It’s the near-future and the Earth is slowly dying. There appears to be huge gusts of dusty winds about every couple hours or so, but rather than surrendering and calling it quits, people on Earth have learned to just accept it and make it a daily occurrence. Astronaut-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), also happens to be one of these people, yet, still finds enough time out of his day to teach his kids the simple ways of life that he wants them to live by, no matter how crazy things get for this world. That’s when the bombshell gets totally dropped on him from a former confidante of his (Michael Caine), and is given a task: Take a ship and a crew, and find if there is anywhere out there that the human-population can live on. The catch is that time is a lot different in space, so while Cooper may be traveling to the Milky Way for five or six years, on Earth, it’ll be nearly twenty years. So yeah, while it’s a big sacrifice for Cooper, it’s one that he’s willing to take and does so. But, as one can expect, when you’re out there in the vast, open area that is space, you never know what can happen, or how.
If any person out there didn’t think Christopher Nolan was ambitious enough, well then, my friend, think again. Because while Nolan may be something of a household name by now, he still doesn’t adhere totally by the mainstream rules and regulations that so many other films out there follow hook, line, and sinker. Whereas some movies like to make their conclusions clear to us right from the very start and still ask us to just enjoy the ride while it lasts, Nolan appreciates throwing us curve-balls that we never totally expect to see coming, nor do we ever think of while we’re watching any movie, not just his. In other words, Christopher Nolan is the type of film-maker who likes to think outside the box, and in a day and age like this, where wonderful film makers seem to by falling by the waist-side, there’s something to behold and honor, rather than spit on and scoff at.
Then again though, not everybody’s perfect. Meaning, neither is Christopher Nolan.
Yes, I know, say it ain’t so! But sorry, it is. Christopher Nolan, while an ambitious film maker that loves to reach for the stars (and literally so on this occasion) with nearly everything he touches with his creative paws, every once and a blue moon (more space puns), hits a brick wall and can’t help but fumble over his own words. Sort of like how I am with cute girls at bars, but that’s a different story, for a different day, people; this is Christopher Nolan’s story here, and for that, it’s really hard to review. Not because the plot can be easily spoiled with even the slightest, teeniest piece of info/detail, but because my thoughts are still in a bit of a jumble, nearly five days after having already seen it.
FIVE DAYS, PEOPLE!!
Anyway, like I was saying before, there’s something to be said for a fella like Nolan who, while not always make perfect sense with everything he does in his movies, especially his later ones, still finds a way to enthrall his audience with enough pretty stuff on screen to keep people’s minds off of some of the more troubling-aspects of his stories. Like, for instance, how in the hell would NASA be capable of building all of these maintainable, trustworthy space ships to not just transport mostly all of the Earth’s population to a different planet, but to do so in an efficient way that doesn’t make everybody jump from being a young, rowdy, and crazy 21-year-old, to being an old, saggy, and beaten-down 88-year-old?
“Who cares though, Dan? Just look at how wonderfully exquisite deep outer-space is?”, I could imagine one of Nolan’s ultra fanboys pleading to me; to which I’d respond with a swift slap to the face and a big, “Well, yeah, you’re right. I guess,” and then I’d hate them forever for making me accept the fact. Because yes, Interstellar’s production design is beautiful in just about every instance. Although I didn’t see this in IMAX or 70mm like I would have wished, there was still plenty to gaze at and just grab a hold of. Because if there’s anything that Nolan cares about the most, it’s the way his movies look, sound, and overall, feel. If they are able to do this in a lovely manner, this his job, for the most part, is done.
But that’s not to say that the rest of this movie is bad, it’s just very disappointing. For instance, the first 2/3’s of this movie are well-done, like I usually expect from a Nolan movie. He sets up the characters nice enough to where we get an understandable feel to them; he creates this futuristic world that isn’t too cheesy on the set-designs, but is more or less, just what the Earth looked like in the 1890’s, before all of this damn electricity began running our lives; and hell, though the explanation behind the main conflict is a bit fumbled, I still rolled with it because it seemed simple enough to get invested in. Simply, this is supposed to be a story about a group of astronauts going out into the deep depths of outer-space, hopping from planet to planet, and as usual, running into the occasional problem here and there.
For me, that’s dumbed-down and easy enough that I don’t care about the extraneous amount of sci-fi exposition Nolan decides to throw at me – I just want to be entertained, bedazzled, and feel as if I am apart of something. This is how the first hour or so felt, and that’s why I was totally on-board with this. In a way, I felt as if this was going to be Nolan’s most ambitious yet, but was totally going to pay-off. Maybe, just maybe, it could have been my favorite of his? The same kind of movie that I desperately plead to my fellow friends and confidantes to give another shot and look deeper into it? That’s what it was going to be, I thought.
