A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Produced by: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace.
Featuring the Voice of: Bill Irwin
Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated space epic INTERSTELLAR, (and the most anticipated film of 2014 for this writer specifically) has left critics and audiences divided. I enjoyed it, but like many movies, there are aspects that work and aspects that don’t. One statement the filmmakers made that frustrated me though was when director Christopher Nolan was defending the strong emphasis on science (a facet of the movie I liked, more on that in a little while), he says that a solution to the problem would be Scientist Kip Thorne’s book that the movie was based off of, and to see the film again to understand it better. Now this isn’t a terrible idea, I second the notion of reading the Thorne book myself. However if your response to criticism about your movie is to tell said critics to watch it again and read the book it’s based off of, then there is something wrong, sorry to say.
I digress; the film is going to be divisive no matter what. Either you’re in the movie’s camp or you aren’t. I am in the movie’s camp. I liked the visual effects, albeit I realize saying that a movie is carried by its visual effects isn’t exactly a sterling endorsement but INTERSTELLAR could have been. I enjoyed the plot, it isn’t dark certainly, but its passionate, the characters are smart, and they’re easy to like.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) knows he is meant to be an astronaut but the critical state of Earth has forced him to become a farmer to take care of his children. The crops are dying out, and dust storms have become commonplace. Schools are now teaching bunk science (one particularly noteworthy scene is when Cooper finds out that his kids are being taught that we faked the moon landing) in order to convince the next generations to become farmers as well. Through a sequence of events, he finds a base hiding the remnants of NASA. Professor Brand (Michael Caine) is preparing one last flight to find another planet that is habitable for the human race. Cooper reluctantly agrees, leaving behind his daughter, Murphy (played later in the movie by Jessica Chastain), and his son, Tom (played later by Casey Affleck). Tom handles the news fine, but Murphy is devastated.
A primary focus of the movie is between the relationship between Cooper and Murphy, and between a father and a daughter. These scenes certainly seem Spielberg esque at times, but despite this Nolan handles the film’s more emotional moments quite well. These scenes are not the strongest part of INTERSTELLAR though. The best scenes in INTERSTELLAR are when they actually take off and get into space. The black holes in this movie are absolutely gorgeous, you see every detail and most importantly you feel it. You are absorbed in it in a way that not many special effects pictures can do.
The space travel, seeing all of these new planets, and the emphasis of the theory of relativity are just great. You feel the silence of space, but most importantly you are wowed by it, as the film wants you to. These new planets, many of which kill several of the characters, are actually quite dangerous, but they inspire curiosity. You don’t know where INTERSTELLAR is going to go, and that is a dangerous choice at the directoral level and at the screenplay level. When you swing high you have to come to terms with the fact that you may indeed miss. The use of the theory of relativity is fascinating as well, as it adds a certain tension into the scenes of exploration. Are Cooper’s children going to still be alive when they get back? Will the human race? One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Cooper and Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) get back from exploring a planet and discover from one of their crew that 23 years had passed on the ship since they’d left.
Now on to the things about INTERSTELLAR that don’t work. One, the sound mixing. I must have gotten lucky and got to see this film in a theater where the sound mixing didn’t screw up on me, but INTERSTELLAR has gotten many of the same complaints that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES did during its theatrical roll-out, and that’s that between the score (or in RISES case, Bane’s mask) viewers could not actually understand the dialogue. This only happened to me a few times, but the film’s sound mixing is lackluster; Nolan and Co. need to improve on that in the future.
To do into detail on the other aspect of INTERSTELLAR that I did not like would require spoilers, so I am going to be coy. There is a character introduced midway through the film that is eventually revealed to be the stock villain. Several galaxies away, on a different planet, said person and Cooper get into a fistfight after this character tries to sabotage Cooper’s air supply, it is a dumb turn for this otherwise smart film, and it doesn’t work at all.
Despite its relatively minor problems and the divisive nature of what its trying to do, INTERSTELLAR is an effective ride and one of the best blockbusters of 2014. It is hard to predict at this point, whether the film will persevere and stand the test of time. It will be interesting to see.
Suggestion: See it in Theaters