Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Next Review: Furious 7

After the huge success of two Hunger Games movies, it was announced that Mockingjay would be split in two parts. The film picks up after the events of Catching Fire, where the story continued with Katniss, our reluctant heroine from District 12 finally becomes the titular head of a growing rebellion against the Capitol through a series of propaganda videos. This time, the film is lesser on the action, explosions or heavy violence and chooses to focus on being a political drama that takes the themes of war and revolution to the next level instead.

The Hunger Games has always been a character-driven story filled with meaningful themes by exploring real-world issues about rebellion, politics, conflicts, war, survival that ultimately stands out among the other Young Adult franchises. Katniss' several acts of defiance against the fascist Capitol government during the Hunger Games in the first two films have finally fan the flames of rebellion among the districts of Panem to take back their nation. While the country is on the verge of war, Katniss must also try to find a way to rescue Peeta and the rest of the tributes, who have been taken hostages, tortured and imprisoned by the Capitol.

Throughout the years, the franchise has done a great job in showing us that Katniss is truly the Mockingjay - the symbol of hope and rebellion in Panem. The books are written in Katniss' point of view, but the movies have made the effort of showing us other events largely unseen by her to allow us to gain a better understanding of the events that are happening in the film, such as the political meetings or discussions of President Snow or the control room of the games in past films. Mockingjay Part 1 takes time to give us a closer look at the beginnings of war by showing us some details about the uprisings that are taking place in other districts. From the brutal public executions, aerial bombing of cities and threatening speeches by President Snow himself, people are suffering and dying. The film also shows how easily people can be manipulated by media, by showing us that the people of Panem (Capitol and all the other districts) are easily influenced by what they see and hear, especially on TV. However, the ways the Capitol uses media to control all of Panem, it also shows that the rebels can use the same strategy to fight back as well. Both sides is using propaganda as a form of psychological warfare.

The film essentially tries to tell the audience that there are no perfect governments or political systems. Political ideologies always fail in reality because of the greed of men who only seek wealth or power. In Mockingjay Part 1, we see how Katniss is being used by the rebel leaders to fight the war. There's even one particular scene where Peeta asks Katniss whether she truly knows the people she's working for, letting us in doubt whether the rebels of District 13 are fighting for the right cause or it's just another Capitol in the making. Once again, Jennifer Lawrence pulls another strong performance as Katniss as she's the one who gets the most character development in this film. With Peeta captured by the Capitol for the entire film, Liam Hemsworth gets more screen time this time for his character, Gale after being left out of the story in the first two films. The film also introduces new characters, especially District 13's rebel leader, President Coin who will soon becomes one of the antagonist that Katniss need to face in Part 2. Elizabeth Banks’ character, Effie serves as comic relief this time around, but her character also shows that not all people in the Capitol are vain and oppressive as we think they are.

However, Mockingjay Part 1 doesn’t feel like a complete movie and fails to reach the heights of its predecessors. It's the first half of the final book adapted to film, which doesn't really provide any conclusions, it doesn't feel like it has a self-contained plot as none of the character arcs are fully resolved. The film keeps on setting the necessary pieces for the final epic showdown between the districts and Capitol but there's nothing significant happening throughout the film as all the relevant plot twists, the actual fight is in part 2. The film spends most of its time to show us the beginnings of war but couldn't provide further details on why the rebels in District 13 have so many resources and doesn't look malnourished compared with people from other districts. In my opinion, it felt unnecessary to split the final chapter into two parts as many of the scenes actually hurts the pace of the movie. It could be a far better film with a run time of probably 3 hours or so. We are all excited for the story's conclusion and yet we were asked to be patient and wait for next year's Part 2 instead. As the credits roll, I find myself leaving the cinema asking, that's it?

Ratings for all the Hunger Games film released so far:
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Next Review: Furious 7

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Movie Review: Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Previous Review: Big Hero 6

Based on the hugely popular 1994 manga/anime historical fiction romantic action drama series, Kyoto Inferno is the second instalment of the Rurouni Kenshin (also known as Samurai X in many western countries) trilogy, which tells the story of Himura Kenshin/Battosai, a retired legendary samurai who seeks redemption for his past killings as an assassin who's responsible for toppling the Shogunate government and restore power to the emperor. However, his past soon comes back to haunt him. The sequel picks up where the original left off and the story continued with the Kyoto Arc adaptation, the series' best story arc. This time, stakes are higher as Japan is facing a larger threat imposed by Kenshin's evil successor, Makoto Shishio and Kenshin struggles to stop this impending threat to the newly established Meiji government he helped to restore. Finally, fans get to see their beloved characters brought to life on the big screen again.

Shishio and his Juppongatana (Ten Swords)

As the first of the manga/anime adaptation's two-part finale (Kyoto Inferno - Part 1 and The Legend Ends - Part 2), Shishio, a samurai with formidable skills equivalent to Kenshin's, declared an all-out war against the new government and he intends to bring back the old days of the Shogunate - "survival of the fittest" where the strong shall live and the weak shall die. He is joined by his the Juppongatana (Ten Swords), a group of highly skilled, elite assassins and a huge army of warriors under his command to destroy everything that stands in his way. On the other hand, Kenshin is joined by many new allies, The Oniwabanshu (Hidden Watcher ninjas), a surviving remnant of the old Shogunate's spy network in Kyoto and Saito Hajime, the current chief of police of the Meiji government who was the former Shinsengumi head (military police protecting the Shogunate).

The film benefits from the strong performances from the lead characters. Takeru Sato did a great job portraying as the reluctant and conflicted hero Kenshin, who's unwillingness to kill is constantly challenged by his desire to protect the innocent at the same time. The same could be said for Tatsuya Fujiwara as the main antagonist Shishio, who managed to create a frightful and imposing presence every time he appears on screen. The goals for the characters were clear from the beginning of the film. Yosuke Eguchi and Ryunosuke Kamiki both stand out as the icy cool chief of police Hajime Saito and cheerful young assassin Soujiro Seta (who's also one of the Juppongatana members) respectively. However, I was quite particularly annoyed by Munetaka Aoki's over-the-top performance as Sanosuke. His character was not well-handled and there was a lot of forced acting and unnecessary movements whenever he appears on screen.

