We first saw interstellar on its opening day weeks ago, and I had intended to write this review much earlier (pro tip: don’t try and launch a review site a week out from 3rd year finals). Scott suggested that we see it again to refresh our memories and I found myself declining his offer, and I guess that's the review in a nut shell, I'm not a fan of this movie.
So in the not too distant future earth’s crops are failing because of plot device, governments have all but disbanded and what bureaucracy there is left spends its resources lying to the population in order to keep them agrarian or something. McConaughey is an ex NASA engineer/pilot turned farmer, whose daughter discovers a phenomenon in her bedroom which leads them to the remnants of NASA which is now headed up by Alfred. Alfred is trying to solve a maths problem which will turn him into a wizard with power over gravity or something (so that's what Eisenstein was doing) and McConaughey is the only one that can pilot a ship through a wormhole to try and find new planets capable of sustaining life. McConaughey is so important to the mission that NASA never once sought him out and the decision weighed so heavily on his mind that the very next scene he is tearfully saying goodbye to his daughter and getting on a spaceship with Catwoman, a bunch of red shirts and a smart-arse robot. Then stuff happens.
As one would expect from a Christopher Nolan flick, the cinematography is beautiful, Hans Zimmer’s score does the job and the visual effects are outstanding (seriously, they did a terrific job here and it will be a fucking crime if they don't at least get nominated). The acting was fine across the board, nothing outstanding but props to the kid actress in this for not making me shit myself in rage (I've always held that cinema much like public transport, should be child free). Unlike most films, I get the feeling that everyone involved with the production gave a shit about science. Orbital mechanics, space-time and general relativity aren't just background and actually inform and influence the plot, with my favourite example being time dilation, every hour that McConaughey spends on a planet near a black hole seven years will advance on earth. It's an inspired idea and an interesting spin on an old plot device.
So with all this, why didn't I like the movie more? Well...
Nolan has always been a big issue director, him taking on ideas large in scope such as humanity's survival and colonisation of new planets should make for interesting film, but his insistence to focus on human drama brings the whole production down. One suspects that Nolan doesn't quite understand hu-mans, with the dialogue in most scenes between McConaughey and his kid either coming across as overly saccharine or otherwise off. The idea of a world in which governments fall, crops fail and mankind faces extinction could have held an entire movie. Colonisation of space could have held an entire movie. Trying to force a human interest story into these concepts wouldn't and indeed doesn't work. Funnily enough Christopher Nolan could take a leaf out of his own book. Inception was a tight movie in which the protagonist’s sole motivation was to get his kids back, this emotive drive however never got in the way of the bigger story. Cuts between different action set pieces each representing a different level of dream is fascinating, cutting from an exciting scene on a space craft to a corn field in bum-fuck Nebraska is not.
And the ending, Jesus fucking Christ, the ending. Without giving too much away, it reminded me of the (anti)climax of the move Contact (also with McConaughey so I blame him). If I go to a picnic I want to eat some goddam sandwiches, if I go to Western Sydney I want to buy some goddam meth and if I spend two hours of my life watching your movie, I want a goddam climax.
Oh at one point in the film Catwoman utters the line “perhaps love is the one thing that transcends time and space.” The fact that this pseudoscientific crap didn't end up on the cutting room floor makes me weep not only for the film industry but humanity in general. In fact this line was so out of place in a film that had theoretical physicists on the payroll that it loses half a star.
The film pays homage through visuals and scenes to 2001 A Space Odyssey, much in the same way Super 8 apes early Spielberg, and just like in that case, you'd do better re-watching a classic.
3 stars (-1/2 star for the love line)
Mankind was born on Earth.
It was not meant to die here.
Matthew McConaughey was saving our asses before he was getting paid to save our asses.
Interstellar, in short, follows in the path of Christopher Nolan’s incredibly successful resume of re-defining the Hollywood blockbuster. In at least in my own experience, it takes an incredible director for me to be able to just be swept up in a movie, and enjoy it completely subjectively. Nolan films are amongst the few that can do that, and perhaps that’s how it feels for everyone. Although, in typical fashion, from the moment I leave the theatre (especially after going with someone as brutally cynical as Lumpsky), the logic crumbles spectacularly and endless unanswered questions hit like a freight train.
There is little point re-hashing the plot in this review at this point, the film has been out for a month and it has done some enormous numbers at the box office. What separated Interstellar from Nolan’s previous films though, was the emphasis on the “human” element and everyone in the world wondered with bated breath to see if this master of the modern blockbuster could pull it off. Did he succeed? Well….
There was a poignant moment shortly after Lumpsky and I saw Interstellar, which more or less summed up the primary flaw of this movie;
“Name one character that wasn’t Cooper or Murph.”
Guess what…I couldn’t answer it. I certainly knew who the actors were, and by no means did anyone do a bad job, but it certainly brings up a valid point; outside of the primary relationship between McConaughey’s Cooper, his estranged daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain), and to a lesser extent Anne Hathaway’s Brand, the other characters seem secondary to the point of being interchangeable and at worst, expendable (John Lithgow reprises the exact same role from Rise of Planet of the Apes, Michael Caine is still in Alfred mode and Cooper’s son (Casey Affleck) may as well not have even existed).
Now, let’s talk about Interstellar does get right; the visuals. Oh my God, does this movie look mind-blowingly, insanely, pants-wettingly incredible. It’s at this point that I will actually take Nolan’s side against particular criticism of his visual style (i.e. “It’s a Nolan movie, of course it will look good!”), which is not only completely detrimental to the achievements of the entire production team, but also nonsensical to hold someone’s completely unbridled visual genius against them. Plot and character issues aside, the modern movie-going audience need Nolan to punctuate the cookie-cutter churned out crap that Hollywood throws at us.
The science displayed within Interstellar is not only fascinating, extremely well thought out (for the most part) and for the most part accurate (apparently), it is also used within the plot as both a motivator and even in an antagonistic sense. The incorporation of time relativity is genius, and (SPOILER) the visual representation of a Tesseract is probably the most spectacular and original imagery you’ll see on screen this year. Everything feels real, practical and lived in (no doubt due to Nolan’s insistence on practical effects when possible), and most importantly, it’s fantastic to see a non-humanoid robot that doesn’t turn out to be evil.
I’ll also throw in an honourable mention to the score and soundtrack, although the former feels more functional than outstanding (especially considering Zimmer’s legendary back-catalogue), and several frustrating moments with the latter in which crucial dialogue (including the final words of a major character on their deathbed) were completely drowned out due to some blatantly uneven sound mixing that at times, bordered on painful.
Is Interstellar a bad film? Not by a long shot. Sure, it has its issues, questionable character motivations, and plot holes. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Any issues aside, Interstellar is absolutely spectacular. While it may not sit on the same level as Inception or The Dark Knight, Interstellar is one hell of an amazing ride.
3 ½ Stars