The plot holes and questions of Intersteller

01 November 2023
In the vast realm of science fiction cinema, few films have managed to captivate audiences, stir debate among scientists and enthusiasts, and challenge our understanding of both narrative and astrophysics as profoundly as Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. Released in 2014, this cinematic behemoth intricately weaves the vastness of space exploration with the intimate intricacies of human emotion, making it a standout in the genre. The film attempts to bridge the often distinct worlds of hard science and evocative storytelling, drawing upon theoretical physics and speculative scenarios to build its ambitious narrative.

Interstellar follows the journey of a group of astronauts venturing into the depths of space in search of a new home for humanity, faced with the impending doom of Earth. Nolan, known for his intricate plots and deep character development, immerses the viewer in a universe where love, sacrifice, and relativity intertwine, challenging our perceptions of time and human connection.

While the movie has been celebrated for its breathtaking visuals, haunting score, and thought-provoking themes, it is not devoid of scrutiny. Like many works that dare to delve into complex scientific and philosophical realms, Interstellar presents a series of narrative elements and plot constructs that, upon closer examination, raise questions and spark debate. These ambiguities and perceived plot holes, rather than detracting from the film's value, have fueled discussions and analyses, underscoring the movie's impact on popular culture.

Let's discuss it!

plot holes of interstellar

1. The Blight and Earth's Deterioration

Interstellar presents Earth as a dying planet, plagued by an unexplained phenomenon known as "The Blight." This mysterious ailment is responsible for the decline in oxygen levels and the eradication of crops. However, there are several unanswered questions:

  • Origins of The Blight: The film never explains how or why The Blight started. Was it a result of human activity, or a natural occurrence? Understanding its origins might have given more depth to the urgency of the situation.

  • Selective Targeting: Why were certain crops targeted and not others? The Blight's selective nature is puzzling, as we see corn thriving while other plants perish.

2. Relativity and Time Dilation

One of the most captivating aspects of Interstellar is its portrayal of time dilation near the supermassive black hole, Gargantua. However, there are inconsistencies:

  • Sudden Acceleration of Time: On Miller's planet, close to Gargantua, every hour equates to seven years outside its gravitational influence. Yet, it's unclear why the Endurance crew didn't anticipate this drastic time dilation, especially given their advanced knowledge and technology.

  • Effects on Dr. Mann's Planet: The time dilation effects on Dr. Mann's planet are not as pronounced as on Miller's, even though both planets are in close proximity to Gargantua. The reason for this discrepancy isn't clarified.

3. Plan B and Human Repopulation

Dr. Brand's "Plan B" involves using embryos to repopulate a suitable planet. However, this plan raises ethical and logistical concerns:

  • Lack of Genetic Diversity: With a limited number of embryos, there would be a significant lack of genetic diversity, potentially leading to health issues in future generations.

  • Raising the Children: The process of nurturing and educating the first generation of children on a foreign planet, without any adult guidance, is a daunting challenge that the film doesn't explore.

4. Cooper's Survival in the Black Hole

Cooper's decision to enter Gargantua to gather data is a heroic sacrifice. But the film's depiction of his survival inside the black hole, and subsequent ejection near Saturn, is a major plot hole:

  • Surviving Gargantua: The intense gravitational forces inside a black hole would likely have torn Cooper's ship apart, making his survival implausible.

  • Escape from the Black Hole: Black holes, by definition, do not allow anything to escape, not even light. Cooper's miraculous escape from Gargantua's grasp, without any clear explanation, challenges our understanding of astrophysics.

5. The Fifth Dimension and The Tesseract

The film suggests that future humans have evolved to perceive five dimensions and have constructed the Tesseract to allow Cooper to communicate with Murph. This concept, while fascinating, is riddled with ambiguities:

  • Future Human Evolution: The idea that humans could evolve to perceive extra dimensions is speculative and not grounded in current scientific understanding.

  • Cooper's Manipulation of Time: Within the Tesseract, Cooper can interact with different moments in Murph's bedroom. How he can physically influence the past, such as pushing the books off the shelf, remains unexplained.

  • It's a paradox.

    Cooper finds himself inside a five-dimensional construct (the Tesseract) near the end of the film. This Tesseract, designed by future humans, allows him to perceive and interact with various moments in time. Specifically, he can influence his daughter Murph's past by sending her messages, using gravity as a means of communication.
One of the most poignant scenes involves Cooper pushing books off a shelf in Murph's bedroom, creating the "ghost" that young Murph believed was trying to communicate with her. Additionally, he manipulates the hands of a watch to send her complex data about the black hole, which becomes pivotal to humanity's survival.

Cooper's actions inside the Tesseract lead to a classic example of the "Bootstrap Paradox" (or causal loop). 

Here's how it unfolds in Interstellar:
  • Cooper communicates crucial data to young Murph from the Tesseract.
  • Armed with this information, Murph grows up and eventually deciphers the data, leading to a solution for humanity's survival.
  • Humanity is then able to survive, evolve, and create the Tesseract in the distant future.
  • This future humanity then ensures Cooper's journey into space, leading him to the Tesseract where he communicates with young Murph.
This sequence creates a closed loop: Cooper's actions in the Tesseract influence events that lead to humanity's salvation, which in turn leads to the creation of the very Tesseract where Cooper communicates with Murph. 

The cause (Cooper's messages) and the effect (humanity's salvation and the creation of the Tesseract) are interdependent, with no clear origin. This challenges our conventional understanding of linear time, where causes always precede effects.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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