As 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