Despite the numerous deviations from the source material (especially with the origin of the Oniwabanshu captain Aoshi), there's a lot attention to detail went into this movie. The character designs used for the film were as close to the source material as it could possibly be. A lot of the important manga/anime plot scenes were recreated with some minor changes to keep the core of the story intact. Moreover, what's really surprising is that the details of etiquette and mannerism of samurai or ninja was taken quite seriously in the film, which makes it feels like a Japanese period piece.

The film is filled with intensely well-choreographed, well-filmed sword-fighting scenes. Many of the action scenes were tightly choreographed and the fast paced sword fights were performed with some rather inventive moves. The depiction of the various legendary kenjutsu Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu (Flying Heaven Govern Sword-Style) techniques such as Ryutsuisen (Dragon Hammer Flash), Ryushosen (Dragon Flight Flash), Ryusosen (Dragon Nest Flash), Ryukansen (Dragon Coiling Flash) look realistic enough on screen. The fight scene as Kenshin swiftly takes down Shishio's army from all directions in a village was truly a sight to behold. Moreover, the fight between the Oniwabanshu ninja leaders Aoshi (Captain) and Okina (Elder) makes for a great action sequence as well.

As an adaptation, it is understood that it is necessary to pay homage to many of the well-known characters in the series for the fans. This results in a lot of characters are introduced in this sequel and some of them are less developed due to the limited screen time. Although the film did well in showing Kenshin's past struggles and Shishio's dark past, the subplot of the Oniwabanshu members, especially Misao and Aoshi doesn't fit in nicely to the story. Aoshi's motivations for searching and killing Battosai was unconvincing and feels downright flat. The presence of the Juppongatana (Ten Swords) was weak as other members hardly get any screen time at all (except Soujiro Seta and Cho of course). Hopefully we'll be able to see more of these characters in The Legend Ends, the last film in the trilogy.

Overall, Kyoto Inferno sets the pieces for the final epic showdown between Shishio with his Juppongatana and Kenshin with his allies. A lot of things are being pushed off for The Legend Ends and doesn't actually conclude by the end of this film, so it's rather difficult to judge this film on its own. We'll just have to wait and see.

Rating: 7/10

Note: For fans of the series, please try not to compare too much with the original manga.

Characters in manga

Previous Review: Big Hero 6

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Previous Review: Love, Rosie

This year is filled with so many great animated films...The Lego Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, The Book of Life and now, Disney's new superhero animated feature - Big Hero 6. Adapted from the Marvel comics of the same name which is almost unheard of by many people (including myself), Big Hero 6 is a fun, entertaining, heartwarming and emotional film that's comparable to Pixar's superhero film, The Incredibles.

Over the years, superhero films have become more complex and character-driven with thought-provoking, challenging messages to the audience. The same could be said for Big Hero 6 as well. This is a film about the excitement of learning and innovating new things. This is a film that's filled with complex, mature themes such as dealing with grief and loss of loved ones, making the right choices in life by letting go and forgive those who have wronged you.

Big Hero 6 is a beautifully made film that's still incredibly charming and fun to watch despite its simple, straightforward and predictable story. The characters, even the awesome high-tech gadgets and suits are very well-designed. Moreover, the world presented in the film (the city of San Fransokyo - combination of San Francisco and Tokyo) is vibrant, colourful and futuristic, which is suitable for the story. Around the halfway mark of the film, we get to see the spectacular aerial view of the city as Hiro and Baymax flies around the city to test the newly made armour prepared to fight with the main villain.

The key to a successful animated film has always been creating one or two memorable, lively characters that young audiences could identify with, care about and love. The film succeeds the most by putting its focus on the relationship between Hiro, the lead human character and the hilarious, cute, lovable, cuddly, friendly and adorable inflatable healthcare robot Baymax, which is the heart of the film. The gentle robot instantly steals the show the moment it appears on screen, providing many joys and laughters that you wish you had him by your side as a personal companion/caregiver. He's clearly meant to be the character that every kid (or the kid inside you, for adults) should love. This film did a remarkable job in balancing action, drama and comedy. There are more enjoyable action scenes to satisfy the kids who loves action and several wonderful, hilarious, moving and emotional scenes of Hiro and Baymax together on screen to satisfy those who yearn for something profound and impactful. There are two particularly emotionally moving and heartfelt scenes that brought me to tears.

However, the film does have its flaws. The four supporting human characters (including the villain) are quite underdeveloped and it feels like we hardly know them much by the end of the film other than they're friends with Hiro and they will always be there for him. However, it's not significant enough to hurt your enjoyment of the film. Overall, Big Hero 6 is the perfect animated film for young nerdy kids and adults alike. It's definitely one of the best animated films of the year.

Rating: 8.5/10

Note: Be sure to stay for the after-credit scene. 

Previous Review: Love, Rosie

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Movie Review: Love, Rosie

Previous Review: John Wick
Next Review: Big Hero 6

Based on the 2004 romance novel ‘Where Rainbows End’ written by Cecilia Ahern, Love, Rosie is about a story of two people who were best friends since they were young. They've known each other for so long and they're absolutely meant for each other, but could never have the courage to admit that they have strong feelings for each other. Furthermore, life is not always how we expect or want it to be, as various unforeseen circumstances or misunderstandings continuously keeps them apart from each other.

Love, Rosie have the same typical flaws that many romantic drama comedies have: several unavoidable clichés and contrivances, a predictable ending. However, as in all romantic comedies, it's the whole journey that truly matters. The film takes the audience through the ups and downs of their relationships and how it affects their friendship over the years. Things didn't happen the way you expected them to be on some occasions, which is rather surprising and refreshing at the same time. The film is filled with occasionally nice witty jokes and heartwarming moments, combine with charming, likeable performances from the lead characters. The two leads have great chemistry on screen and it gives the believable feeling that they've known each other for years.

