Interstellar Nails The Science, But Lacks The Necessary Humanity.
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine.
Playing At: Pretty much everywhere..
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: Shoot for the moon because, if you miss, at least you’ll land among the stars.
Trite as that phrase may be, I can think of no better sentence to describe Interstellar, an audacious sci-fi flick that doesn’t quite hit as high as its aim.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s an impressive film. With Interstellar, Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan have added yet another awe-inspiring blockbuster to their resume (The Dark Knight, Inception, Memento). But due to a semester’s worth of physics, psychology ad philosophy being crammed into this three-hour film, the movie never quite nails the human element at the core of its story.
In turn, Interstellar is both way too much and not enough.
Matthew McConaughey, continuing an unbelievable hot streak, plays Cooper, a man born “40 years too late or 40 years too early,” as his father-in-law (John Lithgow) tells him. In his younger years, he was NASA’s best pilot. But now, in a world devastated by famine and disease, there’s no place for engineers and pilots and thinkers. The world just needs farmers — and lots of them.
Driven back to outer space by supernatural forces — echoing Prometheus, in addition to more obvious influences like 2001: A Space Odyssey — Cooper leaves behind two kids, played as adults by Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain, who grow to resent him.
Why? Well, because NASA scientist Brand (Michael Caine) tasks Cooper with meeting with three other astronauts, all three of whom may have found suitable planets to serve as a new Earth. These three: Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). Good luck trying to understand anything about these other characters, though. The script is stuffed to the gills with exposition and scientific explanations for black holes, quantum mechanics and “time slippage,” but gives us almost zero character development with these non-essentials. Hathaway may have been the best part of The Dark Knight Rises, but here she’s given such a thin character that it’s solely to her acting credit that any of Amelia’s choices are believable.
Still, the film is indeed a sight to behold — and one that demands to be seen on the biggest possible screen. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. For this film, he modified an IMAX camera to be hand-held, thus making the close-ups just an impressive as the action scenes. Similarly, the sound effects literally shakes the seats, and the music from Hans Zimmer, moving away from the sustained bass notes of his now-iconic Inception score, is as hauntingly beautiful as can be expected.
The special effects are obviously the major draw here. But what’s most fascinating about them is that Interstellar comes just a year after Gravity. Whereas that lauded film almost exclusively used CGI to depict our own solar system it’s almost all practical effects that depict Interstellar galaxy, which far beyond our own. It’s highly effective.
Less so is the sentimentality, which the film kicks up to 10 in the third act. It just doesn’t work: While no one would deny the powerful bond between parents and children, it’s hard to take seriously a film that earnestly includes lines such as “Love transcends space and time.” Yeah, it sounds like something McConaughey might say on stage at an awards show, but, in the context of this film, it rings hollow.
That said, Interstellar is still a must-see film — especially in theaters and preferably on a film projector. Nolan’s just got a knack for big-budget, massive and loud blockbusters filled with moral quandaries. And even when they come with serious flaws, you’ve got to give the guy credit for doing what he does.
Guy just always shoot for the moon.