Interstellar

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Release: Friday, November 7, 2014

[RPX Theater]

Written by: Jonathan Nolan; Christopher Nolan 

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Interstellar is a fascinating adventure, even if its credibility is trumped by spectacle.

And somewhere throughout this epic excursion to the far reaches of our universe I half expected Matthew McConaughey to make the pithy observation that Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore. Alas, that moment never came.

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

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There has been a healthy dose of speculation about the latest Christopher Nolan spectacular, on both ends of the spectrum — hype surrounding the fact that Nolan’s grandiose vision would now sync up with quite literally the most grandiose thing ever, space exploration, and caution against the inevitable: against getting hopes up too high (you know, in case Mr. Nolan isn’t actually infallible), and that the science needed to truly pull a feat like this off would likely not gel with the blockbuster formula. At least, not without alienating the majority of theater attendees.

Turns out, and in the wake of the dizzying height of such hype this last week, the cautioners were more accurate than they were naysaying; the positivity has been running a little unchecked. Try as I might to remain level-headed, I got swept up in it too. I for several months felt like a child after chugging an entire box of Pixy Stix. There was no way Christopher Nolan was going to disappoint. Not with this material, not with this cast, and particularly, not when he’s this experienced.

To that end, Interstellar is poised to represent a new standard to which audiences are going to forever hold Nolan accountable. In the build-up to the release, it was all we had to just assume the best of an intergalactic voyage through a never-ending web of stardust and dark matter. I’ve always thought it’s easier (and less scary) to imagine the size of the universe rather than to sit there and calculate its dimensions. Similarly, being ignorant to what the movie actually presents seems to provide a sense of innocence. It’s only in this moment the conditions might seem perfect, that we might have a truly comprehensive look at our place in the universe.

Interstellar is a movie that works best when not questioning, at least too deeply, the very heady developments taking place in the clutches of deep space. Contrary to Nolan’s ambitious hiring of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne as the film’s chief scientific consultant and executive producer, there isn’t a significant moment in the extraterrestrial portion of the narrative that passes without some level of suspension of disbelief. In fact, this happens more frequently than Thorne and any physicist are going to admit.

I don’t want to damn the science part of the fiction. I’d rather grin and go along with the logical gaps, because this film is a lot of fun for being about a very real end of a very real world. This is the most confidently something as technical as physics has been handled in a major motion picture event in some time. Possibly ever. The theory of relativity exists as a recurring theme and quantum physics crops up on more than a couple of occasions. Although reading textbooks isn’t required before sitting down to watch this, some scenes are sure to throw viewers for some exciting but head-scratching loops. Credit most assuredly needs to be given to Nolan for reaching out to field experts like Thorne who could give his film an immediate legitimacy a single filmmaker otherwise could not.

OLD AGE SHOULD BURN AND RAVE AT CLOSE OF DAY

INTERSTELLAR

Nolan once again reaches out to his brother Jonathan for the tall task of penning the script. This was a smart move. Good thing in an industry like entertainment nepotism doesn’t really count for much. He isn’t playing favorites, he just knows what he likes and knows how to get it.

It’s been proven on multiple occasions that the dramatic overtones of Christopher’s directing fall into a blissful matrimony with Jonathan’s perception of human nature. His script suggests a viable endpoint for a species that has for far too long remained ignorant to their impacts on their global environment. Culturally, we no longer exist. We are just a physical collection of individuals still surviving on the surface of this tired planet. In whatever year this is we aren’t exactly in denial but we also have not changed a great deal between present-day (in reality) and the present-day in the film, some near-future where the only food source we have left is corn. Jonathan can see how much trouble we are in today and extrapolates that, say, fifty years into the future with Nostradamian confidence.

The space epic is seated deeply in reality, which is what is most remarkable about a film that also features black holes (a relatively recent scientific discovery), rips in the space-time continuum, and a grab-bag of other assorted mind-bending phenomena. So easily the intellectual reach of Nolan’s direction could tip the proceedings into the realm of the ridiculous — and once or twice it does — but the performances he extracts from the likes of McConaughey, Jessica Chastain (who plays a fully-grown version of Murph, the daughter McConaughey’s Cooper leaves behind on Earth), and Mackenzie Foy (the younger Murph) ensure that we are distracted enough from some of the more obvious offenses.

Getting away from some of the more practical considerations, the production on a creative level is a thing of beauty. I’ll touch back on the practical for just a second: once we get into space the first thing that should be taken notice of, just like in Alfonso Cuarón’s brilliant Gravity of last year, is the deafening silence outside the space vessel. In a second we realize we are in a place we don’t naturally find ourselves. Unlike Gravity, the curvature of the Earth outside the Endurance’s windows is as close to familiar ground as we will be for the remainder of the film.