There's a real genuine, non-manipulative, non-domineering relationship between the leads as we witness several loving, selfless acts on both sides when tragedy strikes one of them. However, I have to admit that there's a rather unrealistic depiction about this "friendship" - "men and women can't be close friends because the sex part always gets in the way" (A famous quote from another romantic comedy film, When Harry Meets Sally...). In reality, it's virtually impossible that a beautiful, attractive young lady can be close friends with a strikingly handsome man without hardly any sexual tension at all, especially when both of them are heterosexuals and they've never think of each other as siblings either.

Overall, the film succeeds in finding the heart and soul for its characters for the audience to relate with, despite its shortcomings. It's a lovely, heartfelt film that doesn't disappoint and it's well worth a watch. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Note: I was damn irritated when the kissing scenes are censored by the film board of Malaysia. Kissing between individuals is a sign of love and affection. These scenes are crucial in romantic films. WTF would you bloody cut it?! Damn!

Memorable quotes from the film:

Rosie's "best woman" speech to Alex:
"Good evening everyone, my name is Rosie and as you can see Alex has decided to go down the non-traditional route of asking me to be his best woman for the day. Except we all know that today that title does not belong to me. It belongs to Sally, for she is clearly his best woman. I could call myself the "best friend" but I think we all know that today that title no longer refers to me either. That title too belongs to Sally. But what doesn't belong to Sally is a lifetime of memories of Alex the child, Alex the teenager, and Alex the almost-a-man that I'm sure he would rather forget but that I will now fill you all in on. (Hopefully they all will laugh.) I have known Alex since he was five years old. I arrived on my first day of school teary-eyed and red-nosed and a half an hour late. (I am almost sure Alex will shout out "What's new?") I was ordered to sit down at the back of the class beside a smelly, snotty-nosed, messy-haired little boy who had the biggest sulk on his face and who refused to look at me or talk to me. I hated this little boy. I know that he hated me too, him kicking me in the shins under the table and telling the teacher that I was copying his schoolwork was a telltale sign. We sat beside each other every day for twelve years moaning about school, moaning about girlfriends and boyfriends, wishing we were older and wiser and out of school, dreaming for a life where we wouldn't have double maths on a Monday morning. Now Alex has that life and I'm so proud of him. I'm so happy that he's found his best woman and his best friend in perfect little brainy and annoying Sally. I ask you all to raise your glasses and toast my best friend Alex and his new best friend, best woman, and wife, Sally, and to wish them luck and happiness and divorce in the future. To Alex and Sally!"

"Life is funny isn't it? Just when you think you've got it all figured out, just when you finally begin to plan something, get excited about something, and feel like you know what direction you're heading in, the paths change, the signs change, the wind blows the other way, north is suddenly south, and east is west, and you're lost. It is so easy to lose your way, to lose direction. And that's with following all the signposts"

"Age has taught you something. It seems to me that you know the big secret. That nobody knows what's going on."

"It seems that every few years I'm shoveling up the pieces of my life and starting from scratch all over. No matter what I do or how hard I try I can't seem to reach the dizzy heights of happiness, success, and security, like so many people do. And I'm not talking about becoming a millionaire and living happily ever after. I just mean reaching a point in my life that I can stop what I'm doing, take a look around me, breathe a sigh of relief, and think "I'm where I want to be now.""

"There aren't many sure things in life, but one thing I know for sure is that you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. You have to follow through on some things."

"When something tragic has happened, you'll find that you, the tragicee, become the person that has to make everything comfortable for everyone else...As a tragicee and future divorcee, you'll also find that people will question you on the biggest decisions you've ever made in your life as though you hadn't thought about them at all before as though, through their twenty questions and dubious faces, they're going to shine light on something that you missed the hundredth time around during your darkest hours."

“Our life is made up of time; our days are measured in hours, our pay measured by those hours, our knowledge is measured by years. We grab a few quick minutes in our busy day to have a coffee break. We rush back to our desks, we watch the clock, we live by appointments. And yet your time eventually runs out and you wonder in your heart of hearts if those seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades were being spent the best way they possibly could. In other words, if you could change anything, would you?” 

“It's funny because when you're a child, you believe you can be anything you want to be, go wherever you want to go. There's no limit to what you can dream. You expect the unexpected, you believe in magic, in fairy tales, and in possibilities. Then you grow older and that innocence is shattered and somewhere along the way the reality of life gets in the way and you're hit by the realization that you can't be all you wanted to be, you just might have to settle for a little bit less."

Previous Review: John Wick
Next Review: Big Hero 6

Monday, 10 November 2014

Movie Review: John Wick

Previous Review: Interstellar
Next Review: Love, Rosie

Similar to Taken and The Equalizer, John Wick is another good, satisfying action-packed, badass, stylish revenge action film. The film starts off at a fast pace and never stops. Many would ask: Who is John Wick? John Wick is a man of few words. The film doesn't spend much time on Wick's backstory or character development. It lets the action to do the talking. Every single action sequence in the film shows who he really is - his effective and efficient marksmanship was excellent. It shows he's focused, committed, persistent and ruthless when in pursuit of a target.

John Wick is a retired professional legendary ex-assassin for the Russian mob. He's "The One" that mob bosses normally hire to execute other assassins. He helped a Russian mob boss to control a city and then retired later after falling in love with a woman. After his wife died of illness, he's all alone without any meaning or purpose in life. However, his wife bought him a puppy to get over his grief. Unfortunately, some thugs come to his house, beat him badly, kills his dog and steal his car to sell for money. What a huge mistake. The irony is the one who did this is actually the son of the Russian mob boss whom he helped to build his empire. What follows next is obvious, to take one body after another until he gets what he wants - revenge.

