The Will to Live — Balancing the Individual with the Masses
October 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
At it’s core, Interstellar is a portrait of man’s response to an imminent catastrophe. As encapsulated by the repeated Dylan Thomas poem, Do not go gentle into that Good Night, it seems that a situation like this globally evokes the survival instinct of man. However, this instinct manifests itself much differently for each of the characters, as they respond and act in varying ways trying to achieve the same goal of survival. A distinct tug of war emerges between those who value the survival of their close family and friends and those who value the survival of the human race at large.
On one end of the spectrum is Thomas Mann, the aptly named, larger than life hero of men. He attempts to maroon the humans who have come to awaken him in an attempt to pursue Plan B and ensure the continued survival of humankind. Although it is easy to view Mann as the villain in this movie, I feel that this is an unjustified designation. Clearly Mann is not a sadistic person, as he cannot bear to watch Coop suffocate to death, and instead turns away and leaves him. Rather, he views the idea of colonizing a new planet to be of greater importance than a singular person’s life. However, as his brash actions show, this ideology of simply caring for the greater good, while neglecting the individuals, inevitably does not save humanity.
Diametrically opposed to Mann is Murph as a child. Unable to look past the immediate effect of her father leaving to find a new habitat for the entire human race, she chastises and scorns him for leaving her. In the harsh conditions that the Earth currently faces, she believes that the loyalty of her father to her should supersede the responsibility that he has to the entire human race. Of course she is a child, so it is not surprising that she cannot remove herself from her perspective and view this objectively. Notwithstanding, this too is an unreasonable way to view this catastrophe situation though. Sure, she would be more comfortable if Coop were to stay, it would inevitably nix any possibility of the Lazarus missions succeeding. Basically, placing the sole importance on those who are close to you is not a viable option as well.
In the middle of the two previous view points though is the perspective of Coop. Although he cares passionately about his family and friends, specifically Murph, he is able to also bear in mind the gravity of the situation and the importance of a utilitarian approach. Although not as obvious as Mann’s name, I believe that Coop’s name is a play on the word cooperative, as he integrates both caring for his loved ones and also the human race on a grand scheme. First, he leaves Murph to take on the mission as a whole, and then later he deploys out of the ship in a seemingly impossible attempt to gather data for the greater hope of society. Both instances, Coop maintains his care and compassion for the individuals in his life, but also acts as an agent of the masses. It is this cooperative approach that truly aids mankind and leads to our continued survival.