Hans Zimmer once again reminds the world of why he has a job scoring films. His work here is mesmeric, haunting, truly the stuff of science fiction and space exploration. Melancholic vibes are quickly supplanted by a racing pulse of optimism, determination. Where concerns grow about the convenience of certain plot developments, Zimmer steps in and whisks us to a galaxy far, far away. The musical composition of Interstellar is fantastical as much as it is fantastic.

I suppose in some ways Nolan’s latest was going to be a predictable affair. There was almost no way this concept could work perfectly. After all, what he is attempting is something no other filmmaker has really sought out, save for perhaps Stanley Kubrick. In Nolan’s vision we are shrunken to the size of worker ants. We have an enormous task ahead of us and it’s more weight upon our backs than we ought to be carrying, but we have no choice. A lot of things happen within this nearly three-hour runtime. But to credit the film editors, the running time almost seems insufficient. Arguably this is Christopher Nolan reaching for the stars while only managing to strike a new crater on the moon.

But even if it isn’t top-shelf Christopher Nolan, it still sits up higher than most films of its ilk in the last 30 years. Interstellar is a trip worth taking for the views and some reminders of how far scientific discovery actually has come if nothing else.

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4-0Recommendation: If it were any more serious, this film could be considered the most bombastic thing Nolan has ever undertaken. Fortunately he sprinkles in some much-needed humor to provide levity to this desperate search for another Earth-like planet. I highly doubt I need to recommend this film, but in case you are having any questions regarding the hype and whether it’s too much, it is a little overblown but certainly not enough to warrant skipping it at the theaters. This is a film, much like Cuarón’s Oscar-sweeper of yesteryear, that demands the big-screen treatment. It will lose so much if you wait for a rental. I also have to recommend seeing this on the largest screen possible, though you might save a few extra bucks by not going for the 3D. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 169 mins.

Quoted: “We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’ve barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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41 thoughts on “Interstellar

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  5. Beautifully-written review here, Tom! I really enjoyed it. You make a lot of good points, and I probably feel more similarly to you than any other reviewer thus far. For me, the score was probably my favorite part, alongside the visuals and the performances. What a gorgeous film to watch, even with its flaws! Excellent review.

    • . . .just dropped food all over my keyboard in a first attempt to respond to this. So, here’s take two:

      Yes. This was one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever sat down to watch, in a theater or at home. I never even noticed the absence of Wally Pfister in the company of Hoyte van Hoytema (amazing name, btw) and what he was able to do. All that said, I don’t think the visual style is enough to paper over the very serious logical and continuity gaps present here. For example, I think one of the worst examples was **HUGE SPOILER** when he gets kicked back out of the black hole and manages to wind up floating somewhere near Saturn. What?

      Hahah it’s things like that that almost made me face-palm. And I have never ever come to that in a Nolan movie. Also a serious concern: Hathaway’s character’s musings on love being the one thing that can transcend time and space. Like, really?

      So, Interstellar, the more I think on it, is really a 6/8 and is a rather mixed bag. I should probably see it again, though. There was so much to absorb all at once. . .

      • Sorry, I couldn’t help but laugh that you dropped food all over your keyboard 😉

        Yeah, there are definitely some plot holes in the film, for sure. I guess for me, it seems to come with the territory of being sci-fi, while it seems to rail against the whole point of it being a Christopher Nolan film.

        It’s funny you mention that you’d give it a 6/8, because I’ve been planning to give it a 3/4 (so same exact score there) when I get to reviewing it on AEOS.

  6. Great review, Tom. Though by no means is it Nolan’s best film but it’s an ambitious n audacious work that needs praise for daring to put such complex ideas in front of mainstream viewers knowing that they generally feed on brainless extravaganzas and still expecting them to embrace it. And guess what… many are. It’s destined to divide the viewers but for me, this is the right step after the mishap that was The Dark Knight Rises.

  7. And here we go. My most anticipated film of the year. Watched it on Sunday; your review is very fair mate. I loved it, but it fell just short. Incredible in so many places but its final act exposes its holes under closer inspection. My review will follow but it will have a tough task matching yours mate!

    • I think we are more or less in sync regarding the wind getting let out of our sails. It is so difficult not putting Nolan’s fare up on a pedestal, and when the moment gets here it’s almost like there would be nothing his efforts could do to appease. But in this case there was room for improvement certainly. It got ambitious and in a hurry. It’s still a hellishly exciting film though. And those reviews I was reading in the first wave of critics seem to be right: no one, or hardly any one working today, has a vision quite this large. Leave it Nolan to want to always top himself.