As mentioned earlier, the story is simple, straightforward and predictable. There's nothing much to say about the dialogues either. However, the execution of the action scenes was splendid. The gunfight action scenes are exaggerated but feel authentic at the same time. This is one of the few action films where people actually aim at their target before they shoot. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and well-filmed without the irritating shaky-cam techniques used by many action films nowadays. The film is honest and it doesn't strive to be something more than what it is.

The film also have some fascinating world-building concepts as well. There are rules and ethics in this world of organized crime and assassins...everything in this dark world comes with a price. It's a secret society where all assassins can go to rest and relax in a luxurious hotel where they trade using only gold coins for payment or exchanging information. There's also a policy which strictly states that no "business" is allowed within the premises of the hotel or face severe punishment afterwards. This might feel like I'm spoiling plot details, but rest assured, the reason why you should watch this film is not because of the plot, character development or dialogues, but for the cool, stylish action. It's the action that does the talking. It's silly, but fun nonetheless.

It's a pure, honest action entertainment. Action junkies would certainly love this one. If you want good and slow drama buildup, decent acting with catchy dialogues, then watch The Equalizer. But, John Wick has a nice mix of charm and doesn't disappoint. Remember, John Wick kills an entire army of Russian mobsters, all because his dog was killed and his car was stolen. Don't mess with him. Period.

Rating: 7.5/10

Viggo (Russian mob boss): I heard you struck my son today.
Aureilo: Yes, sir, I did.
Viggo (Russian mob boss): May I ask why? (asking in a frustrating manner)
Aureilo: Well, sir, he stole John Wick's car and, uh, killed his dog.
Viggo (Russian mob boss): ...Oh. (shuts his phone off. LMFAO...)

Previous Review: Interstellar
Next Review: Love, Rosie

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar

Previous Review: Kill The Messenger
Next Review: John Wick

These days, few filmmakers dare to reach high enough to challenge our minds and continuously put us on the edge of our seats every time. From the backwards narrative structure of Memento, the illusionary gripping Prestige, the socio-political Dark Knight Trilogy, the dream heist Inception that offers layers of dreaming consciousness, Nolan never ceases to deliver one thought-provoking film after another.

This time around, the Nolans (script was written by both brothers) decided take us into the farthest mysteries of space-time by exploring matters of theoretical physics, to inspire us to venture out to the unknown, to reach for the skies. Most importantly, to encourage space exploration, specifically interstellar travel for the survival of our species. Before the release of the film, expectations were high with Interstellar being touted as the most highly anticipated sci-fi film of the year.

It should be no surprise that Interstellar offers another mind-challenging movie-going experience for the audience. Despite its long running time, the film is thoroughly engaging with its jaw-dropping, astounding plot twists (especially with its overambitious third act) and foreshadowing that heightens the suspense in the film. Furthermore, Nolan adds more depth to the film's main premise with some thought-provoking matters such as importance of time, personal interests vs global necessity (is it worthy to sacrifice the time with our children when the survival of our species is at risk?) through a simple father-daughter relationship story, watching the characters as they face the reality of a universe that's far bigger than them.

The film questions what things in life that really matter to us, to explore and see the world in a larger picture with our limited lifespan. Despite the seriousness and dramatic tension in the film, there are some occasionally funny scenes through the interaction between the human characters and the intelligent yet sarcastic robots, TARS and CASE.

Interstellar is as spectacular as Nolan's previous films, by showing us the wonder of space beyond our imagination. Interstellar delivers in terms of spectacle and they're all breathtaking to look at, from Saturn’s giant rings, the 4-th dimensional space when a spacecraft enters a wormhole, the exploration of two different planets, the stunning rendition of a spinning black hole and the possibility of extra-dimensional space. All of them are explored in ways that makes me admire the movie very much and I personally respect the director's attempt in showing us these things. Interstellar is considered to be Nolan’s most ambitious film to date.

However, it seems that Nolan’s reach finally exceeds his grasp. Interstellar isn't as accessible as Nolan’s previous movies due to its dense scientific theories. The general audience might find the theoretical physics presented in the film too hard to understand. Its attempt to tackle some of the complicated theoretical physics concepts and philosophical ideas seemed to be rather heavy-handed this time around, especially the film's extremely audacious last act.

The film is filled with scientific jargon (space-time dimensions, relativity, time dilation, quantum gravity, gravitational singularity, event horizon, etc) and this could leave certain audience feeling completely underwhelmed. Moreover, the exposition-heavy dialogues feels like characters delivering science lessons to each other. I do understand that exposition is a necessity in science fiction (to spoon-feed the audience with knowledge on science so that we know what's going on) but it's just doesn't feel natural in certain scenes, perhaps this is due to the complexity nature of the scientific concepts presented in the film. Don't get me wrong, the film is great and it succeeds intellectually on many levels, but I believe that only a handful of audience are capable of understanding it.

The film greatest strength lies on its underlying scientific concepts and intriguing plot, but not its characters (with the exception of McConaughey's character). All the enlisted casts are considered to be Hollywood's most talented actors but the film chooses to under-develop character relationships and allows science to take a lead role in the story. Despite stellar performances from each of the casts, none of the supporting characters are particularly memorable as their roles aren't well-realized as intended. Many of the characters have very little depth, due to the limited screen time and the need to explain heavy-handed scientific concepts to the audience. Even though Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Sir Michael Caine and Matt Damon each have their own moments, but that's just not enough to provide a deep memorable impression to the audience.

The heart of Interstellar lies with the bond between the father (Cooper, Matthew McConaughey's character) and his daughter (Murph, Mackenzie Foy's/Jessica Chastain's character) and McConaughey managed to provide a stand-out performance as a strong, likeable and relatable yet conflicted lead character: on one hand, he needs to reach for the stars and beyond to save humanity, while the other never wanting to let go of his family. There's a scene in the film when Cooper sheds tears of love and despair while watching 23 years of video messages left by his son and a recent one from his daughter back on Earth due to time dilation effect is particularly heartbreaking and would certainly evoke an emotional response from the audience.

