“Interstellar” Review

Christopher Nolan has directed and written a lot of enjoyable movies: Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and all of the new Batman movies. If you have loved his previous movies but are skeptical about him making a space movie, I can assure you that Interstellar has that same Nolan touch should you know and love it.

Interstellar is set in the not so far future where the “Blight” has destroyed many crops on Earth, and it seems that the planet can no longer support human life. Matthew McConaughey is a former pilot and farmer who comes across an opportunity to explore other planets for a new home for humanity. Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway are in supporting roles (along with a few robots offering some levity in an otherwise serious film), and Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain play the young and older versions of McConaughey’s daughter. Sorry, I can’t offer more details: I’m not sure what might count as a spoiler because I knew close to nothing going in.

Although we’re seeing a second wind of geeky genres with superhero movies, more Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek, I think they have relied heavily on action, whereas Interstellar is some hard science fiction. They are a few strange moments when the script is obviously explaining topics to the audience, but the physics involved are about as good as fiction gets, and they’re used effectively in the story. Particularly, time dilation is a major plot device: due to the influence of gravity, time can move at different speeds for different people, and the characters have to both reason given this fact and react to its effects.

The effects are the most interesting in a personal realm because the story hinges on the relationship between McConaughey and his daughter and love overall. Although it may seem hokey, the story effectively uses the physics and action as a vehicle for exploring human relationships, which gets quite intense. Despite the sometimes far-flung premises for science fiction, much of the best work manages to tie the themes back to something more visceral for us mundane viewers.

Overall, I thought the cast performed quite well. I can’t say I’m that critical, both McConaughey and Hathaway bring a lot of emotion to their roles, and I didn’t have any issues fitting them into their respective roles (despite the fact that I can’t remember any characters names). Visually, Nolan used both great special effects as well as actual locations to make everything believable. From sandy cornfields to outer space to exotic planets, there was a good mix of environments, which he certainly provides time to enjoy. The soundtrack included epic music appropriate for the moment, with an organ adding depth and suspense at the right moments.

My critiques are few but should also be familiar for a Nolan movie. The movie is long at almost 3 hours, and when you fact in my earlier point about a shift from action sci-fi to hard sci-fi, you can imagine how that might feel. And although I enjoyed the music, the dialogue was a bit difficult to make out at times, though I think better than Bane’s from The Dark Knight Rises.

I hadn’t seen the Rotten Tomatoes score beforehand, and looking at it, I can see that it wasn’t as universally beloved as other Nolan movies. If you think you’re into the premise and director, however, don’t let the score dissuade you. Remember, it’s a measure of consensus, not absolute quality. Interstellar is entirely representative of both Nolan’s style and hard sci-fi with just the right personal touch to make it enjoyable on intellectual, dramatic, and emotional levels.

 

Beware: Spoilers Ahead as I share a few of my thoughts on the plot!

 

 

Can someone remind me why they leave Romilly and the Endurance outside of the influence of Gargantua on the tidal planet? When he had explicit instructions to stay for them, I think it would have made more sense for him to go in as well.

So for their time travel version, everything has already happened on a single timeline and can’t be changed. I think it’s interesting that they don’t explore the lack of free will that this model of free will entails. It probably would be a distraction given the real themes of the movie, but it felt lacking in retrospect.

At the end, was humanity headed towards Edmunds’s world? McConaughey is presumably headed there, but since he had to escape to do it, I’m not sure if that was the game plan for everyone else, too.

The speech that Anne Hathaway gives to Matthew McConaughey about the power of love to transcend everything seemed hokey to me. I can see how that comes back around in the movie, but I think the emotion and presentation (which was quite good) doesn’t really match the hedge I would like to give it from a scientific perspective. That part felt more new-agey to me than any other.

Well, I guess there was the whole thing about the power of connection over generations and something about how that was the only thing to persist past death. I’m not really sure I buy that either. As Matt Damon was talking through it, I didn’t have any counter-examples, but it felt like an argument that was driven by force of will rather than a reasonable opportunity to argue against it. I would have to watch it again to come up with something.

And does CASE or TARS stand for anything?

2 thoughts on ““Interstellar” Review”

  1. Great review! My attempt at a non-spoiler review for Tom since he wants to see it too was basically “Matthew McConaughey talks in his Lincoln ad voice for 3 hours and there are funny robots but not like cartoony robots, awesome robots that change shape, and a lot of really cool stuff happens!” My film critic skills could use some work, to say the least.

    *spoilers from here on out*

    I’ll try my best with the plot details, but I was having a lot of trouble catching all the dialogue due to the aggressively loud score you mentioned. Definitely missed some stuff.

    1. The only stated reason that I remember for leaving Romilly up there was so that he could work on gravity calculations. It seems logical to want to leave a man behind with the main ship so that if things went totally wrong on the planet he could continue on to a new one, but then he seemed resigned to wait there for them until either they came back or he died, so yeah, that lost me a little too.

    2. I don’t have any deep thoughts about Interstellar’s conception of time or free will except that it reminded me very very strongly of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

    3. I had assumed that the space station was heading for Edmunds’ planet, but now that you have me thinking about it…no clue. Cooper’s actions don’t really make sense to me either way – either they’re headed there already, in which case why did he have to steal the ship to get there, or they aren’t, in which case why is he sneaking off by himself instead of telling everyone his mission had identified a promising new homeworld and leading them there?

    4 & 5. Agreed. The “grand pronouncements about the nature of humanity/the universe” moments sounded powerful and fit the plot but also broke the immersion of the movie a bit for me, because I was instantly wondering if/how they could be refuted.

    6. TARS definitely stands for something. Amelia Brand says the full name to Cooper at the NASA compound when she interrupts TARS interrogating him. It starts with Tactical but I couldn’t hear the rest of the acronym. CASE and KIPP, I don’t think they ever explain.

    Whew, I think I need to see this movie again and try to fill in some details! I have a question: what did you think of the ending? It actually felt a little too happy for me…I thought that after Cooper transmitted his message to Murph it would have been best if he’d collapsed into the singularity with the rest of the 4D space. She knew it was him sending her the message, she therefore forgave him for leaving, and he managed to save humanity. Dissolve into point of light. Credits. The end part wasn’t bad or anything, it just felt a bit unnecessary and tied in a bow with happy reunions for everybody. Although I guess Nolan did a very similar thing at the end of Dark Knight Rises. Maybe that’s his MO.

    1. Okay, I’m glad to hear that you had some of the same concerns I did. I guess when it comes out on DVD or netflix, we can watch it again with subtitles and figure out more of the details.

      With regard to the ending, I also thought it had good endings even before where it did. The one you mentioned would have been particularly good. But this does indeed seem like a Nolan touch to give the audience a bit more closure than that. He did it in TDKR as you mentioned, and even in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio does get all the way to see his kids (even if we don’t see what happens with the top). I think he’s a believer in the catharsis of a feel-good ending.

      I’m excited for more people to watch it so we can discuss more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.