Film Review: Interstellar

by Chad Liffmann on November 7, 2014

A space opera.  A sci-fi blockbuster.  A heavy hitter.  Just enjoy the ride.

Matthew McConaughey gives the thumbs up to space travel.

Matthew McConaughey gives the thumbs up to space travel.

*NOTICE:  Many people have tried tirelessly to avoid exposure to any spoilers or plot details (or anything, really) regarding Interstellar.  I found it hard to write about Interstellar without mentioning ‘anything, really’, so be forewarned*

Christopher Nolan has established himself, for better or for worse, as a director whose movies’ release dates have become major events. Ever since it was first announced that Nolan was working on a sci-fi epic, fans worldwide have been clamoring for trailers, plot details, and more.  And some have clamored for knowing NOTHING.  And now, Interstellar has been released and the inevitable excitements and disappointments will begin flooding through casual conversations and headlines.  But if I may provide one humble opinion, it’s that Interstellar gives movie lovers exactly the type of experience the film industry lacks these days.  Interstellar is a bold cinematic maneuver — a chance taken by a director willing to take chances.  It is a thought-provoking odyssey complete with perfections and imperfections. Interstellar may not be the Kubrickian masterpiece that many had hoped for, but it’s the sci-fi opera we should be excited for.

Interstellar takes place in the not too distant future, at a point where our planet is a ticking time bomb for human extinction.  Most humans have been wiped out already by extinguished resources and war (and especially waves of dust and plague called ‘The Blight’), leaving a small civilization of peaceful inhabitants, relying on corn and a handful of leftover supplements to sustain life.  Then, mysterious, if not supernatural, occurrences begin toying with former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his curious daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy).  They live on a farm in a dust bowl setting (a potent theme throughout) with Cooper’s other child, his son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and father in law Donald (John Lithgow).  These aforementioned occurrences lead Cooper and Murph to the remnants of a NASA program, led by the father-daughter team of Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and Amelia (Anne Hathaway), where last ditch efforts are underway to save the human race, primarily regarding traveling through a newly formed wormhole in the hopes of finding habitable worlds.

Interstellar raises many questions.  At the forefront of these questions are ‘WTF!?’ and ‘It’s dark outside now…how long were we in the theater?’  But after the initial shock wears off, Interstellar provides plenty of heavy material to consider.  The relationship between father and child(ren) is consistent in many of Nolan’s films, but not as hard-hitting and centralized as it is here.  It’s one thing to consider what earthly sacrifices parents could make on behalf of their child, but when measures become as dire and as unpredictable as they do in Interstellar, how do you weigh protecting your child versus being present for your child?  What IS the ultimate sacrifice?  And then, of course, there’s the question about humanity’s ability to survive on our dying planet.  With the escalating political tension regarding global warming, Interstellar may not have come at a better time.  The film tailors our wide-eyed attention to the devastation of our planet and the misusage of our natural resources.  I haven’t seen this type of dreary outlook since 2008’s Wall-E.  There are also philosophical speeches about love, human nature, death, and other fun topics.  Some of these speeches are, unfortunately, the low points of Interstellar.

Matthew McConaughey gives the thumbs up to emotional fatherhood.

Matthew McConaughey gives the thumbs up to emotional fatherhood.

And finally, there’s all the spacey-stuff.  I believe Nolan has already been credited saying that audiences should just ‘enjoy the ride’.  I couldn’t agree more.  Interstellar may ride the coattails of Kubrick, but that doesn’t mean it should be viewed as a wannabe.  All the scientific jargon in the movie becomes overwhelming until you realize that you really don’t need to understand it all.  The film gives just enough information to follow along and just enough extra information to tickle your curiosity a bit more.  Sometimes the timing of the expository dialogue is a bit weird — aka Did the astronauts NOT talk about this before leaving Earth? REALLY?  But even despite Nolan’s usual weak spots (dialogue, action editing), Interstellar still features some of the most unique and fantastical scenes of space exploration I’ve ever seen.  Interstellar is an intensely wild ride.  Case in point: the IMAX screening I attended broke down with ~30 minutes left in the film (right at one of the film’s most pivotal moments).  And yet, when I watched the remaining footage the following day, it only took me a minute to get back into the full swing of emotional intensity.  Much credit is due to Hans Zimmer, whose pounding organ-filled score is marvelous!  It’s one of the best musical scores in recent years.

Here’s where I attempt to sum up the total of Interstellar’s parts.  It’s not going to happen.  You’ll just have to watch it yourself and I highly recommend that you do.  Summarizing Interstellar is near impossible because the film is just too large.  How like the cosmos, huh!?  

———-

Interstellar opens today, November 7th.

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