Prior to beginning this story I need to stress to you how major of a spoiler this is. Many people don’t want to know anything about Interstellar, but there are some pretty major changes that Nolan made to the final movie compared to the awesome 2008 draft of the script. This article will discuss both what the script described, as well as how different the final movie is. As Interstellar is opening in 70mm IMAX theaters today, we decided it was time to post this.
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We’ve written before about how great the original 2008 Jonathan Nolan draft of Interstellar was. Back when it was originally written, it was going to be a Spielberg film and the big third act of the script would’ve been something pretty epic to see on screen. It was big SciFi with awesome technology and ideas that genre fans would’ve loved to have seen.
Unfortunately Christopher Nolan changed much of the third act of the movie into something more abstract so people would leave the theater debating it, much like with the ending to Inception. And by doing that, he ruined the best part of Interstellar.
In the third act of the 2008 script, the characters discover a massive space station. This wasn’t built by aliens, but by humans over a period of many thousands of years (due to the time displacement caused by the black hole). This is where the probe from earlier in the movie originated, it’s a device that can save the planet by altering gravity and allowing huge generational ships to just lift off the planet effortlessly. Coop sends this device back through time where Murph (his son, not daughter in the script) discovers it and spends his entire life figuring out how it works.
Cooper does make it back to Earth, but it’s hundreds of years in the future and the planet is a frigid wasteland. Earlier in the movie they discover a form a fractal life on the planet they get to from the wormhole, and Coop releases one of them on Earth to repopulate the species. He’s found by a ship and wakes up on a giant space station. He learns that he’s something of a legend to humanity as his journey through the wormhole brought the technology back to Earth that saved the planet, as Murph did figure out how the device worked. He meets one of his descendants, and then becomes a bored farmer before stealing a ship and flying off into space.
The imagery the script described is a level of “hard SciFi” we haven’t really seen in movies yet. The giant space station, humanoid robots, massive generational ships leaving Earth. This is heavy, Revelation Space-level, stuff. It’s the sort of thing science fiction readers and fans have wanted to see in a movie for decades.
Sadly, Christopher Nolan disagreed and re-wrote the third act of the script to make things more cerebral and cause debates among movie-goers about what actually happened. It worked with Inception, as people still talk about that ending, and I guess he hopes it’ll work with Interstellar.
In the movie Coop does go into the black hole, and does discover that it isn’t natural. Instead of being a massive space station operated by humanoid robots, he discovers a bizarre 5th dimensional place created by humans far in the future that allows him to communicate with his daughter in the past. Murph believes these communications are ghosts, but they’re her father from the future giving her the information she needs to make some kind of technological breakthrough. It’s not said what breakthrough it was, but most people assume it’s the unification of the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics. He wakes up in a bed on a space station where he finds a very, very, old Murph waiting for him.
I’m sure that sort of “mysterious” ending gets Nolan kudus from film snobs (and bloggers who want to be film snobs), but it comes at expense of one of the best science fiction scripts in the last decade. Interstellar is still a great movie, but now it’ll forever be haunted by what it could’ve been.