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Film Review: Interstellar

17 Mar

Christopher Nolan – check! Matthew McConaughey – check! Space stuff – check! Quantum mechanics – check! Epic soundtrack – check! This movie had so much going for it and I couldn’t wait to see it even though it clocked in at almost three hours. Two weeks ago, I finally got to see the film that the Internet had been buzzing about.

*Warning – There may be spoilers ahead*

interstellar3

I only watched this film two weeks ago and I’m having a hard time even remembering what the story was about: dust, NASA, ghosts or aliens or something, wormholes, black holes, space – lots of space, Ellen Burstyn. This is indicative of one of the problems I had with Interstellar. It started off strong and there were interesting snippets about the world and the sort of future we had made for ourselves but no real explanation as to how the blight had come about and why leaving the planet was the only option – what other options had been explored? We never find out and to be honest I was starting to get bored. After about twenty minutes, I started browsing Facebook and checking email, letting the film run in the background. What the hell? This is Christopher Nolan! Inception and his Batman movies had me rivetted even if they were flawed and Memento I’ve watched so many times I’ve lost count, but this film struggled to hold my interest.

Finally, something happens. Is it a ghost, is it an alien? In a sort of M. Night Shyamalan moment of weirdness, Cooper finally discovers the remnants of NASA – yay, space! Nope… More stuff happens and I just wasn’t emotionally involved enough. Yes, there are some interesting parallels to the whole one-way ticket to Mars debates currently happening in certain corners of the Internet and the father-daughter moments are poignant, but I knew I was being manipulated so I didn’t really feel very much.

Space! Now we get to the good stuff! But what the actual (insert expletive)? So, this advanced civilization called ‘they’ (super original) drop a wormhole supposedly for humanity’s convenience – although how this conclusion is reached I just don’t know – near Saturn. Saturn. Two light years away. Would’ve been a heck of a lot more convenient to drop that wormhole a little closer considering ‘they’ can just manufacture wormholes where they please. Now this wormhole leads to another galaxy with supposedly, hopefully habitable planets, which will save humanity, so Cooper is tasked to go take a look and follow up with the previous space explorers. I’m down with that, but if ‘they’ are behind this and want to help humanity and can manufacture wormholes why on earth can’t they give the exact co-ordinates to the best hospitable planet straight away? It makes no sense, but then there’d be no movie without the exploration of the bad planets and all the drama that naturally ensues for more than two freaking hours! Also, the planetary system humanity has been gifted happens to have a giant black hole at its center which doesn’t make for a super hospitable environment given how black holes devour light and gravity and time. ‘They’ are starting to seem like total jerks.

Then we get into the science of Interstellar, which bandies about terms like ‘relativity’ and ‘gravity’ providing superficial explanations at best for what they think is going on, but, basically, by the time Cooper and crew have sussed out the planets and found somewhere for humanity to colonize, it’ll be too late and Earth would’ve perished because of the whole time flux thing. Again, ‘they’ are total assholes because ‘they’ must’ve known this. ‘They’ are not proving very helpful. Then stuff happens and there are waves and Anne Hathaway tears and a very weird conversation about love being some sort of transcendental force and more about gravity. (It’s starting to feel like this movie wanted a different title but Alfonso Cuarón got there first). By this time I kept checking the time, wondering how much longer there could possibly be of this movie.

Honestly, I’ve forgotten why, but there’s a math problem on Earth and they need to gather data from beyond the event horizon in the black hole to help people on Earth solve this equation and save humanity so naturally the answer is to go through the black hole because science says this is possible and is a great idea, NOT! The logic here baffles me, but hip-sounding science words like singularity are bandied about so it’s all good. Cooper and his sidekick AI’d robot TARS head into the black hole and find themselves in a tesseract (another cool sciency word) made by ‘them’ and now suddenly Cooper can communicate with his daughter across space and time because their love transcends I don’t even know what at this point. So turns out Cooper was the alien-ghost sending his daughter messages via gravity – I don’t know how gravity is the scientific explanation to this but okay – which creates a big problem with the whole space-time continuum Hollywood frequently exploits and fails to understand. Cooper also has the revelation that ‘they’ are in fact advanced humans and now that TARS has the quantum data he needs to solve the equation back home it’s all cupcakes and balloons for the future of humanity.

‘They’ presumably then save Cooper from the black hole and send him safely back to Saturn where he gets picked up by the Earth armada who are hanging out near the wormhole waiting for Anne Hathaway to give the all clear from a potentially habitable planet. Humanity has left Earth without knowing for sure that there is a habitable planet – I just don’t even. Also, more stuff about gravity and relativity and love that I just don’t care about because hallelujah this movie is over and the closing credits soundtrack is awesome.

