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Is the Blockbuster “Interstellar” A Fundamentally Religious Film?


Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s “Interstellar,” a Hollywood Sci-Fi adventure film, echoed religious themes and raised questions about the existence of God. The film is set at a time when planet Earth is near death; its resources are nearly depleted, and if something does not change soon, all of Earth’s inhabitants will die. McConaughey’s character Cooper, a single parent of two children, is offered the opportunity to save humanity by embarking on a space exploration. His goal is to find a new world that will sustain human life.

Space’s mysterious vastness often elicits questions about the origin of life. What else is out there? Are we alone? How did we get here?  As Cooper ventures deeper into the unknown, another question is posed: If there is something or someone out there, why are they not helping us?

Cooper’s love for his children fuels his urgency to find a new home for Earth’s populace, even if that means leaving his children behind for an extended time. His hope is that the sacrifice will ultimately grant them their survival.

Cooper’s daughter, Murph, is devastated that her father is leaving her behind. She is desperately worried that her father will not return back to Earth during her lifetime—not unlike Christians waiting for Christ’s second coming.

The theme of love and sacrifice persists throughout, coming together to create some of the strongest emotions of the film. As Cooper works for the good of his children, he finds he is often met with their judgment and misunderstanding of his mission. Is this similar to how we sometimes view God, with limited vision and understanding?

Director Christopher Nolan worked with Oscar-wining composer Hans Zimmer to create an all-encompassing experience for moviegoers. From sweeping shots of inky space to beautifully mastered musical scores, it is not hard to imagine Cooper’s experience as he plunges deeper into space’s unknown depths.

After a crucial, mid-film climax, the crew aboard the space shuttle changes their focus from trying to find a “they” out in space that might help them to relying on themselves. The shift from looking for help to helping themselves is a significant one that begs the question: can humans save themselves?

A leap of faith drops Cooper into a fifth dimension, where he exists as a being that is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. His greatest epiphany occurs when he realizes his love is the tool that can transcend the barriers of time and space.

While the film is built upon the principles of science, scientific exploration, and science fiction solutions to Earth’s failing environment, it is the Godly qualities of love, faith, and sacrifice that enable Cooper and his crew to, quoting the movie’s anthem, “rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas) and work toward a resolution.

While the film’s religious themes may not always be front and center, they are interwoven throughout. If you have approximately three hours to spare, “Interstellar” is a worthwhile journey.


Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum.

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