I finally got around to catching INTERSTELLAR after having avoiding it when it was released. I can’t exactly say why I avoided it, since I usually flock to any decent-looking Science Fiction when I see it, but some combination of the Christopher Nolan-level of bombast and the trailers for it just put me off. What can I say?
Interstellar, Boldly Going…Somewhere?
I have to say that I actually greatly enjoyed the movie. It’s not a perfect movie (so few ever are), but in many ways, it feels like it’s Nolan’s masterpiece. I’ll talk through the things I liked about it, before getting to some of the perceived flaws for me.
Visually, it’s well-done. Nolan has been at it long enough to know how to shoot evocatively, and you can see him channeling the true SF masterpieces of the past in this movie. The shadow of Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY hangs like a specter over it (as it must with all cosmic SF movies, to be honest). But I also felt like Nolan was channeling Terrence Malick in it, too, another of my favorite directors, although INTERSTELLAR is far more linear compared to any of Malick’s works, there was still a sense of potent awe and ineffable wonder bound up in it that made me think of Malick.
I won’t recap the plot (plenty of places to do that elsewhere), am only relating my own experiences of the movie. I loved the odd robots in it — TARS and CASE are amusing sidekick robots, like brainy, loyal, smart-mouthed dogs, rendered in a fascinatingly geometric fashion: four flexible rectangles bound together along three axes into a form of moving monolith. They’re like cheeky vending machines, TARS and CASE are, but aren’t there for comic relief per se (it is a Nolan movie, after all, so it’s all VERY SERIOUS), but the robots are way, way cool. These robots are apparently US Marine Corps surplus, so there’s a baseline level of badassery with them, which, paired with their unswerving loyalty and dependability toward their human masters, makes them greatly amusing (Nolan doesn’t even go near any issues of AI rights in this movie — humans are squarely in the driver’s seat in this story).
The various absurdities of the world choices can be generally glossed over, just from the audacity of Nolan’s presentation of things, and the stark beauty of the visualization of the worlds and the equipment and of space in general. Anne Hathaway is perhaps only mildly distracting as an astronaut — she doesn’t quite sit as comfortably as Matthew McConaughey, who effortlessly channels NASA test pilot in his portrayal, with his laconic drawl as ever serving as a launch vehicle for characterization. The stunt casting of Matt Damon as Dr. Mann was an interesting touch, a wrinkle in space-time intended to cause all sorts of trouble, which he fleetingly does.
Much is made of the crisis on Earth, and we’re vaulted between terrestrial concerns and cosmic ones, with a window into the past from the future by means of black hole gravitational lensing and wormholes and tesseracts, and a panglossian sort of ending that likely put off a lot of viewers. Or maybe people were bewildered by it.
Nolan, a sphinx as ever, keeps it ambiguous, I suppose (not as obtuse as, say, INCEPTION, which always rubbed me the wrong way, like a comparatively simple movie wrapped up in layers of plot frosting to make it appear more complex than it was).
I mean, either the rosy ending to INTERSTELLAR is what we’re seeing, or else we’re in Cooper’s dying mind as he’s spaghettified by the massive black hole he’s entered. Who knows? I actually prefer to think that the happy ending happened (and, to be honest, there’s nothing in it to make one doubt this — it’s just that the happy ending is so damned happy, it has to give you pause, as this is Christopher Nolan we’re talking about, here).
But, as far as an entertaining SF ride goes, despite its length (it’s like three hours long), the movie delivers. The Hans Zimmer score is typically exhausting, but is effective in some key sections.
Anyway, I enjoyed it a great deal, way more than I expected to. I think Nolan hit far more than he missed with this one, and I actually wish I’d caught it on the big screen, where it would have been particularly powerful.