Interstellar might dream of new worlds but, right now and right here, we still have one world to win and one planet to save.

Director: Christopher Nolan
IT IS UNDENIABLY TRUE that we cannot continue  exploiting the planet without dire consequences.  The machinery of our destruction must be dismantled.We have no alternative. Naomi Klein warns in her new book This Changes Everything  that the time for ideological debates has long past.

We urgently need  a paradigm shift that envisages a world not constrained by the demands of capital. But the politicians, representing the very interests of the machine that is destroying  the planet, will concede  to little more than some minor tinkering with the settings.

In Ridley Scott's Blade Runner the premise is that  the exploitation of the planet has led to the wealthy elite departing for new worlds to inhabit, leaving the working class and the dispossessed to live among the squalor and the acid rain.  While there might of still been a world to win and a planet to save there is no evidence that  the battle was ever fought. Organised working class resistance has been absent.

The political defeatism  evident in Bladerunner, a movie released in 1982, is also on display in Christopher Nolan's science fiction epic, Interstellar. In the thirty years since the release of Blade Runner the condition of the planet has considerably worsened but Interstellar has not moved on from the political bleakness of Ridley Scott's movie. Interstellar might well be a visual feast that needs to be seen on the big screen to appreciate but  there is a dark and  pessimistic heart beating at the core of this film that is hard to ignore - even among the vastness of the universe.

The premise of  Interstellar  is that the Earth and its inhabitants  are facing an environmental catastrophe. But Interstellar is a Hollywood movie with all the political limitations of a Hollywood movie and director Christopher Nolan shrinks from defining the nature of that catastrophe. There is no reference to climate change. Instead Interstellar says that the catastrophe is due to  “six billion people, and every one of them trying to have it all”. I can well imagine that some cinema goes will nod their  head in agreement: 'Yeah, that's the problem. Too many people."

In a world where the top 10% of the world's population own 86% and the bottom 50% own less than 1% of all the wealth, it is nonsense for Nolan to suggest that we're all "trying to have it all'.

Personally I will not be going out today to extract more fossil fuels from the planet and I doubt you will be either.  There are big corporations doing that. We are not all equally responsibly for the world's plight. But we will be responsible if  we do not fight back.

Interstellar follows the premise of Blade Runner that humankind  must leave our dying planet  and find new planets to live on.  It is the job of our hero Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), assisted by his sidekick Dr Brand (Anne Hathaway) to  travel in  a spacecraft through a wormhole to an unknown galaxy where humans may be able to live.  Such is the the film's plot conventionality that the central character is, of course, male. Cooper is a rebooted Deckard.

The suggestion that Cooper and the Dr Brand are the vanguard of an expedition that will eventually  see six billion people leaving the Earth is preposterous.  It is still a capitalist world and those with the most capital talk the loudest. Blade Runner's vision of the working class abandoned to its fate on Earth is more realistic.

But, like Blade Runner, the pall of defeat clings to Interstellar. That resignation is expressed by Cooper at one point:  “It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are...Explorers, pioneers, not caretakers ... We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.”

Interstellar, in the end, imagines the end of the world because it cannot  imagine the end of capitalism. There is, despite everything, a hopelessness about this film that jars with its  Star Trek - like  optimism of going "where no-one has gone before". In that respect Interstellar is grounded in the real world where, alongside the ascendancy of a venal capitalism, there has grown the machinery of fear - armies, prisons, private security firms, the surveillance state. Such a culture of fear  exists to shred and pulverize the human imagination, to destroy our ability to envision an alternative future.

Interstellar might dream of new worlds but, right now and right here, we still have one world to win and one planet to save.


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