Overall, Nolan succeeded in taking various complex theoretical physics concepts and use them all together to make a tightly woven story, which is a remarkable feat. Despite its flaws, Interstellar is still an engaging watch and one hell of a journey getting to the end.

Rating: 8/10

Note: This is NOT an "everyman" movie. The Nolans had worked closely with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to ensure the film was grounded in the science as much as possible.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars; now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt”. - Cooper

"In the first half of the 20th century, it was not expected that quantum mechanics would make possible transistors and microchips, mobile phones and computers, lasers and M.R.I. scanners. Radio waves were described by their co-discoverer in 1888 as "an interesting laboratory experiment" with "no useful purpose" whatsoever and are now used in innumerable ways (radar, weather prediction, medicine, television, wireless computing and emergency response), positrons are used in hospital tomography scans, and special and general relativity, which explain black holes also enable satellite-based GPS and satellite navigation. Electric power generation and transmission, motors, and lighting all stemmed from previous theoretical work on electricity and magnetism; air conditioning and refrigeration resulted from thermodynamics. Therefore, it is impossible to predict how seemingly esoteric knowledge may affect society in the future."

Previous Review: Kill The Messenger
Next Review: John Wick

Feature Article: Things to know about Interstellar Explained

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Things to know about Interstellar (2014) Explained - Part 1

SPOILER ALERT: The purpose of this article is to provide explanations about the real, theoretical scientific concepts presented in the film, Interstellar (2014) so that people can have a greater understanding of this unusually complex film. If you haven't watched the film and you do not wish to know the specific details of the film, please stop reading and come back here later if you're interested to know more.

The following explanations are provided based on my understanding of the film after watching it the first time on November 5, 2014 and what I know about the basics of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Note that these are highly complex theories with lots of mathematical calculations and formula. I've tried my best to make them as short, simple and concise as possible for easier understanding without the maths.

If there are any mistakes found in this article, please kindly provide any comments below so I can rectify it.

For my review of the film, please visit this link:

Murphy's law

 It's a saying that states: 
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  

It originally comes from Murphy's Original Law, which states that: 
If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

However, Murphy's law doesn't mean that something bad will happen. It means that whatever can happen, will happen.


The process of freezing and storing the body of a person for preservation to prevent tissue decomposition during long periods of interstellar travel so that at some future time the person can be awakened with minimal effects of aging due to gravitational or relative velocity time dilation. (will be explained later)

Differences between Classical Physics and Quantum Physics

Quantum and classical physics are based on different conceptions of physical reality.

Classical physics – Any theory of physics in which the Universe is assumed to have a single, well-defined history. Objects move on well-defined paths and have definite histories. We can specify their precise position at each moment in time. Since classical physics mainly deals with the macroscopic world of daily life, they are successful enough for everyday purposes. In essence, these are the ideas that existed before the development of quantum theory.

Law of Thermodynamics, Classical Electromagnetism, non-linear dynamics and Chaos Theory, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (special and general), Classical Mechanics (Newton’s law of motion and law of universal gravitation, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics) are all classical physics.

However, it was found out in the 1920s that classical physics could not account for the bizarre behaviour observed on the atomic and subatomic (microscopic) scales of existence. Therefore, quantum theories were developed, which will be discussed later on.

Now, let me first start on explaining what Einstein's Theory of Relativity is about:

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – General and Special

Before explaining Einstein's theory, it is best to first explain what dimensions are.

Dimensions The number of coordinates required to specify a position or location. These can range from one (a vibrating ‘string’, from String Theory) to three (in space) to 11 (in M-Theory), which will be explained later on.

Space-time – A mathematical space. Its points must be specified by space and time coordinates. It is four dimensional, with three spatial coordinates and one time.

The three macroscopic space dimensions are: (1) left and right; (2) up and down; (3) backward and forward.

Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity 

A theory of gravitation that was developed by Albert Einstein (1907 – 1915). It states that accelerated motion and motion without acceleration but with gravity (standing still in a gravitational field of a given strength) are physically identical (equivalence principle).

Because no special force is required to create inertial effects in an accelerating object, Einstein proposed that we should think the same way about gravity, forgoing the classical notion of gravitational force and instead conceiving of gravity as curves in space-time. This explains phenomena like why light bends in the presence of a gravitational field even though it lacks mass.

According to general relativity, the observed gravitational attraction between masses results from their warping (distortion) of space and time, allowing frame-dragging to occur, whereby a massive rotating object would alter space and time, dragging a nearby object out of position. The shape of space responds to objects in the environment. Therefore, time is a dimension (4) past, present and future; gravity distorts time.

Note: As space contracts, time expands. 

Gravitational waves - Ripples in the curvature of space-time that propagate as a wave, travelling outward from a massive object. Gravitational waves theoretically transport energy as gravitational radiation. (general relativity states that an accelerating mass gives off energy as gravitational radiation.) Gravitational waves cannot exist in the Newtonian theory of gravitation (In Newtonian model, gravity propagates instantaneously - infinite speed. In general relativity, gravity propagates at the speed of light - finite speed.)

Speed of gravity (or speed of a gravitational wave) has not been measured in the laboratory because gravitational interaction is too weak, and such an experiment is beyond current technological capabilities. However, recent discoveries of binary pulsar (a rapidly spinning neutron star that orbits another neutron star or white dwarf) and its observations have shown indirectly that gravitational waves exist.

