I believe Christopher Nolan is a cinematic genius. He is a talented director and screenwriter that only a handful can rival within the industry. His Memento was mind-blowing, the magical Prestige was slick and smart, Inception was immersive, and his Dark Knight trilogy resurrected The Batman and brought the character back to life and to new heights. In all his films, Christopher Nolan does two things well. He creates detailed and fun worlds for the viewer to visit and experience, and he also presents complex and troubled characters who struggle to find themselves in doing what’s right. Simply, Nolan is a great storyteller which is why whenever he releases a new film, I’m there. There are only two other directors that I respect and unequivocally know will create enjoyable films that I will appreciate and not regret paying money to see: James Cameron and J.J. Abrams. Some like Ridley Scott, others are Tarantino fans, and many are die-hard Steven Spielberg loyalists. For me, such directors are hit or miss and can be a gamble like Scott’s Prometheus, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, or Spielberg’s fourth Indiana Jones film, but my favorite three are automatic money. Now I haven’t watched Insomnia after my first viewing and I’m not a fan of Avatar, but I completely understand why each were made and the reason behind the director’s choice, so for me such films aren’t a negative on their respective resumes at all. And when I heard that Christopher Nolan was working on a space adventure, I did my darndest to know as little as possible, lest I ruin the experience for myself.
I generally enjoy science fiction space dramas because of the futuristic environment and the loads of spaceship tech throughout, so Interstellar was going to be a given for me. But unlike most space dramas, this film tries its hardest to be grounded in realistic physical science, for its well-known that Christopher Nolan brought aboard renown physicist Kip Thorne to consult upon the project. Now, it’s obvious that the story still takes some liberties in moving its plot along, but I can appreciate the great length taken to try to be authentic and exciting simultaneously.
Interstellar starts off in the near future, possibly around 50 years from now, in which humanity has experienced a crop blight that eliminated wheat and many other foods, thereby making farming a priority in most people’s lives. Matthew McConaughey plays as Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot who is a farmer and has a son and daughter. He is recruited by a secretive government NASA project to send a team up into space to locate a habitable planet for humanity to colonize. A decade earlier, a wormhole near Saturn pops up in which twelve potentially habitable planets were discovered to be on the other side. NASA sends twelve scientists through the wormhole to explore each planet and relay information back to inform NASA if any planet could sustain life. Three planets seem promising, so Matthew McConaughey’s character leaves his two kids and, along with Anne Hathaway as Amelia Brand, and two other scientists, travel through the wormhole to visit the three planets. Of course, with any Nolan film, things aren’t as they seem and plans never go as expected which result into quite the ride and experience.
(Photo courtesy of Time)
Many critics knock Nolan’s films for lacking emotional ties amongst his characters, that they don’t care about each other enough to justify their character relationships and consequential decisions, as if they seemed force. Well, I think Nolan does well with such in Interstellar as his Cooper and Amelia are forced to confront and ultimately choose between saving the ones they love or saving the rest of humanity. Can love, “the one thing that transcends time and space“, be considered as a logical option parallel to scientific reasoning? As a parent, this is certainly not an easy decision and makes these character’s struggles real and genuine. Would you let your child die for the fate of humanity? Sounds a lot like the gospel and I connected with this. I didn’t cry, but it was an unexpected emotional rollercoaster as Cooper struggled to return to his daughter back on Earth because it’s Nolan’s first use of such a relationship. Aside from Bruce Wayne and his short-lived parents, Nolan has never touched upon the parental aspect until now, and I think he did it well because, without giving away too much, all parents fail in keeping all their promises, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love their children and won’t continue to fight for them. This was more heavy than anticipated because normally saving the world is enough to justify a character’s actions. And although we’ve seen superficial relationships such as Ben Affleck’s character wanting to get back to his fiance in Armageddon, McConaughey’s is a bit more believable which carries the story throughout.
Taking a step back, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway will definitely not be nominated for their performances, but I think they did well with what they were given. Moreover the performances by most of the cast (I’m looking at you, Mister Topher Grace) was excellent without any weak link, and the surprise guest superstar was a very nice treat.
I also enjoyed the intelligent storytelling. Although fast-paced and loaded with exposition, I appreciated the hardcore science as I wasn’t offended with my hand not being held as I tried to follow along all the talk about wormholes, black holes, gravity, time, space, and relativity. The film isn’t dumbed down and, like all Nolan films, will leave you confused if you’re not paying close attention. If you’re not following along or leave to take a pee-break, you’ll have a “what just happened here” moment. Time plays a huge factor in the story which was a pleasant surprise because I went into this movie believing it was about space travel when it’s equally about time travel as well. But it’s a unique aspect of time travel because, I suppose this makes sense, we can’t travel back in time, but we can travel forward in time. Yeah. Like I said, this is a thinking movie, not your average romantic comedy.
As always, there isn’t one, but numerous twists which I think possibly hurt the story as I feel that some surprises were integrated for the sake of wowing the audience. But hey, who doesn’t like surprises?
In the end, Interstellar is an amazing experience because Nolan created a wonderful world, or universe, that was compelling, involving, and fun to watch. It’s certainly not perfect as there are numerous writers and websites debunking much of the science in the film and chalking it up as lazy plot devices, but it’s one of those films that kept me thinking and talking about what I just witnessed hours and days after leaving the theater. I just wanted to know more, and my curiosity is a result of having so much fun watching Interstellar. And people will naturally want to compare Interstellar against last year’s awesome Gravity with Sandra Bullock, but both space films are of different genres. Gravity is a survival film with a heavy emphasis on rebirth, basically Castaway in space, and Interstellar deals with the conflict of science versus morality. Two great films, but polar opposites and incomparable.
It’s nearly three hours long and if you’re not in the mood to pay attention and think, then this isn’t for you. It does get a bit psychedelic, but if you want to be challenged and excited, then you may like this film. I definitely need to watch this a few more times, but in the mean time I’ve discovered a few articles that have answered my lingering questions.
I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.
Only read the following after watching Interstellar.