Sadly, that’s not how it turned out to be.
See, without me saying too much and ruining the experience for all ya’ll out there, I’ll simply state this: Nolan, more often than not, in the later-part of this movie, decides that he doesn’t know how to keep this movie moving long and hard enough to sustain its nearly three-hour run-time. So, to make sure that none of our minds leave the screen, he constantly throws random plot-points, where certain character’s motivations are hardly ever explained, and we’re left to feel some sort of emotional connection to what is happening. Without saying much, certain characters do some pretty mean, distasteful, and downright idiotic things, but rather than feeling as if it’s a genuine mistake for these fully fleshed-out characters, it feels like Nolan’s just throwing whatever he can at the wall, seeing what sticks, and hoping that he hasn’t lost us just yet.
But that’s exactly what happens. He not only loses us, but seems to dig himself deeper and deeper into the conventional hole of storytelling, where not only can the audience see what’s happening from a mile away, but can also say why. To me, this is an absolute disappointment coming from Nolan, the same kind of director who prides himself in being more than just your average, dime-a-dozen director; he’s the imaginative, relatively original imaginary that dares you to second-guess his directorial choices. Here though, it’s all too clear that whatever Nolan’s been doing for his whole career up to now, there’s a slight disconnect. He wants to be the cool, artsy director that challenges the mainstream into using their brains a little bit more, but still falls for the typical cliche that Hollywood has practically mapped-out for every movie to follow.
Honestly, I could harp on this aspect of the movie until the cows come home, but it wouldn’t do neither you, nor me any good; it would only confuse us more. What I do want to say though, that while the movie may get predictable for its last hour-and-a-half, there’s still always something to watch. Whether it’s in the way in how the camera glides so peacefully over a certain landscape of Nolan’s own creation, listening to that pulse-pounding score that isn’t quite over-bearing, but isn’t subtle either, or paying attention the performances from this well-stacked cast who, with what they’re given try their damn near hardest to make it resonate with anybody watching at home.
Speaking of them, I think it’s best for me to remind people that while Nolan’s movie may misfire plenty by the end, the cast always stays decent and hardly ever strays away from being as such. Matthew McConaughey is in his comfort-zone as Cooper, but it’s a comfort-zone that I almost never get tired of, especially when he’s able to make his character a complicated individual that, given what we know about the task he has, we are told to like and root for. It’s easy because McConaughey is such a charming presence and is able to make every line in which his character spouts science gibberish, seem believable.
Something that, ten years ago, probably would have never happened. But thus, we live in a world where the McConaissance is alive and well.
And thank heavens for that, too.
Another one to chat about is Anne Hathaway who is good in her role as another astronaut that Cooper ends up bonding with a bit, but soon begins to get annoying to watch when we realize that Nolan doesn’t have much confidence in this character to make her a reasonable, thoughtful human. Her character not only makes a few life-changing, dumb mistakes, but even has the gull to say that they happened because of “L-O-V-E”. I won’t say who she says this about, or why, but it’s absolutely ludicrous to think that Nolan would ever throw this into a film and it’s just another sign that he needed some sort of help to keep this movie’s train a movin’.
Though, as poorly-written as Hathaway’s character may be, at least she’s given something to do, whereas the rest of the cast is sort of left in the dust. Talented peeps such as Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, and yes, even Topher Grace, are mostly left in the background for the majority of the movie. And while it’s nice to see their bright and shining faces in such a wonderfully-looking movie, it feels like a waste of some genuine talents that deserve so much more to work with, all credibility aside.
But, at the end of the day, this is a Christopher Nolan movie and what it all really comes down to is this: Do you want to see it in theaters, or not? Personally, I think it’s worth the trip to the theaters, because even while it gets silly by the end, there’s still something stunningly beautiful about this movie that not only compels you enough to pay attention to what’s going on, and even think about what exactly is happening. Even if it doesn’t fully make sense, it’s still making you latch open your brain and do something with it that you maybe haven’t been able to do with many other movies.
And that, my friends, is how Christopher Nolan rolls. For better, and definitely, for worse.
Consensus: Ambitious to a certain fault, Interstellar finds Christopher Nolan grabbing for whatever he can think of next, and while it occasionally works, he falls on his face a bit too many times to make this still feel like something of a disappointment, albeit, a very interesting one that’s worth at least checking out. In the biggest, loudest, and best theaters possible. Trust me.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!