Einstein's description of gravity:
  • The more massive an object is, the greater the distortion (gravitational influence) it causes in the surrounding space.
  • The distortion becomes weaker (amount of spatial warping decreases) as the distance between objects becomes larger.
  • In our solar system, the presence of mass (the sun) causes the fabric of space and time around it to warp (distorted). This distortion causes other surrounding objects (planets) to move around the sun and their motion is determined by the shape of the warp (elliptical orbit).
  • Earth, being a massive object, also warps the fabric of space and time, but far lesser than the sun. This is how the Earth keeps the moon in orbit and each of us bound to its surface.
Earth causes the fabric of space and time to warp, the moon is kept in orbit around the Earth because it rolls along a valley in the warped spatial fabric. In more precise language, it follows a “path of least resistance” in the distorted region around the Earth.

The theory states that time goes more slowly in the presence of a gravity field (Gravitational time dilation) and that the universe is expanding, in some cases faster than the speed of light, because it’s the space itself that’s expanding, not objects within it.

Artificial Gravity

The effects of zero gravity in space is normally the big problem that we, as humans will face with long-term interstellar space travel. We were born on Earth and therefore our bodies are adapted to survive under gravity, but when we’re in space for long periods of time, our muscles will degrade.

To prevent this from happening, scientists have created different designs of installing artificial gravity on spaceships. One such way is to rotate the spacecraft, as shown in the film. The rotation creates a centrifugal force that pushes objects to the outer walls of the spacecraft. This push acts similar to how gravity would, but just in an opposite direction.

You experience this same form of artificial gravity when you’re driving around a tight curve and feel like you’re being pushed outward, away from the central point of the curve. For a spinning spacecraft, your wall becomes the floor on which you walk.

Infographics taken from (right click, open image in new tab to enlarge):

Gravitational Time dilation

In the film, Cooper tells his weeping 10-year-old daughter, Murph, before he flies off to space, “When I get back, we may be the same age.”

To understand time dilation, one must first understand the concept of a reference frame.

reference frame is an imaginary coordinate system that specifies the location and time measurements of events with respect to a fixed origin. It can also be thought of as an imaginary map.

In space-time physics, every person (or observer) has his or her own reference frame in which he/she is the origin. Therefore, a person assigns spatial and time coordinates to events based on his or her position.

Time dilation is the difference between time measurements of two reference frames that are moving at different velocities with respect to one another. Two of the time dilations in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity have been experimentally proven. (the other one is Relative velocity time dilation)

According to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, time differs from place to place or time runs more quickly (the actual time speeds up) at higher altitudes because of a weaker gravitational force.

The effect of time passing at different rates in regions of different gravitational potential is called Gravitational time dilation. The lower the gravitational potential (closer to the centre of a massive object), the slower time passes.

Note: The gravitational potential at a location is equal to the work (energy transferred) per unit mass that is done by the force of gravity to move an object to a fixed reference location. As we go closer to the centre of a massive object, the gravity gets stronger, meaning the gravitational potential needed to move an object becomes lesser.

In 2010, gravitational time dilation was measured at the Earth's surface with a height difference of less than 1 meter (12 inches), using optical atomic clocks. The clock at a higher altitude was found to be running faster than the other.

It means that your head ages more quickly than your feet and that people living on the top floor of a tower block age more quickly than those on the ground floor. However, the effect is so small (negligible) that it would add just 90 billionths of a second to a 79-year life span.

In general relativity, the time dilation effect is not reciprocal: an observer at the top of a tower will observe that clocks at ground level tick slower and observers on the ground will agree about that. Gravitational time dilation is agreed upon by all stationary observers, independent of their altitude.

Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity 

A theory of the structure of space and time developed by Albert Einstein in 1905, which states that:
All the laws of physics are equally valid for all observers in uniform motion (velocity) relative to one another. In other words, the speed of light and the relationship between force (energy), mass, and acceleration are the same for all observers (or reference frames) moving at constant velocity.

The speed of light from a uniformly moving source or in a vacuum is always the same for all observers; regardless of how fast (or slow) the light source or its observer is moving.

The consequences that follow from the special theory of relativity are:

Relativity of simultaneity - simultaneity is not absolute, but dependent on the observer's reference frame. It is impossible to say whether two events occur at the same time if those events are separated in space. So, the perception of Time is relative (dependent on the individual’s or observer’s point of view).
Things that appear to happen at the same time to stationary observer A may appear to happen at different times to moving observer B.

Example: Two plane crashes that happened at the same space. All observers in the same space will agree that both planes arrived at the point of impact at the same time. But where the events are separated in space, such as one plane crash in London and another in Chicago, the question of whether the events are simultaneous is relative: in some reference frames the two accidents may happen at the same time, in others (in a different state of motion relative to the events) the crash in London may occur first, and in others the Chicago crash may occur first.

Length contraction - the physical phenomenon of a decrease in length detected by an observer in objects that travel at any non-zero velocity relative to that observer. This contraction is usually only noticeable when objects are moving near the speed of light; to the direction in which the observed body is travelling.

At a speed of 13,400,000 m/s, the length is 99.9% of the length at rest; at a speed of 42,300,000 m/s, the length is still 99%.

Mass-energy equivalence

energy and mass are essentially the same thing, and transmutable into each other (neither one appears without the other). Energy always exhibits mass in whatever form the energy takes. The law of conservation of energy is relative to the law of conservation of mass.
The total internal energy, E of a body at rest is equal to the product of its rest mass, m (E = mc2).
Since c2 is a big number, a little mass goes an extremely long way in producing energy.

Relativistic massm = E/c2 for all particles moving at the speed of light. 

Einstein’s formula explains that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Nothing outruns electromagnetic radiation – photons (light, radio waves, microwaves, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, gamma rays, infrared radiation). The faster something moves the more energy it has and from Einstein’s formula we see that the more energy something has the more massive it becomes.
Therefore, a slower-than-light particle with non-zero rest mass needs infinite (or vast amounts of) energy to accelerate to the speed of light; although special relativity does not forbid the existence of particles that travel faster than light at all times (tachyons - hypothetical).

Relative Velocity Time dilation

Time runs at different rates, depending on the relative velocity between two observers (clocks moving near the speed of light operate more slowly than stationary clocks).

