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Interstellar - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B
Special Effects: A-

Interstellar is not a bad movie, but it still might qualify as the biggest disappointment, when compared to the hype, of the year. This movie enjoyed a marketing campaign so masterful, I fell for it hook, line and sinker: no spoilers in the trailer! No spoilers in any of the carefully curated clips for talk show panel segments! This is actually a very rare thing that, even for this movie, I would still recommend -- it's nice not knowing too much about what you're in for.

It's just that, with this movie, you're not in for as much as the hype leads you to expect. And you're in for a long time of it: two hours and 49 minutes. Even Stanley Kubric's 2001: A Space Oddyssey was nine minutes shorter, and Interstellar is clearly influenced by it. Indeed, Interstellar is a lot like taking 2001 and mashing it up with Gravity, combining high-minded intellectualism with suspense and winding up with something inferior to either of the influencing elements.

I wouldn't go so far as to say this movie is director Christopher Nolan's equivalent to just about any M. Night Shyamalan movie of the past ten years, but with its preposterous "twist ending," it's a step in that direction.

But, okay, let's take a step back. I still shouldn't reveal too much about the plot if you're actually interested in the movie regardless of what I say, so what can I say? Well, if Interstellar is any indication, apparently it will take all of two generations for global warming to wipe out most of the world population and leave the few left to increasingly fruitless farming. Grandpa (John Lithgow) reminisces about "the excesses" of the 20th century, while his widower son-in-law Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) tends to a corn farm as he reminisces about the world fighting over food to the point of him losing his job as a pilot. Crop yields have apparently been good lately but massive dust storms indicate the bounty is short-lived and things are looking grim.

Okay, this part some might consider at least a minor spoiler, but I'm going to tell it anyway: the clincher of the whole story revolves around the bending of time and space, as Cooper is selected to pilot a rocket, and then ship, through a wormhole near Jupiter in search of more inhabitable worlds. This involves varying rates of the passage of time, between Earth and the places Cooper and his two-person crew visits. This is also where Interstellar employs a great deal of "Hollywood science" and will likely lose anyone with any concrete knowledge of the concepts Nolan, who co-wrote the script with his brother Jonathan Nolan, is playing with. Granted, that won't be many; honestly most people the movie loses will be due to boredom.

To be clear, I did not find the movie boring -- just disappointingly lacking in any genuine wow factor, which the marketing leads us to expect. This is a surprisingly introspective film, which is fine. But it seems to want to blow your mind, and to that end it fails.

It's entertaining enough, if a little distracting with its all-star cast -- not only do we get Anne Hathaway as Amelia, daughter of Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who is spearheading the expedition; but we also get a surprise appearance by Matt Damon. And instead of it just being the surprise discovery of another astronaut, he sits up in his hypersleep chamber and you think, Hey! It's Matt Damon! And now he's crying into Matthew McConaughey's neck?

Damon offers his own twist to the story and isn't in the movie for all that long, although he is where the movie moves into more adventure-thriller type territory. For a movie that's so long, it still moves through its many story beats with sometimes jarring swiftness, what with it spanning literally decades, at least in Earth time. Soon enough we see Cooper's two children as adults, played by Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck. Nothing against all these actors, who are all genuinely talented, but the nature of this movie calls for far less recognizable actors for it to be truly effective. Interstellar struggles under the weight of its star power. This is a movie full of movie stars trying to be "actors" but they're still movie stars, which makes it more about them than about the story.

Nolan has been publicly very proud of the way he shot the effects of this film, with no actors reacting to green screen images -- everything they saw through space ship windows, for instance, was something they actually saw during shooting rather than having it added in post-production. To its credit, Interstellar is thus a very visually realistic film, regardless of its lapses in logic in storytelling. Much like Gravity, there are no sound effects in any exterior shots of outer space, only Hans Zimmer's unique and sometimes distracting score.

Okay, so yes, I have a lot of complaints about this movie. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I may even see it again (somewhere other than the Egyptian, which has a terrible sound system that distorts too much of the dialogue). But the flaws it does have are why I would not tell anyone else they need to rush out and see it; while a different genre, Birdman is a notably better movie by any measure. That one is also full of movie stars, but the key difference is in the economy and efficiency with which it grabs the viewer and doesn't let go. Alas, this cannot be said of Interstellar, a piece of science fiction that is engaging but full of intrigue that ultimately just doesn’t pan out.


Overall: B
1 comment or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: November 6th, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
In spite of all the sighs of frustration, I am still looking forward to this one. Been following Nolan since "Memento" blew me away - and that's still really my favourite Nolan film.

While I loved "Batman Begins", I don't think the Batman films have been good for him as a filmmaker. His films can be quite cold, which is more problematic in a big epic-scaled film, which was an issue I thought was very obvious in "Inception". For me, Nolan's best films have always been the smaller scale ones. "Memento", "The Prestige" and perhaps even "Insomnia" are more intimate films than "Inception" and his Batman movies.

I've heard particularly negative things about the twist here. Not specifics. Just that the twist let my friend down. I'm interested to see if I feel the same way. Nolan's films are always interesting, but there's a sense that he might have passed his prime now (or at least be in a slump). I hope he doesn't have to make something truly horrendous before going back to his roots to make something rather less blockbuster-y.
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