Monday, 10 November 2014

Bonus Review: Interstellar (2014)

It sounds like a cliche, it's the kind of thing that all fans seem to say at one point about their cinematic heroes, but I really wish Christopher Nolan would move back to the smaller movies that he showed so much promise with years ago. Because I DO really like the guy, he always puts moments onscreen that make for great cinema, but he's in danger of taking away every ounce of goodwill that I have left for him. Interstellar is his most unsatisfying movie yet. Like the wildly overpraised The Dark Knight Rises, it suffers from an excessive runtime, a selection of ideas that are never treated as well as they could be, and a real lack of actual entertainment value.

The place is Earth. It's the future. There have been wars. There are environmental problems that affect the growth of crops. It doesn't look good for the future of the human race. One man (Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey) ends up piloting a spaceship on a mission that everyone hopes will provide a solution, or at least provide an alternative home for the general population. Cooper is accompanied on the mission by Brand (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and a couple of smartass robots. As they venture further into their mission, travelling through a wormhole and dangerously close to a black hole, it soon becomes clear that the most important resource they have is one that they can do very little to manage: time.

Where to begin? Where, where, where? Perhaps I should start by clarifying that my biggest problems with Interstellar don't lie with the science, which many are quick to state is considered to be quite sound. I'm no scientist, so I'm not going to fight that fight, even if I have my doubts about some of the speculation. I will, however, say that the ideas presented here are never explored to anywhere near their full potential, which left this particular viewer frustrated and wishing that Nolan had at least created a film with the full courage of his convictions. He didn't. He sets up what could be an interesting tale of the human spirit flying into the unknown abyss of outer space and then simply neuters the whole thing. Which is a great shame.

Perhaps I'm skipping ahead. My first problems with this movie cropped up within the first few scenes. First of all, Nolan set up a world that I didn't believe in. An Earth blighted by such problems (no military, extra health issues, the potential for mass hunger) shouldn't, in my view, seem like our Earth as it is now, albeit with an extra coating of dust over everything. But this is the world that we're presented with. Then I started to get an idea, an inkling that I knew how things were going to pan out. This was within minutes of the movie starting, mind you. For a movie that clocks in at just under three hours, that's not a good thing. It's even worse when the whole thing plays out exactly as envisioned.

Are there ANY surprises? Yes. Well, it may be better to say that there are one or two decent diversions. I can't go into any more detail because they feature people and situations that you'll enjoy more if you have no advance notice. It's just a shame that those good moments are adrift in a sea of horribly manipulative codswallop, surprisingly lacklustre special effects, and an audio mix that ranks among the very worst I've had to endure from a blockbuster cinema release. Seriously, Hans Zimmer may have enjoyed being given so much screentime to score by Mr. Nolan, but there were times when I would have much preferred to hear what the main characters were actually saying. You may think I'm joking, but there were at least one or two moments when I strained to hear dialogue that was obscured by Zimmer's ruckus.

The film never falls below average, which is unsurprising when you consider just how good at the technical stuff Nolan is. He's also helped by a decent cast, all doing their best to distract viewers from the clumsier elements of the script. McConaughey continues his hot streak, giving a performance that distils all of the best of humanity into one strong-willed protagonist. Hathaway is also very good, somehow able to waver between supporting McConaughey and trying to equal him. Bentley and Gyasi may be given less to do, but both men acquit themselves capably. Michael Caine and John Lithgow both make the most of their supporting turns, while Jessica Chastain once again proves that she'll never stop ACTING her heart out to show you how hard she is ACTING. She could take some notes from Mackenzie Foy, a young actress who steals every scene that she's in.

Many people will love Interstellar. It seems that every film Nolan makes nowadays is able to find a large, loyal fanbase. Who wouldn't want such bankability? I certainly didn't love it, and there were many times when I didn't even like it. It's a mess. It never feels plausible, despite the science all being as accurate as possible (allegedly). It's massively self-indulgent. Worst of all, it never feels like great cinema, even as it clearly strives to prove that it is.

Maybe, just maybe, Christopher Nolan should come back down to Earth. And soon.


Here's the science part -


  1. Excellent review and just about sums up my own thoughts about the movie. I was quite frankly highly disappointed. I was looking to be blown away on a "2001: A Space Odyssey" level and I wasn't.

  2. Cheers Derrick. Yeah, this was preceded by the trailer for the limited re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now THAT is worth a cinema trip. I hope some folks get along to see it on the big screen.