However, the only way this can happen is if an observer’s space and time measurements of a system depend on the system’s velocity relative to that observer. This means that two observers can measure the time interval between the same two events and come up with different time measurements for these events, as long as one of the observers is moving at constant velocity with respect to the other. The faster the relative velocity, the slower time passes.

Therefore, when two people synchronize their clocks to read the same time, this synchrony remains as long as the two people remain at rest with respect to one another. However, if one person boards an airplane and flies a certain distance, that person’s clock will run at a slower rate than the person on the ground. This is called Relative velocity time dilation.

When a particle moves horizontally, the total speed of the constituent particles with respect to the rest frame is still equal to the speed of light. The difference, though, is that when the particle is moving horizontally, the total speed of the particle is made up of “orbital speed” and “horizontal speed” components, rather than just an orbital speed component as is the case when the particle is at rest.
The Standard Model of elementary particles shows that every particle consists of smaller particles that orbit each other at the speed of light. That is, each of these particles has an “orbital speed” that equals the speed of light.

  • Researchers in the 1970s used atomic clocks to test the theory. One clock remained on the ground, and the other clock flew on a jet at 600 miles per hour. As predicted by Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, the clocks ran at different rates. The airplane clock ran billionths of a second slower than the ground clock. (Atomic clocks are known to be so accurate that they lose or gain less than 1 second every 3.7 billion years.
  • In 2010, relative velocity time dilation was observed at speeds of less than 10 meters per second using optical atomic clocks connected by 75 meters of optical fibre.
  • In special relativity, the time dilation effect is reciprocal: as observed from the point of view of either of two clocks which are in motion with respect to each other, it will be the other clock that is time dilated. (This presumes that the relative motion of both parties is uniform; that is, they do not accelerate with respect to one another during the course of the observations.)

It is to note that special and general relativistic effects can combine:

Imagine for any two civilizations with an enormous distance between them (light years apart) and they communicate by transmitting radio waves that travel at the speed of light, the sender will be millennia ahead of the recipient by the time the message reaches the recipient.


The satellite clocks are moving at 14,000 km/hr in orbits that circle the Earth twice per day, much faster than clocks on the surface of the Earth, and Einstein's theory of special relativity says that rapidly moving clocks tick more slowly, by about 7 microseconds per day. (relative velocity time dilation)

Also, the orbiting clocks are 20,000 km above the Earth, and experience gravity that is four times weaker than that on the ground. Einstein's general relativity theory says that gravity curves space and time, resulting in a tendency for the orbiting clocks to tick slightly faster, by about 45 microseconds per day. (gravitational time dilation)

The net result is that time on a GPS satellite clock advances faster than a clock on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day. At 38 microseconds per day, the relativistic offset in the rates of the satellite clocks is so large that, if left uncompensated, it would cause navigational errors that accumulate faster than 10 km per day! GPS accounts for relativity by electronically adjusting the rates of the satellite clocks, and by building mathematical corrections into the computer chips which solve for the user's location. Without the proper application of relativity, GPS would fail in its navigational functions within about 2 minutes. (James S. McDonnell)



Things to know about Interstellar (2014) Explained - Part 2

SPOILER ALERT: The purpose of this article is to provide explanations about the real, theoretical scientific concepts presented in the film, Interstellar (2014) so that people can have a greater understanding of this unusually complex film. If you haven't watched the film and you do not wish to know the specific details of the film, please stop reading and come back here later if you're interested to know more.

The following explanations are provided based on my understanding of the film after watching it the first time on November 5, 2014 and what I know about the basics of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Note that these are highly complex theories with lots of mathematical calculations and formula. I've tried my best to make them as short, simple and concise as possible for easier understanding without the maths.

If there are any mistakes found in this article, please kindly provide any comments below so I can rectify it.

For my review of the film, please visit this link:


Now, let's proceed to explain what quantum theory is about:

  Quantum mechanics/quantum physics/quantum theory

      Any theory of physics in which the Universe has no single history or even an independent existence and objects do not have single definite histories. It seeks to explain the Universe from a subatomic (microscopic) point of viewIt is a branch of physics that provides a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behaviour and interactions of energy and matter. It states that matter can be both a particle and a wave. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic scales, the so-called quantum realm.

At quantum level, matter doesn't exist at a fixed state; instead it exists in a cloud of ‘probability’ called the ‘wave function’ where it exists in all states and in all locations. Only by ‘looking/observing’ at the particle, we collapse the ‘wave function’ and force it to exist in a certain location and in a certain state. Example: Light is made up of packets of energy called photons. 

Quantum uncertainty/Heisenberg uncertainty principle (Copenhagen interpretation) 

A finding in quantum physics by Werner Heisenberg that states that one cannot know both the exact position and exact momentum (or velocity) of a single particle at the same time (certain pairs of physical properties cannot be known simultaneously to arbitrary precision). You can only measure the position of a particle or measure its movement but you can never find out both.

In order to know where something is, you must be able to see it – and to see an object you must shine light on it. Light is made up of packets of energy called photons which although tiny, do possess some mass. Because particles are so small, the photons that you have used to see where it is will cause it to move. So, although you have measured its position, you can no longer know its velocity. The very act of observing a particle changes its physical attributes, so we can never know anything about it.

Quantum superposition

The quantum mechanical property of a particle to occupy its entire possible quantum states simultaneously. Due to this property, to completely describe a particle one must include a description of every possible state and the probability of the particle being in that state.

Example: In quantum physics, any living thing could exist simultaneously in various states, from completely alive to dead and all stages in-between. All of these states, known as superposition are possible outcomes before observation is performed on the living thing.

Note: Time is a dimension which isn't linear. At quantum level, every moment, past, present and future, exist simultaneously. Therefore there is no paradox. It's just that 3-dimensional beings like us don't/can't experience time in this way. We experience it in a linear fashion.

