Ground control to Major Tom
This is going to be one of the weirdest reviews I’ve ever written. This is a movie that I will praise for so many things done right…but it doesn’t quite come together to become a “great” film in the end. So did Christopher Nolan make his first bad movie? Or will this be misunderstood genius? Read on my friends.
Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey-hey-hey as Cooper, a former astronaut pilot and engineer try to eek an existence on a dying Earth. Food supplies are down, and the world has no more use for engineers or a space program not when people are dying of starvation. However, strange gravitational anomalies in Cooper’s home discovered by his daughter, Murph, lead him to what’s left of and NASA led by Dr. Brand, Sr. (Michael Caine) and his daughter (also Dr. Brand) played by Anne Hathaway. The Brands have discovered a wormhole left by some unknown force that leads to another galaxy, and hopefully a new livable planet.
This is a film that drips and oozes science FICTION. Not science FANTASY like fun stuff like Guardians of the Galaxy or even Jurassic Park (the movie). This is something more akin to The Andromeda Strain, the original Star Trek movie, and yes, Jurassic Park (the book). It’s a film that takes complex and speculative science that MAY be possible one day and throws in a bunch of interesting characters to see how they handle the knowledge of such a scientific breakthrough.
And keep in mind, the characters are all well rounded with weaknesses and flaws that make them human. McConaughey has always been a fantastic actor and in his first big science fiction film, he is no exception. With Hathaway, Chris Nolan finds something more interesting for her to do and become compared to her role as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Some other heavy hitter actors like John Lithgow, Casey Affleck and others join the cast in smaller bit roles that would normally be forgotten but are able to bring something to the table. Jessica Chastain plays an older Murph dealing with her father’s decision to go into the stars and while she’s great, she’s part of the stroy that didn’t quite gel me, but I’ll get to that later.
The film is simply gorgeous to look at. Everything from the gritty spaceship, to the newfound planets are visual feast for the eyes that are awe-inspiring. They even throw in some clever robot designs that are the most original I can think of in years. So if the acting is great and the film is beautiful to look at…then why I’m not gushing like crazy about this movie?
Here’s where it gets weird, guys… See, I did not feel that this movie was too long. It was only later that I realized it was a near three hour movie. But the last hour of the film still feels like a different movie from the first two hours I watched. The first two hours feel like some hard science fiction, but the film makes a right turn into insane science fantasy that is more deus ex machina (look up the term, and it describes the ending to a tee) than anything else.
If I had to come up with an analogy for this movie experience, imagine if you were getting what you thought was a three hour space travel lesson from Neil de Grasse Tyson. The first two hours are endlessly fascinating about the limitless potential of the stars, but for the last hour he whips out some bongos and starts talking about “the power of love” in his pants. I’m not fucking kidding. This movie literally becomes a movie about the power of love in science. Actually, it tries to turn love, an emotional and subjective feeling, into a variable for a mathematical computation. And there is the problem with the film.
We have two movies in one here: a pure science fiction film that morphs into something Steven Spielberg would have made in the height of his family films of the 80s. I bring Spielberg up for good reason, HE was originally supposed to direct this movie but fell out due to previous contract arrangements. So it’s up to Chris Nolan to finish that job, and while I love his films…emotional connection has never been his strength. Actually, it’s his weakness, the guy can craft an intricate and scientific film but emotional resonance between lovers or more importantly, between father and daughter, he cannot make work the way Spielberg or Alfonso Cuaron can.
And the emotional connection is practically necessary for you to buy the wacktastic ending that drops all science fiction for something not even vaguely plausible. So with that disconnect there, it makes it feel like the movie is “missing” something. Something that holds the movie back from cultural infamy as one of of the greatest of all time to something that will be debated over its quality for years to come.
I wanted to love this movie more than I do. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, there’s a lot to admire there. Hell it gets points alone for being one of the few films begging people to love science and to not give up on pursuing the stars; and with recent developments like the comet landing exciting people, its heart and mind is in the right place.
As it stands, Interstellar is a very good movie that’s flawed as hell. Your mileage may vary in determining whether or not those flaws I’ve discussed will be overlooked by you or those flaws will take the movie down several notches. If you are going to see this movie, watch it in IMAX for the visuals and sound alone. Otherwise, I’m giving this a very enthusiastic…