*** (out of 5)
November 7, 2014
Matthew McConaughey as COOPER
Anne Hathaway as AMELIA
Wes Bentley as DOYLE
Jessica Chastain as MURPH
Matt Damon as DR. MANN
Mackenzie Foy as YOUNG MURPH
Michael Caine as PROFESSOR BRAND
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Christopher Nolan has become such a mega-director in Hollywood that it’s nearly impossible to have a level-headed conversation with anyone about him. In my experience, people are either crazy Nolan fanboys, remorseful Nolan apologists or fervant Nolan haters just waiting for the man to fail
Consequently, no one can just watch and react honestly to a Christopher Nolan movie without oodles of qualifiers surrounding it. Case in point, in this review of his new film “Interstellar,” I’ve spent two paragraphs not talking about the movie, or even talking about him. I’m talking about people’s overall reaction to him in order to frame a coherent, honest review.
Christopher Nolan no longer makes films. The days of “The Prestige” and “Insomnia” are over. Now Nolan makes events. Ever since “The Dark Knight” broke records and changed the face of superhero movies forever, a Christopher Nolan movie has been about the experience – both on and off the screen – at least as much as it is about the film itself.
I would imagine that with “Interstellar,” more people are aware of Nolan’s name and also probably the fact that it’s screening IMAX and 70mm than they are about the actual story. It’s quite a feat by Nolan, making his movies a huge event spectacle. This is good because it preserves the special quality of a big release, and even Nolan’s weakest film is still better than a lot of what you’re going to see out there in the theaters.
However, it’s also bad. Nolan no longer has to prove himself. In many ways, he’s running off of good will he developed with his fans going back to “Memento.” Still, Nolan is nothing more than a pulp film director with grand scope and the ability to sell his stories as smart and groundbreaking when they really aren’t (I’m looking at you, “Inception” with your “it was all a dream, or was it” ending).
In his last two movies, Nolan has crammed so many ideas, concepts, plot and characters into the story that it crumbles under its own weight. Yet, he is given a pass, with people saying these films are ambitious, which supposedly makes it okay that the movies ultimately feel half-baked. I don’t recall anyone saying that about Kenny Conran and his pretty looking and concept-heavy but poorly written and unsatisfying “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” ten years ago.
This all explains why “Interstellar” has massive plot holes, overwritten character emotion, logical inconsistencies, am embarrassingly narrow view of life in the cosmos and scientific gobbledygook technobabble that rivals Stanley Tucci yelling, “Algorithms! Math!” in “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
But darn it if “Interstellar” doesn’t look beautiful at many points.
The story follows a former pilot and engineer who now works as a farmer in a world where blight has killed most of the Earth’s crops. With humanity’s life on this planet coming to an end, NASA sends a group of astronauts through a wormhole to search for a new planet that we can colonize.
It’s a simple enough story, which is a hallmark of Nolan’s movies. Don’t let people tell you it’s complex or dense, because it really isn’t. Just as “Inception” was a straightforward “Twilight Zone” story told with excellent special effects and effective action scenes, “Interstellar” is a movie about space exploration that we’ve seen many times before, just not this big and this loud.
Like “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Interstellar” is weighted down with a bloated running time and too much forced emotion that seems as cold as the space the astronauts are traveling through. Sure, Nolan (and his brother, writing partner Jonathan) tackle some big issues, but they don’t have the follow-through to really make them work.
At times the film moves painfully slow (through pretty much the entire first hour before anyone steps foot near a rocket) and at times moves ridiculously fast (like when McConaughey’s character makes a snap decision to travel to another galaxy and boards a rocket in the time it would take to order a pizza).
Once the team gets into space, things start looking up. I’ve enjoyed space exploration movies, going all the way back to cheesy movies like “Rocketship X-M” in the 1950s. “Interstellar” covers many of the same points. The effects look fantastic (but honestly, if you throw $165 million at most movies, they’re gonna at least look good), and there are some epic moments in the film. However, they’re not the best I’ve seen. Say what you want about the story behind Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” but his shots of space travel were more awe-inspiring than “Interstellar.”
This film is meant to be Nolan’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but he’s tilting at windmills here. Kubrick’s film was a masterpiece that hit the mark on every wild attempt to reach for the stars. Nolan catches a lot of these stars, but at least as many slip through his fingers.
Still, “Interstellar” is worth seeing, and it should be seen in a theater with the largest screen possible. Just don’t expect the greatest space adventure ever filmed.