Quantum non-locality/Quantum entanglement

This phenomenon means that once two particles interact together, they become forever ‘entangled’ and that whatever affects one will instantly affect the other – no matter the distances involved, even if they are separated by light-years of space. So by affecting the properties of the first particle, you instantly affect the properties of the second, making measurement of the second particle meaningless.

“All things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.” – Richard Feynman

In particle physics, an elementary particle is a particle with no measurable internal structure; that is, it is not made up of smaller particles. Elementary particles are fundamental objects of quantum field theory
  • Proton – A positively charged atomic particle that, along with the neutron, forms the nucleus of an atom.
  • Neutron – An electrically neutral atomic particle that, along with the proton, forms the nucleus of an atom.
  • Electron – An elementary particle with a negative charge that surrounds the nucleus of an atom and defines its chemical properties.
Protons and neutrons are each composed of three quarks.

Note: We tend to visualize an electron to be a tiny ball, in orbit around a larger cluster of balls representing protons and neutrons. That isn't what it is like. They don’t look like little balls. They are not like anything we recognize at all.

In Superstring Theory, each elementary particle is composed of a single string (each particle is a string), all strings are absolutely identical. Differences between particles arise because their respective strings undergo different resonant vibrational patterns. (Brian Greene)

All elementary particles are either bosons or fermions (depending on their spin). Spin is the intrinsic angular momentum of a subatomic particle. It is an important part of a particle’s quantum state. 

All the particles of the Standard Model have been observed (experimentally verified)except Higgs boson ("tentatively confirmed") and graviton (theoretical).

  • 6 ‘flavors’ of Quarks — up, down, charm, strange, top, bottom.
  • 6 ‘flavors’ of Leptons — electron neutrino, electron, muon neutrino, muon, tau neutrino, tau.

  • 12 Gauge bosons (force carriers) — eight gluons of the strong force, three W and Z bosons of the weak force, photon of electromagnetism.
  • Other bosons — Higgs boson, graviton.

Standard Model of Particle Physics 
(image taken from Wiki)

The Standard Model shown above explains the subatomic composition of the Universe and describes how three of the four forces stuck together (gravity is not included as graviton is not yet discovered). It explains how the Universe works at the subatomic level and is the basic understanding of matter for physicists.

Higgs boson and Higgs field

The Higgs Field is an energy field that exists everywhere in the universe. The Higgs field is not considered a force. It cannot accelerate particles, it doesn't transfer energy. The field is accompanied by a fundamental particle called the Higgs Boson, which the field uses to continuously interact with other particles. As particles (except the massless ones) pass through the field they are "given" mass. Different particles interact with the Higgs field with different strengths, hence some particles are heavier (have a larger mass) than others. (The Higgs particle does not interact with massless particles, such as a photon or a gluon. Since these particles don't interact with the Higgs field, the Higgs boson also doesn't interact with them.) The process of giving a particle mass is known as the Higgs Effect.

Elementary particle interactions 
(image taken from Wiki)

Note: Mass itself is not generated by the Higgs field - the creation of matter or energy would conflict with the laws of conservation. However, mass is "imparted" to particles from the Higgs field, which contains the relative mass in the form of energy. Once the field has endowed a formerly massless particle the particle slows down because it has become heavier.

Note: The Higgs particle, like many other elementary particles, is not a stable particle. Once the Higgs particle has been created, it will eventually decay. Since it interacts with all kinds of other massive particles it can be created in collisions. If the Higgs field did not exist, particles would not have the mass required to attract one another, and would float around freely at light speed.

Four fundamental forces-mediating fields
  • Strong Nuclear Force – Holds together the protons and neutrons inside the nucleus of an atom – and the protons and neutrons themselves. The strong force is the energy source for the Sun and nuclear power.
  • Weak Nuclear Force – Causes radioactivity and plays a vital role in the formation of the elements in stars and the early Universe. We don’t come into contact with this or the strong force in our everyday lives.
  • Electromagnetic Force – The long-range force much stronger than gravity, but acts only on particles with an electric charge. Electric forces between large bodies cancel each other out but dominate atoms and molecules.
  • Gravity – The weakest of the four, but a long-range force that acts as an attraction on everything in the Universe. For large bodies, the gravitational forces add up and can dominate all others.   

 The four fundamental forces of nature

The following theory is important to understand the third act of the film, Interstellar.

Unified Field Theory (UFT) - coined by Einstein, who attempted to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism, hoping to recover an approximation for quantum theory and to bring four fundamental force-mediating fields (Electromagnetism, Strong and weak nuclear force and gravity) together into a single framework (a single field). In short, the theory attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general relativity.

Our preoccupation with matter itself is incredibly skewed. We have this tendency to think that only solid, material ‘things’ are ‘really’ things at all. ‘Waves’ of electromagnetic fluctuation in a vacuum seem ‘unreal’. Most people think that waves had to be waves ‘in’ some material medium. Unfortunately, no such medium was known or discovered. We are more like waves than permanent ‘things’. 

For example: An experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else would you remember it? But the reality is: you weren't there at all.
Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place…Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. All your body cells at that time are dead and replaced by newly-formed body cells every day. Therefore, whatever you are now, you are not the stuff of which you are made in the past.

Humans live in ‘macroscopic levels’ of space-time dimensions that are bound by the four fundamental forces. They travel relative to one another at slow speeds, generally unaware of the distortions in the passage of time and perceive time linearly.

Before quantum mechanics, it was generally thought that all knowledge of the World could be obtained through direct observation, that things are what they seem, as perceived through our senses. But, quantum mechanics have shown that this is not the case, by remarkably accurate at predicting events on microscopic scales, while able to reproduce the predictions of the old classical theories when applied to events on macroscopic scales.


  • Wikipedia
  • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory – Brian Greene
  • The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
  • The Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality – Brian Greene
  • Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension – Michio Kaku
  • http://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/inquiring/questions/higgs_boson.html