Review

There haven’t been many great films about space exploration, and I’m not taking about your Star Wars or Star Treks.  In the nearly fifty-year since the release of Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey, we don’t have many films to look back on.  There have been some decent attempts at making another space epic, but they always come up short.  Sure, last year’s Gravity was a memorable film, but the story was small and fairly straightforward, yet I understand that deeper meaning can be pulled out of the film, it doesn’t ask any questions or question our understanding of reality or our place in the cosmos like 2001 did and what Interstellar valiantly attempts.  Christopher Nolan attempted something that has almost never been done, taking the film out of our solar system by exploring space time and the implications it has across the entire universe.  It’s a tough journey that the brothers Nolan embarked on, and while many may come out of the theater a bit perplexed, what they have crafted is a visually stunning, thinking-mans space movie, containing excellent performances, but ultimately coming up a bit short in the end revealing too much and not keeping enough cloaked in mystery.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Interstellar begins at a point where Earth is ravaged by dust storms that ruin crops and leaves the world scrambling to feed itself and stay alive.  It’s a stateless society that is solely focused on the preservation of the human race, at the expense of innovations and explorations.  Former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his family, which includes daughter Murph, son Tom, and father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow).  A former engineer and pilot, Cooper and his family are forced into farming like the rest of the world, in an attempt to save the human race from the inevitable starvation of all humans.  Things are really bad.  As Cooper is presented with an option to pilot an experimental space craft in the hopes if finding another destination for humans, he jumps at the offer, but regretfully must leave his family in hopes to save the ones he loves.

Interstellar is an incredibly ambitious film. It has a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo that may alienate the audience, but I personally enjoyed it.  You can tell it was intentionally dumbed down in certain sections and made to be somewhat accessible to the masses.  Despite the simplicity of certain characters, and often silly plot points, nothing can take away from the experience you get while engaged in the film.  Nolan does an amazing job bringing the audience along for the ride, rather than making them feel like they’re watching it from a distance.  A lot of that is done through incredible visuals, rather than the plot holes and lack of character depth which will inevitably be criticized.

Interstellar was shot in a visually unique way.  Most of the movies which take place in space have copied what was done in 2001, feature slowly paced wide-angled shots that show the crafts from a further perspective, keeping audiences at bay and at a distance.  Interstellar keeps the camera close to both the actors and exterior shots of the ships, which bring the audience closer into the action.  While you do get some wide shots which show the scope of the mission and objects around the craft, more often-than-not, your right there with the characters.  Light and sound are brilliantly used in space to add to the overall experience, and it is an experience that would be best experienced on as big of a screen as possible.  The Hans Zimmer score once again perfectly complements the images adding to the overall experience.  Without the music, the film would feel different, and that’s a testament to Hans Zimmer.

After films like The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, people have grown to expect a lot of action in a Christopher Nolan film.  Interstellar is much calmer in terms of action, but the intensity and intrigue are still there.  The film was well-paced, and does a good job with growing the level of tension.  This is never cheaply done, as it shouldn’t be expected, the level of uneasiness grows throughout the film.

There is a lot of information and theory packed into this three-hour epic, and it will make you think.  I left the theater and quickly hit the computer to look up Quantum Physics, Black Holes, and definitions of time, and one thing I found is that there are no definitive answers.  We have theories and equations that are constantly being updated.  Science is fact, until we learn another piece to the puzzle, then everything before becomes history.  Unfortunately, the film lacks in areas that hurt the overall greatness of this ambitious project.  Without ruining anything, certain plot points and events seem to coincidental or forced, in a way to tie things neatly together.  I get the reasoning.  Here you have this amazing complicated theoretical film, which the Nolan’s felt they needed to keep grounded.  Simple characters and conventionality hurt what is otherwise an extraordinary film.  Interstellar isn’t perfect, and while I remain critical of certain elements, it’s better than 95% of the movies released this year.

We once thought that the universe’s expansion was slowing down, only to find out that it’s in fact expanding at an exponentially faster rate.  What does that mean?  I don’t know.  Physics are beyond me.  What I do know is that our perception of time is constantly changing, so we might not have a ton of “time” left to make a movie on the level of 2001, so enjoy Interstellar for what it is.  Don’t compare it to anything else (even though it’s hard not to, and I did), it’s its own beast.  It’s a three-hour film that feels much shorter.  However, your average viewer’s perception of the run time will be different and may feel too long.  I thought it could have been longer and judging by how it was edited, there is a much longer cut floating around in space, and in time hopefully it’ll be released for fans to enjoy.

Interstellar is written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, with Chris directing.  The film stars Matthew McConaugheyAnne HathawayJessica ChastainMichael Caine, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn.

 



About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.