These three hours weren’t an entire waste of time though. TARS and CASE (the on-board robots) are super awesome and are undoubtedly the best characters in this movie. Matt Damon makes an appearance and his story ARC, though limited, provides one of the more interesting moments in this film. It is super pretty too. The cinematography is outstanding and all the space stuff – when you eventually get to it – is visually spectacular.

I am not impressed with Interstellar, mostly because the story weaved quantum mechanics with quantum mysticism and didn’t seem to realize the difference between the two. This film was just too long. Had it been an hour shorter I might’ve enjoyed it more but at almost three hours of questionable science and scenes set on Earth that felt an awful lot like filler, I just couldn’t enjoy it. If you enjoy more philosophical, mystical approaches to science fiction then I strongly recommend Mr Nobody or even Sunshine. I know I’m in the minority having read other reviews and seeing the IMDB ratings for this, but Interstellar gets 1.5/5 ink splats from me.

1.5 splats

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5 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

5 responses to “Film Review: Interstellar

  1. bigsleepj

    March 17, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I loved the movie but I’ll admit it had problems. I had no problem with the pacing as this was meant to be a more meditative movie in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey (a movie I hated at first but grew to love) and not an action-packed plot. It is also an extremely visual movie and relies a lot on a sense of wonder which is probably why I was never bored (it helped that I saw it on IMAX). And the robots are awesome.

    But yes, the weakest story element in the movie is undoubtedly ‘they’. Most of the movie worked until they got to the subject of ‘they’. Whenever ‘they’ popped up things felt off but in all honesty it was still tolerable at first. However, when Cooper enters the black hole it felt like the movie shifted gears from relatively hard sci-fi to ‘Doctor Who’. It felt tacked on as if it did not grow out of the story organically but was insisted on by some suit somewhere up the Hollywood food chain so that the movie would ‘make sense’ (please note this movie has been in development for almost two decades and would originally have been directed by Steven Spielberg during the early 2000’s). It might have been better if they did not try and explain whom ‘they’ were which would have fit into the mold of movie Nolan was going for. The M Night comparison is sadly apt. Although I felt moved by the Father-Daughter story I was also put off by the way the movie decided to make her brother a villain for no damn reason. I also don’t mind mysticism in a story as a rule but Interstellar’s mysticism is rather weakly thought out that I’d be hard-pressed to consider it mysticism at all and its as unorganic as whomever ‘they’ are.

     
    • suzannevanrooyen14

      March 17, 2015 at 8:50 am

      I think it would’ve been a different experience had I seen it on a big screen or in the IMAX – although, as you say, that wouldn’t have fixed the story problems.

      You’re absolutely right about those certain elements feeling unorganic and coming out of nowhere. I’m usually a huge fan of mysticism in sci-fi (and loved the premise of Solaris despite George Clooney) but sadly it just didn’t work here for me 😦

      And you know – I’d kinda forgotten about the brother. You make an excellent point about his needless villainy.

       
      • bigsleepj

        March 17, 2015 at 9:16 am

        I think ‘Interstellar’ wanted to tell a sci-movie set in space and earth on the same time to show the repercussions the two stories have on the other. On paper it is a *very* bold move and I can understand why they needed to create conflict between the brother and sister in order to create dramatic tension. I just think the way they went about it was poorly thought out. It amped it up when it should have been more low key but tangible tension.

        I hold by that its a good movie but it could have been exceptional.

        I liked ‘Solaris’ but I found the director’s commentary between James Cameron and Stephen Soderberg more interesting than the actual movie. I still want to see the original Russian version but Andrei Tarkovsky can be difficult for even seasoned film goers.

         
  2. Steve

    March 17, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I think you are being too easy on the Nolans. The movie is an embarrassment to anyone who takes their SF seriously. If it had been a remake of a famous manga-inspired 60s series then we might all be saying how faithful it was to the, admittedly flawed, original storyline. I, too, quickly forgot what it was about and lost my ability to tell anyone within a week. My mate (who has a cosmology degree) and I took a train out to Yokohama – the nearest IMAX that had bothered showing it – and paid for ‘club-class’ seats so we could settle in and revel in the stellar majesty and quantum awesomeness we’d been promised. Afterwards, over a beer, stunned by the lack of anything to latch on to, we could only sum it up in a three-letter-acronym that has the ‘f’ word in it.

    And Saturn is now 2 light years away? I missed that. Did ‘They’ move it?

     
    • suzannevanrooyen14

      March 17, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Hah! Fair enough. I gave them some bonus points for the witty robots 😉

      ‘They’ can do anything it seems!

      I really wish Chris Nolan would stop with the ‘epic’ movies and return to Memento-style films. He seemed to do that so well but flounders when it comes to the bigger stuff 😦

       

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M.D. Thalmann

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