dice roll: 5

Interstellar Review

interstellar3As the spaceship Endurance inched towards the horizon of the wormhole, I felt that bottomless “whoop” like when you’re about to go over the edge of a roller coaster’s first drop. My stomach clenched, and then we were through, now faced with visuals somewhere between a kaleidoscope and a hall of mirrors, both in deep space.

Interstellar is the long awaited next Nolan feature, and as with all long waits you really want the payoff to be everything you hoped for and more. With this in mind, I’d like to try to be a little more forgiving, and not factor in anticipation into this review. That said, Interstellar is not without its problems.

The story is one of exploration and leaving home behind. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a pilot/engineer turned farmer in a world fast becoming uninhabitable. Reduced to a giant dust bowl, America has no need for Nasa or the spirit of discovery. Except for the secret branch still working on a way to save humanity by finding a new home. Cooper agrees to pilot a mission through a convienient wormhole in search of three out of twelve astronauts who all landed on possible Earths 2.0. Back home, his daughter works on the physics they need to launch spacecrafts big enough to save the population. 

Christopher Nolan knows exactly what he wants everything to look like, and it all comes out  practically perfect. One of the first shots of Endurance crossing in front of Saturn sent shivers down my spine. The blend of physical effects and breathtaking CGI visuals combines into something solid with a hint of awe. Hans Zimmer’s score sets the mood. It feels like a more action-packed episode of Cosmos. 

Indeed, some of the exposition sounds like it could have been written for something a lot drier. The movie sets up a lot of emotional baggage. Cooper does everything for his kids, and Anne Hathaway’s character Dr. Brand is romantically invested in one of the lost astronauts. These emotions are acted out very well, by Matthew McConaughey especially, who tops his Dallas Byers Club act in my opinion. The exposition gets in the way, however, or if you’ve not managed to become invested in the characters, the emotion gets in the way of the science. No matter your preference, it feels like something is crowding the room. When your film is almost three hours long, crowding it takes a lot of effort. 

While many of the visuals are helped only by Zimmer’s score and the audience can take it all in, other moments lack the same gravitas. For such a long movie, you would think every scene would get the chance to breathe. The most stark example is when Dr. Brand sets foot on an alien planet. She is in a hurry due to the fear of time relativity, but making such a giant leap for herself – if not for mankind – seems almost impossible without comment.

The plot itself is easy to follow, and I really liked the blending of science and sci-fi fantasy. It means the story doesn’t have to end where modern science has reached, so far. For some, the final “solution” will be far too Hollywood-ish. Personally, if the scenes relating to that were removed nothing of value would have been lost. You could still have the same ending, with the emotional weight left unsaid.

One of the most surprising things about the movie was the comic relief characters. Two block-shaped robots with amazing comedic timing. With those two robots in mind, the film doesn’t feel as heavy-handed as it felt just as I was leaving the cinema. Interstellar is visually stunning and filled with great performances, but it stumbles over structure and script too much to become a favourite Nolan outing. It does deserves to be seen in the theatre for the trip through the wormhole alone.

Dice roll: 5

2 replies »

  1. I think Nolan wanted to introduce a whole bunch of Christian elements to the film. Here are some interesting points:

    1) Church Organ soundtrack through the whole film.

    2) Shots of Coop and Brand with eyes and hands closed praying

    3) We have Christian Trinity: Cooper represents the Father and Holy Spirit/Ghost (once he joins with Tesseract). Murph represents the Son a.k.a Jesus the savior (remember she was 10 years old at start and after 23 years time dilation was 33 when she “saves” the world – same age as Jesus dies). They both represent the Holy trinity.

    4) We have an otherworldly unknown powerful presence who created the wormhole and tessaract that guide the events of the film – aka Godlike who has have basically interfered with and guided Coop throughout his life going as far as to construct a tesseract for one particular moment in time. God advocates true love and is major theme of film with father and daughter.

    5) There were 12 original astronauts sent out onto the planets – There were 12 apostles of Jesus sent out for his gospel.

    6) Cooper also spends decades wandering desolate environments,”Lazarus”. Dies and is reborn at black hole.

    7) Holy Spirit/Ghost Coop reaching out to touch people (including hand shake scene white light)

    8) And just like Jesus after his resurrection, he came back (albeit 3 days vs. 70-something years) then left again after a very short period of time.

    9) Literal Noah’s Ark with at end with Cooper space station transporting humanity.

    10) Adam and Eve with Coop and Brand (embryos for Plan B – start new race).

    • Very interesting interpretation! You pointed out a few things I hadn’t thought about. Couple of things that don’t quite match up:

      Not sure if I agree with Cooper being the Father and Holy Ghost and Murph the son. If the “godlike” beings are the wormhole creators, wouldn’t they be the “Father” in this scenario? But they’re not godlike beings, they us. They have simply evolved to a higher dimension. Metaphorically you can still see them as gods, of course.

      You say Murph is the son and she sacrifices herself, but does she? She lives a full life with a huge family in the end, and accepts that she doesn’t need her father to come back for her (sort of the opposite of “why have you forsaken me” in Jesus’ story) Then later you say Cooper is Jesus-like by his death and resurrection, so who is the son? But it’s definitely is food for thought, especially when combined with the 12 astronauts.

      The Noah’s Ark and Adam&Eve symbolism: I don’t think it is deliberate in the sense that I think you mean. In every version of colonization through ships or the seeding of a planet, you are going to have those connotations simply due to so many viewers being most familiar with those stories. We know there are more than one of those huge ships (I believe this is mentioned in dialogue) and also Brand is alone – we don’t know if Cooper reaches her. But again, the connotations are still there, just not as explicit as “let’s make this ship like Noah’s Ark”.

      I will definitely watch the film again with your points in mind! I’m a fan of “death of the author” so any movie is open to any interpretation, but hopefully Nolan might shed some light on it in an interview or (fingers crossed) the commentary track once we get the dvd. 🙂

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