Christopher Nolan is a director who seems to most people, me included, unable to make a bad movie. From Memento to the Dark Knight Rises he has created successful movie after successful movie. As he is my favorite director, it came as no shock when I went through my list of movies to look forward to this year, it was number one. After early rumors that it was going to be a global warming propaganda film, I was hesitant, but then remembered that Nolan doesn’t create the over handed peachiness of false gospels like that in order to tell a great story. After the first trailer I was sold and looked forward to his take on science fiction. Would it live up to the hype?
In the future, the world is a barely inhabitable planet with constant dust storms and food growth extremely scarce. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, is now a successful farmer of corn and lives on his farm with his two kids and father-in-law. One night he and his daughter follow some strange coordinates that lead them to a secret NASA site run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who is one of a team of scientists trying to figure out how to use a recently discovered wormhole to find habitable planets. Unfortunately Cooper has to make the hard decision to leave his family behind for what could be years. Cooper and a team of scientists then embark on the adventure through space to find a world that may someday house mankind.
Lets get the bad out of the way. I have one big issue with this movie that makes me give it the rating that I did. The set up is completely contrived and unbelievable unless you know the ending of the film which even then doesn’t help. For the first time watching a Nolan movie I groaned and rolled my eyes. Our main character just so happens to end up at the only facility on earth currently going to space and he also happens to be the only pilot that can be perfect behind the wheel. Not only that, he is then too easily convinced to leave his family behind within a day. Takes you fully out of the film and if it wasn’t for the rest of the film making up for it, I would have hated my first Nolan film. What about the rest of the film?
As usual for a Nolan movie, the film looks great and has some interesting and oftentimes beautiful camera shots. The acting is good, at least from McConaughey, John Lithgow and Mackenzie Foy. The adult female characters for the most part, and this is still Nolan’s biggest weakness, are stilted and dry in their performance. The other weak performance is from Matt Damon who probably channeled a younger and awful actor named Ben Affleck. Thankfully all of this doesn’t drag the movie down as much as it really should have all considering. It’s the story that gives the movie its legs.
Interstellar is a movie about lost hope and the desire to regain it. I think the quote that explains the films journey to rediscover hope was also in the trailer. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” It is a powerful line with much theological significance. Unfortunately the promise of possible theological themes coming up later in the film with talks about the supernatural at the beginning lead nowhere, but there is still the instinctive themes of hope, love, family and perseverance. Even though it is presented with arguably a man centered, if not atheistic tone, these themes work hear. It is unfortunate that there was a missed opportunity here that seemed so promising in the beginning.
Interstellar is a good film that could have been great with a few tweaks here and there, starting with the my main complaint above. You’ll hear a lot about plot holes, and there are a lot, but just enjoy the movie because all science fiction movies have plot holes, but they don’t always look this good.
2 and ½ stars out of 4