      Can’t wait for your own review bud.

    • It is a spoiler-free review, but I feel you. Best to probably keep the mind clear of any and all premature notions of what the film is like. 🙂

      Have fun and hope to see you again soon. And to read your impressions of it at some point. 😀

      • Seen it! Reviewed it! Wasn’t, um…. Entirely positive in my review. I WILL find another negative review on WordPress… I WILL, dammit! (Haven’t yet, though. Lol). I’m glad you liked this one so much, Tom. Also glad you didn’t give it 8/8 as it doesn’t quite deserve all the hype it’s received. It was good but… I dunno. Just won’t ever be a sci-fi classic for me. Great review. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Interstellar (2014) Review | Tim's Film Reviews

    • Thanks Tim! Certainly was a challenging and thoughtful meditation on what it truly means to be human. We are explorers and we are pioneers. We are also crazy and perpetually hopeful.

  9. such a great theater-going experience, it’s been a while since I saw something so epic done so well.

    Yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s close.

    Great review Tom!

    • Howdy-doo-dee Rob! Thanks man, and that’s pretty much my opinion of it in a nutshell: imperfect, but close to it, esp considering the ridiculously high-level concepts being tackled here. Christopher Nolan always willing to outdo himself. 🙂 Wonder where he goes from here. . .

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  11. Good news that the three hours are fast-passed. However, that doesn’t help my weak bladder that cannot handle the excessive amount of water and coffee that I drink. When the hell are they going to build theater seats that you can pee in? If they can do all this science stuff in movies, why can’t they do the right science to make peeing possible in theaters?

    By the way, when you did you become a scientist? Your review was like…all smart and stuff. Theories….quantum…dude, all I’m thinking about is a waffles. Whole grain waffles. With Protein in them. Yeah, that is smart.

    • I recently applied to become a scientist this month. Honorary Doctorate of Interstellar Nitpicks.

      Whole grain waffles sound amazing right now. I need a damn pick-me-up after watching probably one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. . . courtesy of my randomized Netflix DVD queue. . .

  12. I liked this film, but I’m a little surprised by the gushing reviews. M. Night Shyamalan has been doing this type of thing for years and he gets no love. Nolan does it and it’s warmly greeted with open arms. I really dug the first half but the film’s de-evolution into mysticism in the 2nd half abandoned everything that made this film great. Easily Nolan’s worst film, BUT still a very good movie anyway. If that makes sense. Nice review.

    • Lol I’m still not seeing the Shamaylan comparison?? I didn’t see so much mysticism as it went deeper into space so much as I saw a bevy of ideas starting to get a little too unwieldy as time went on. I was also somewhat letdown by the fact that the ultimate denouement was so incredibly relative to this film’s own sense of what space and time is. I have to say that while watching the events I was really enticed but upon further inspection it was a bit of a comedown from what I was hoping to be quite a tight alignment with reality. And the stuff Hathaway’s Dr. Brand was spouting about love being possibly the most powerful force in the universe was dangerously cheesy for Nolan. Like Cheetohs.

      • Still not seeing the Shyamalan comparison? Perhaps reviewer Andrew O’hehir over at Salon said it best: “It blends the aching, yearning, Hallmark-flavored sentimentality, the melodramatic plot twists and the pseudo-profound philosophical reversals with some surprising nuggets of cutting-edge hard science and a view of the human future grounded in both realism and hope.”

        • Definitely have taken some time to mull that over, but now I couldn’t agree more. Interstellar definitely had some questionable strategies going on. And the connection between Murph’s “ghost” of the past/present was. . .hokie. Lol.

          Still this was such a brilliant concept, and with a director whose IQ is this high still not being able to quite pull it off, shows how tough this concept is to render perfectly.

  13. Really excellent review here, Tom. I agree on all counts! Not Nolan’s best, but still a fantastic, epic film. And now, I want a sassy TARS. 🙂

    • TARS was the absolute shit!!!

      “TARS, I want to adjust your capacity for humor to 75%. Okay, 65%. . . . do you wanna go for 55%??” Lol!!!!

      There was so much humor in this, considering this was a film about our entire planet’s extinction! Crazy balance between the dramatic and the comedic. And yes while it’s not Nolan’s best I think it is without a doubt his most ambitious.

    • I might have to do the very same thing Joseph. Despite it not being Nolan’s best or being even close to perfect, I’d gladly sit through these ridiculously fast-passing 3 hours. When it was over, I couldn’t believe it was already done. Such a great-paced film, so much to take in.

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