Time Dilation and Tidal Destruction
I can only explain why the monster waves were that big as the planet is orbiting deep inside the tidal shear of the black hole just outside the event horizon. Yep, a planet orbiting a black hole just outside the event horizon, a region that would not be physically stable for any planet to form, let alone orbit. CORRECTION (Nov. 10): As mentioned by Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, who also made the assumption that a stable orbit so close to a black hole was not possible, Gargantuan was actually a rapidly spinning black hole that, as mentioned in the movie, actually allows for stable planetary orbits. My mistake.
Being so deep inside the black hole's event horizon came with another issue for the crew - time dilation.
Compared with people back on Earth, who are inside a weaker gravitational field than Cooper and co., each hour on this water world meant 7 years are passing on Earth. This is basically a variation on Einstein's Twin Paradox thought experiment (only swapping special relativity for general relativity) and a realization that time is a commodity. I quite enjoyed its inclusion in the story, you could feel Cooper's fear that the more time he spent on that planet, many years would separate him from his family.
Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts that time will run differently for two observers in and out of a gravitational well. The closer you are to a massive object, the slower your time will run. An everyday example is the slight time difference GPS satellites have to compensate for - time runs faster in orbit than down here on Earth.
But if the time dilation on the water world was that strong, you have to wonder how the crew survived in such a deep gravitational well.
But wait just a minute, how is the planet even there? The black hole tidal shear should have ripped it to shreds.
OK, it's Just Fantasy
Rather than harping on about how scientifically unreasonable the worlds the crew visited were - one even had 'frozen clouds'; how does that work? - I decided to throw all the planetary dynamics into a box labelled "fantasy." These worlds and the much-publicized black hole were no longer science fiction, they were fantasy. So I got out of my science ivory tower and re-tried to get back to enjoying the film.
Then, Matt Damon happened.
For me, the appearance of Damon's character, Dr Mann, was as unnecessary as it was surprising. Mann is basically a jerk whose purpose was to ramp up the drama. He was one of NASA's first team - a member of the Lazarus Mission - to explore this new galaxy and habitable worlds and was waiting to be rescued, but behind all his annoying philosophizing, Mann is a bad and cowardly man.
Yet another lesson about humanity's ineptitude, thanks Nolan.
As if there wasn't enough drama - you know, exploring black holes, alien worlds, the meaning of life and multidimensional theory - we needed Matt Damon to create some havoc.
Damon's character, who obviously isn't that smart, eventually has a tangle with the Endurance's airlock, which triggers a sequence of events that leads to a scene more at home in the "Fast and Furious" movies.
I was exhausted by this point.
Gravity, Meet Quantum Physics
Then came the central idea to save humanity: we must reconcile gravity and quantum dynamics. Yes, Interstellar went there too and, if I'm honest, I was excited about how Nolan would deal with it. Cue: the black hole dive.
The discussions about the reasoning for being able to see beyond the black hole were interesting and it started to re-awaken my hope that the movie would end on a high note. It certainly ended on a CGI high note - Cooper flying over the black hole's accretion disk and then eventually through the event horizon. By doing so he was hoping to find the answer to quantum gravity. Unfortunately, we were back into fantasy land.
ANALYSIS: Spooky Connection: Wormholes and the Quantum World
There was no mention of the black hole's tides, no mention about warped spacetime (that would have subjected Cooper and his spaceship to some extreme spaghettification) and instead we were treated to a prolonged light display ripped straight from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."
One may argue how such a messed-up thing like spaghettification could be represented in a movie? Of course, it can't (if you want your central character to remain in one piece that is), but completely botching the science of a black hole when also declaring that the black hole is the most accurate representation of a black hole in movie history is just, well, an annoying contradiction.
Multidimensions... and Love
To describe Interstellar's ending would require an article in itself, but just imagine Nolan's "Inception" meeting Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of Carl Sagan's "Contact." But in true Interstellar style, everything had to be laboriously explained by Cooper as he tried to fathom the multidimensional nature of being locked inside a black hole's event horizon.
Suddenly, we find out who "They" are (as if you hadn't worked that out already) and Cooper expertly navigates 5 dimensions in his spacesuit locked behind his daughter's bookshelf. And love is what guided him through. Oh yes, and gravity is a dimension that transcends time and space just like love. Or something.
VIDEO: Interstellar: How Many Dimensions Does the Universe Have?
Visually, Nolan did well when portraying multidimensional space; worlds wrapped within worlds, dimensions unfolding to reveal an infinite number of other possibilities. This mindboggling sequence was great, but by this point in the movie I just wondered how long it was going to be until the houselights came back on.
At some point, weeks later, the movie did end. But I'm not going to tell you how. Let's just say I let out my hundredth sigh and rolled my eyes, summoned the strength to stand and limped out of the theater.
I certainly have more criticisms about the movie that I do have praise. That's because this movie had so much potential, but rather than trusting good science could be carried with good storytelling, it kept slipping into fantasy and baffling soul searching. All this while being dressed up as an epic story of science and exploration, a promise "Interstellar" certainly could not keep.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this review do not necessarily reflect the official views of Discovery Communications.