No problem. Looking for go-to conversation pieces that you can use to sail through any intimidating discussion about the movie? Don’t sweat it. Hoping to draw memory of some element or another that you might well have enjoyed, but can’t quite access thanks to the heaps of tech jargon clouding your connotation with the flick? Smooth sailing.

Take solace, those of you who have felt the wrath of this perilously confusing movie. You’re safe here.


So you're a little unclear as to what happened (or, more likely, why something happened) at a specific point in Interstellar. Perhaps a little reading on the various scientific constructs showcased in the movie should clear a few things up.

Wormholes, Black Holes, and Plot holes: If the spaceship's journey through a wormhole, the astronauts' warped experience of time while on the waterlogged planet, or Matthew McConaughey's trippy voyage through the black hole were at all confusing to you, this post might help to clarify.

The Fifth Dimension: Likewise, McConaughey's ultimate journey to the fifth dimension can be explained with this little tutorial on what, exactly, "the fifth dimension" means.

Time, Space, and Beyond: We have answers to your lingering questions as well. For instance: When does Interstellar take place? And what happens at the end of the film?


There is plenty to discuss re: Nolan's latest that doesn't entail the muck of quantum mechanics.

Heart Over Mind: If you have nothing to say about the brains of Nolan's movie, say something about the heart. Despite being a heady sci-fi flick, this is easily the director's most sentimental piece to date, and should be honored as such. Finally, he nailed something cathartic in the realm of human relationships.

Passing the Buck: Just say, "Even Neil deGrasse Tyson liked it!" No one will expect you to showcase the same understanding of the film's principles as the world's leading authority on astronomy and physics, but calling upon his general approval of the movie should stand in for an actual contextual contribution.

That Interstellar Star: If you're really at a loss for things to say, just bring up the fact that Topher Grace shows up about two hours and change into this movie (even later than Matt Damon). Can you remember the last time you saw Grace on a movie screen? Was it three-quarters of the way into a gigantic Oscar season blockbuster? Was he yelling at Casey Affleck and kissing Jessica Chastain?


Yes. Probably.

Even if Interstellar was too convoluted to be your usual cup of tea, don't hesitate to think back upon the elements you might have enjoyed:

McConaughey's performance: We live in a wonderful era. One in which it is not only forgivable, but expected to pay esteem to McConaughey's big screen turns. Truth be told, the actor does quite a good job with what is an effectively surface value Spielberg hero, selling the role with his earnestness and grit (and delivering diatribes with wonderful fluidity).

The visuals: Nolan really upped the ante on his aesthetic panache in Interstellar, delivering a vividly dusty planet Earth, exciting and frightening space-and-time travel sequences, and crafty alien planet design. Even when you don't know what you're seeing, it's all rather fun to look at.

TARS: The secret weapon of Interstellar is its booming monolithic robot character TARS, an ostensibly sentient droid with a penchant for cracking wise at his astronaut friends. Combining his peculiar physical design and motive behaviors with his consistently sharp comic delivery, TARS makes for the readiest source of fun in the film.

Feeling better?

Images: Paramount Pictures (4)