Released in 2014, "Interstellar" is a science fiction film of epic proportions and one that truly rivals even the incredible "2001: A Space Odyssey," widely regarded as one of the greatest films of the age. The film is praised by critics and general audiences alike for its stunning visuals, excellent performances, and surprising accuracy to real-world physics and science, despite its science fiction roots. The film was definitely a marked departure from films such as "2001" or the "Alien" series, which drew inspiration from real-world science but chose to focus on the more philosophical and metaphysical aspects of the universe and how human nature interacts with it.
One of the most prominent aspects of the film is its depiction of the effects of time dilation. Time dilation, according to the Theory of Relativity, Time Dilation is a difference in the elapsed time measured by two observers. As an object approaches the speed of light, time will actually seem to slow around the object, allowing for less time to pass relative to the fast-moving object. As shown in the film, this effect can also occur when the object is in close proximity to an object with an extremely strong gravitational pull, such as a supermassive black hole. Time dilation to this great of a degree can lead to some mind-bending circumstances. This is demonstrated in-film when shuttle pilot Jason Cooper and his crew land on an ocean planet in close proximity to a black hole. The intense gravity causes mile-high waves, and extreme time dilation. In fact, the lost astronaut who had been sent to the planet years previously had only experienced a time difference of a few minutes by the time his rescue crew arrived.
Another interesting concept explored by the film is wormhole travel. According to all known laws of physics, a wormhole is a tunnel through spacetime connecting two singularities which are far apart from each other. Theoretically, wormholes could be used to cross vast spatial distances in an instant by “folding” space. Such a wormhole cannot form naturally, however, and the artificial creation of one would require an enormous amount of energy which cannot be generated with current technology. On the other hand, if methods of energy production vastly improve in the coming decades or centuries, the creation of such a wormhole could be possible. I also appreciate the fact that wormhole entry points are depicted as they would appear in reality-as spheres with a distorted depiction of space on their surfaces. Because the universe is three-dimensional, meaning that the singularity exists as a sphere, many objects with sufficient mass throughout space appear this way.
Though the film does focus on the more scientifically sound aspects of sci-fi, there are some elements which are definitely more fantastical and metaphysical. Most prominent amongst these is the film’s depiction of the various dimensions of reality. We commonly think of the universe having three dimensions, or three axes-X,Y, and Z. These denote horizontal, and vertical space, as well as a line which traverses both axes to create the third dimension. Higher dimensions are commonly thought to depict concepts, such as time and alternate realities, as physical entities. For example, a human existing in the fourth dimension would be able to view their entire being as their own life cycle, with their birth at one end and death at the other.
"Interstellar" depicts one of these higher dimensions as the concept of emotion, playing a pivotal part in the climax of the film. Our protagonist must guide past events leading up to his own space expedition through this realm of thought and mind, relying on these alone to communicate. Though this concept may have some basis in reality, the existence of higher dimensions has not been definitively observed, and the very concept is outright rejected by some schools of thought. This aspect of the film does not bother me, however. If anything, I am even more appreciative of the film’s willingness to depict the more uncertain aspects of reality alongside those that we have already accepted to be true. Great science fiction is about pushing the boundaries of not only human knowledge, but imagination as well. To that end, I believe that "Interstellar" succeeds on nearly every level, and deserves to be praised alongside classic science fiction of decades past.