Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s grand space epic, much like 2001: A Space Odyssey was to Stanley Kubrick. It doesn’t quite match up to the masterpiece that is 2001, however, but you can tell that Nolan took inspiration from it. Interstellar is very grand, indeed, almost too much so for its own good. Whereas the first half of the movie takes us through the main characters’ relationships and then into one of the most interesting and visually stunning explorations of space I’ve ever seen, the second half is dragged down by nonsensical explanations and plot holes and ideas about love somehow transcending space and time or something, and I just really have no idea. However, Interstellar is quite a ride, a long ride, and for me, although it didn’t quite pay off in the end, the journey alone was worth taking.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former-pilot-turned-farmer in a world that is running out of food due to a widespread blight. When peculiar circumstances land Cooper and his daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain), in NASA’s secret underground space station, Cooper is asked by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to pilot a spaceship through a newly discovered wormhole near Saturn and find a planet Earth’s population can inhabit. Cooper agrees and leaves behind his two children, Murph and Tom (Timothèe Chalamat, Casey Affleck), despite his daughter’s pleads to stay. He takes a team consisting of Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and a robot named TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin). The team travels outside the galaxy towards three potential inhabitable worlds where they must explore, collect data, and decide where humankind can continue to exist.
It’s not news that Matthew McConaughey, is one flame that is just starting to burn bright despite being in the game for twenty or so years. He is taking smart roles and churning out one great performance after another, and this one is no exception. Nolan clearly tried to string this film together on an emotional level, and McConaughey was really the pillar that allowed him to do that. He plays a guy who loves his kids but has to make the difficult decision of leaving them so that they may actually have a future, and his daughter holds a grudge against him for it for half her life. This is great for McConaughey’s character, because it gives him that emotional angle of desperation to complete the mission and hopefully return to Earth, and also gives him a reason to struggle with the regret of leaving in the first place. Unfortunately, he’s really the only character you come to care about, though.
Jessica Chastain doesn’t benefit much from this relationship, because she serves almost no purpose during most of the film than being an angry woman who really knows how to hold a grudge–until the end, that is. The son is even more of a useless character and makes me wonder why Cooper was even written as having a son. I guess Cooper needed at least one kid who was going to stay in touch and show him how much their lives are passing by, but Casey Affleck is too talented to be so underused. However, other than a couple of circumstances of somewhat wasted talent, the ensemble of cast members was a joy to watch.
I’m not afraid to admit that often times in movies dealing with space travel and things I clearly have little knowledge of, I feel like a kid sitting in a room with a bunch of NASA scientists who are talking scientific gibberish, and I just have to put my faith in them that they know what they’re doing and will get us from point A to point B. There’s no shortage of that here. There’s a ton of exposition and it’s building this world with a foundation that is laid in scientific theories, but really a lot of it is babble. What’s that about black holes and gravity and…equations…and…fifth dimension…what? Sure, go on. Let’s see where this goes. Not to make myself sound like a complete idiot. I have no problem with movies that make you think, I like the challenge. I understood the general direction where this plot was going and then just like that–I can’t say what specifically without giving spoilers away–something happened that instantly hit a point of no return. It became way too far-reaching, and at the same time tried to push this father-daughter relationship into the forefront, giving it this colossal importance to the future existence of humanity that was just a little bit too out there for me.
To some people, Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. I respect him as a filmmaker and I think he’s vastly ambitious and talented, and I like a lot of his work. However, that’s not enough for me to sit here and say that he can do no wrong and that Interstellar was a masterpiece. It wasn’t. I know it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but picking at the movie’s faults this whole review, so I’ll add that it had a lot of redeeming qualities. I will go as far as to say that I actually did like Interstellar. It was good. I say it’s good because despite some of its downfalls with the plot, the technical aspects of this film, like the cinematography and the effects, are some of the best I’ve seen.
There aren’t many movies I’ve seen where a space crew travels through a wormhole and it actually looks like how I would imagine it would look if I was to really travel through a wormhole. A lot of the experiences are so engaging (especially in IMAX), the visuals and the sound actually made me grip my seat, because I felt like we were traveling through space. It was exciting, edge of your seat kind of stuff, there are a lot of moments like that in this movie. I was truly blown away by them.
There’s no denying that Nolan is a visionary in his craft. He has grand ideas and he brings them to the screen the best way he knows how. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s hard not to appreciate the effort nonetheless. Interstellar is a great attempt at a meaningful and epic space movie. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down with a lot of dialogue exposition and a far-reaching plot, but the technical aspects are impressive and the journey through space is exciting. It is a bit long, and the payoff might be somewhat disappointing, but I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.