Wednesday, November 5, 2014


If Christopher Nolan's sci-fi end-of-the-world epic feels a bit familiar it is. Borrowing obviously from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the recent success of an astronaut stranded in space in Gravity (both far better films), Interstellar showcases both Nolan's strengths and weaknesses of the director when his subject matter lacks the originality of his best films.

An ambitious project to be sure, Interstellar's B-movie plot seemingly ripped straight out of 1950s sci-fi can only lead it so far. The strength of its cast can't cover up the flaws in the nearly three-hour project whose length also effects the director's decreasingly-effective bag-of-tricks such as the loud music blasts which may have worked in Inception but come off distracting and disorienting even obscuring dialogue in several scenes.

As a movie experience Interstellar has merit and is worth seeing. As a complete film experience I found it wanting and would compare it to the eerily similar Signs. M. Night Shamalan's equally ambitious project relied too strongly on performance, far-too-cute coincidences, and late twists (over a well-developed story) as well.

When we meet Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) the former NASA astronaut turned farmer is already a bit lost. The world is stuck in a new dust bowl, more and more crops fail every single year, and humanity's days are obviously numbered. Offered a chance to put his untapped skills to the test by piloting a secret NASA mission to discover a new homeworld for humanity, Cooper chooses to abandon his two children (Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet) who, because of the relative time difference will age at a significantly higher rate while he and his crew (Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, and David Gyasi) travel through a wormhole to another galaxy in search of a world which will serve as humanity's new home.

Nolan doesn't skimp on the star power here, but he does have trouble putting it all to good use. Matthew McConaughey carries the film and Hathaway is put to good use as the other lead member of the space mission. Jessica Chastain, despite not appearing for nearly half the movie, is offered the plum role as Cooper's daughter Murph. The same can't be said for Casey Affleck who is stuck in the paper-thin older version of Murph's brother Tom (more of a plot device than actual character) or Michael Caine who could do the role as the genius scientist in his sleep (which he may have been doing later in the film).

In nearly three hours there an awful lot of intriguing pieces to Interstellar even if Nolan is occasionally all-thumbs when trying to piece them together. The attempt to tell the story of both the space travel and life back at home on Earth offers Chastain some great scenes but little else. The attempt, much like Signs, to unite an underlying theme in the final act leads to disappointing results. I'll give Nolan credit for attempting to stretch his boundaries and make his own 2001-style film, but I would have preferred more Nolan and less Kubrick-lite as is the case of all those who attempt similar projects. Interstellar is a flawed thee-hour spectacle that while memorable isn't nearly as epic as it desperately hopes to become.

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