Movie Review: Interstellar
Christopher Nolan has done an awful lot as a filmmaker. He directed innovative crime thrillers such as Insomnia and Memento, reinvented Batman with the phenomenal Dark Knight Trilogy, and has been expanding into epic blockbusters such as Inception. What on Earth could be left for the guy? In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan explores the final frontier itself: space.
In the future, Earth is going through a crisis. Life is becoming harder to sustain with frequent dust storms and a return to a farm-based culture. Cooper, a former astronaut turned farmer, is trying to raise children – particularly a 10-year-old girl named Murph (short for Murphy). Murph is convinced their house is haunted. In trying to prove the house is not haunted, Cooper stumbles upon the best-kept secret in the world: NASA is still operating. At the risk of not seeing his children for years, Cooper agrees to go a journey across the galaxy in order to find a planet where life can be sustained. As Cooper and his companions explore space, Murph grows up and tries to figure out how to save things on Earth.
The film captures the seriousness of this mission. We understand the pain Cooper goes through at needing to abandon his family. However, we understand the seriousness and importance of his mission. As he and his crew explore space, suspense is built as there is an air of mystery of what they discover. Each world they explore brings new elements of danger to them.
The film attempts to add a little real life science to the story of space exploration and what the characters encounter. Cooper and his mates have to compete with time relativity, black holes, and wormholes. Is the science completely accurate? I don’t know… probably not… However, it is fascinating. Even just the discussions are fascinating, however seeing them in action is very exciting. In explaining the science, the film hits the right balance where audiences will not need to look up science books to understand the dialogue. However, nothing feels dumbed down.
Interstellar takes on a life of its own during its third act when the suspense rises. In the past, Christopher Nolan has shown a knack for showing concurrent action. The action across the galaxy and on Earth are counteracted which builds enough suspense that one could cut it with a knife. A lot of the action is in this third act, and Nolan directs some truly thrilling action set pieces in the final third, building to a nail-biting conclusion. Nolan also manages to keep the flow of the film going. Despite being nearly three hours, the film moves at a brisk pace, and never feels too long.
Hans Zimmer’s score is another highlight. Every scene feels like his score adds a whole new dimension to every scene. He captures the majesty of exploring space when the astronauts are first exploring. However, the music also emphasizes the danger when the characters are serious jeopardy.
However, not everything in Interstellar is perfect. For starters, the characters are pretty unmemorable. The good news is that with multiple Academy Award winners in its cast, the film is well-acted. In one scene, Matthew McConaughey watches years of his children’s videos, and the expressions on his face tell us everything we need to know. In addition to the big names such as Anne Hatheway and Michael Caine, it is refreshing to see some well-deserved but often unrecognized talent such as Topher Grace and John Lithgow in meaty roles.
The bad news is that one would be hard pressed to describe these characters’ personalities. Audiences will likely be referring to these characters by the actors playing them rather than the characters’ names. For example, Michael Caine is a terrific actor, but the best way to describe his character is “The Michael Caine” role.
Another issue is the ending. At over two-and-a-half hours, Interstellar manages not to feel too long. The film is breezily paced enough to keep the momentum going. However, the film does not end, so much as it grinds to a halt. True, this film has a lot to wrap up, but the ending feels like it keeps going after it should end. Here’s a recreation of what went through my mind: So, that’s how the film is ending… Oh, it’s still going. That was an interesting note to end on… Oh, it’s still going. Okay, what’s going to happen next? Oh, it is over now. Without giving too much away, the movie also has a twist in the end that feels a bit tacked on. Also, as good as Christopher Nolan’s dialogue is, Nolan could learn a thing or two about showing instead of telling – especially when establishing the world of future Earth and characters.
Overall, Interstellar is a flawed but enjoyable sci-fi adventure. Although didactic dialogue and unmemorable characters bog the film down a bit, there are plenty of exciting moments, tense scenes and technobabble to keep audiences entertained.
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