The Black Hole Effect: Why Was ‘Interstellar’ So Damn Good?

A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world

Ivan Sutherland in Digital Visual Effects in Cinema by Stephen Prince

I remember looking at science fiction (sci-fi) films and finding not many of them to be too riveting or enveloping. The ones that did seem to grip me, I’d say, were Neil Bloomkamp’s “District 9” and James Cameron’s “Avatar”, both released in 2009. The former had done a brilliant job with its social commentary, and found a very interesting way to provide an informative yet completely stunning allegory for South Africa’s apartheid era. The latter takes the human mind on a mystical excursion to places far beyond both its reach and its understanding. It is execution displayed by both directors that truly solidifies what I believe to be a riveting sci-fi film. I had almost thought I would not be moved by impressive computer-generated imagery (CGI) graphics and a carefully crafted narrative again… and then I saw “Interstellar”.

With a plot and such hypnotizing visual effects, “Interstellar” (2009) had me convinced of all its intricacies to detail. I will proclaim my lack of knowledge about scientific exploration, transcending time and space, space travel, and almost anything that requires complex mathematical strategy to figure out. Still, director Christopher Nolan somehow made it all work. Space and time are both concepts yet to be fully understood by humankind. The beautiful thing about “Interstellar” is its exhibition of the black hole, a scientific phenomenon described as a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. Nolan took the film and pumped all of his faith in the expansion of the human mind and human capabilities into it.

I theorized why I think “Interstellar” was so wildly amazing and I came up with what I call “The Black Hole Effect”; the film itself pushes its surrealism, its uncanny and dreamlike story, so skillfully out toward its viewers that they become absorbed with trying to answer all of the questions that the film raises. How is it that a human being can maneuver between dimensions and save the world? What mistakes and successes led him back home? Can love truly transcend space and time? Price writes, “digital images take viewers through the looking glass into new landscapes of vision unavailable to ordinary sense, and enable them to peer into domains of the imagination. In the process, they have given filmmakers new methods for extending the aesthetics of cinema,” (Prince, 55).

It is pure genius to toy with imagination and create an alternate reality that leaves your audience wondering about their own realities. The stunning visual effects of “Interstellar” dramatizes the dangers of space travel, indeed, but we do not have an event like this in real life to compare it too. It pushes man over the edge and shows how many ways he can be hit on the way down and still make it possible to survive the fall.


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