If a superpower were to rule over the entirety of the universe, they would quickly find themselves drowning in logistical nightmares. What challenges might arise in that reality, and how could they be conquered or avoided altogether? That hypothetical scenario forms the basis of Interstellar Empires, an entertaining and informative documentary from science and futurism filmmaker Isaac Arthur.
Arthur openly admits that these concepts have been grappled with before in works of popular science fiction, including Frank Herbert's game changing opus Dune. His film debates the logistics of the seemingly far-fetched ideas presented in novels and video games, digs into their minutia, and provides a dizzying whirl of fascinating tangents along the way.
The task of keeping order in every galaxy would prove cumbersome to say the least. For instance, if chaos were to ensue on the other side of the universe, it could take a million years to hear the call for help and dispatch a fleet of spacecraft to deal with it. Effective governing would be inconceivable without advances in speed of light travel and the expansion of an average person's life span.
The film moves breathlessly as one perplexing concern inspires the next. If a life span could be extended far beyond our current expectations, how would it affect the character and function of the universe? The film considers a number of factors that might come into play, including concepts related to overpopulation, disease control, and the likelihood that a governing body would take a democratic form.
Arthur explains how many of today's technologies and accepted scientific theories could provide the seeds for this imagined future. His narration is constant, dense with insight, and often shifts between the playful and the studious. The film is also populated by stunningly imaginative graphics, a plethora of appropriate stock footage, and a stirring ambient underscore.
Above all else, Interstellar Empires inspires continued rumination on the possibilities of a universe far most immense than any of us can grasp. To the film's credit, it doesn't wallow in apocalyptic fantasy like so many of the "what-if" scenarios that are presented to us today. Instead, it offers the hope that anything is possible.