Director Christopher Nolan has created a career for himself by continually topping his previous films. But how does this latest entry fall? Comparing it to his last non-Batman film, Inception… Well. It might not be that good, but it’s still eerily spectacular. There comes a point where the expectation of something may be so high anything less than overwhelming is a let down. Interstellar’s issues do not stem from being underwhelming in any sense of the word.
The film is one made to be talked about, to be reflected upon, and it is one heck of an intelligent romp through time and space. It doesn’t require you to know an exorbitant amount of natural or theoretical physics, but it’s slightly more complex than simply “what goes up must come down.” It isn’t a film easily accessible to dumb individuals (sorry if that seems harsh, but it’s the hard truth). If you want something to blow your mind, and you’re willing to devote close to three hours in that pursuit, this film is for you. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys leaving their brain by the door, don’t waste your time here. Spoilers to follow.
On the cusp of a future no longer sustainable for life on earth, an ex-NASA test pilot must leave his family, his life, and his home on earth to pioneer into another galaxy by way of a wormhole located conveniently on the far side of Saturn to find a habitable planet elsewhere. Theoretical physics take on a serious life of their own throughout Interstellar, with exploration of relative time differentiations, wormhole/black hole anomalies, and even the 5th dimension.
Starting slow, Interstellar channels a Shyamalan-esque narrative, clearly setting up a potentially mind-numbing twist ending. However it was within the first few minutes of the film I actually predicted correctly what this anomalistic “ghost” really was. And although I certainly didn’t expect it to play out in the way it did, I will admit that Shyamalan’s style is far more subtle. That being said, enough about Shyamalan because the comparison’s end there. Interstellar, conceptually, is far more grandiose and ambitious a movie than any that have graced our screens in recent memory.
A friend who’d had the privilege of seeing the movie prior to me made the connection that it was very much a modern take on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I instantly noticed some of the parallels, if not conceptually than visually. TARS, a very special droid of… sorts, instantly reminded me of the monolith, particularly when it’s talking to Cooper at the foot of his bed. It looks just like it. Interestingly Nolan made it a point to say in an interview prior “there is only one 2001. So you don’t want to get too near to that.” Clearly he saw the similarities and didn’t want that comparison. But it’s not at all a bad thing.
Not nearly the most boastful and bombastic portion of the film, Hans Zimmer’s scoring is immense. If you could recapture the glory that is 2001: A Space Odyssey and mix it with the magnitude and uhh… sheer loudness of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then you’d find yourself with the soundtrack to this film. It’s seriously impressive. Rarely do I ever catch myself paying attention to the film score, let alone marveling in it, within my first viewing.
The acting, on the entire cast’s part, was stunning. Far more stunning than the actual character development. Only a few times throughout the film am I ever actually emotionally attached to a character. Some of the characters in the story just irk me to no end. Why was Cooper’s son suddenly so blind to being aided. Surely he cared about his family, but would rather them die in a cloud of dust? By the end of the film the story crescendos on both sides of the black hole, and on the earth side the daughter is attempting to figure something out necessary to the future of humanity, and the son is creating some truly unnecessary drama. It just didn’t sit well with me.
What did sit well with me were the visual representations of the shuttle entering the black hole. Really really incredible. So incredible even that it almost hurts to look at at certain times. Black holes, worm holes, the like – these are things we should never look at up close. Nolan’s vision for these scenes in particular are unbelievably inspired. Sure, the planets they visit are crazy gorgeous. But if you want something to blow your mind, look no further. (Can’t wait for someone to mash the Doctor Who theme tune to that).
Of course, you can look a step further, as Interstellar inevitably proves, by giving you a generous glimpse into the fifth dimension. To explain what that looks like is futile. But it’s ridiculous. Theoretically, the fifth dimension is beyond the 3 dimensions we live in, and a time dimension. Interstellar interprets that as being all times at once in the same location, infinitely. Which is, again, really not going to work if I try and explain it here. But this is also where the movie’s biggest letdown resides. After giving us an impressive look at the uber complicated world of astrophysics and Einstein theorems, the driving force to finally reach into this fifth dimension was oddly “love.” I’m not the only individual who had an issue reconciling this with the rest of the plot, but it is a doozy – and requires some heavy suspension of disbelief after you’ve already bought into everything else.
But what most forget to mention in their reviews, Interstellar is science fiction. And it’s some of the best SciFi out there. It’s a shame that it’s only in it’s first weekend out in theaters and it lost to Disney’s Big Hero 6 at the box office. This is in no small part due to the fact that nobody really knew what they could realistically expect from Interstellar. The trailers don’t really disclose anything, so as to help keep the film’s mystique, and this strategy hindered it’s attraction. Oh well. Try again next weekend.