Saturday, November 8, 2014

Movie Review: "Interstellar" (2014)

Image Source
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 49 minutes

Over the last few decades, Earth has gone through many environmental changes. Most crops have died out and can no longer be re-grown. Constant sand storms leave everything covered in a perpetual layer of dust. Most of the human race has been wiped out by disease or famine, and the small number of people who are still alive won't survive much longer. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former engineer and NASA pilot, and now like everyone else, has been relegated to being a farmer. Cooper's daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) discovers what she describes as a poltergeist in her room. In reality, it is a gravitational anomaly that gives Cooper the location of a secret government base. At this base, NASA has been operating in secret on a mission called Lazarus to save the human race. They have sent many astronauts through a wormhole in space to discover a new inhabitable planet to occupy. The leader of the project, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), asks Cooper to pilot the Endurance, which will follow what the Lazarus missions started. After enticing Cooper with the possibility of a future for his children, he agrees to take the mission even though it could take years or even decades to return to Earth, if at all. Meanwhile, those back on Earth is left to solve the problem of finding a way to transport the remaining population to the new planet if Endurance succeeds.

The first two hours of "Interstellar" are rather mind-blowing. From the desolation of Earth to the eventual leaving of it, there are many moving parts to this movie's story that are quite compelling, and others that we thought didn't mesh well with the overall aesthetic of the film. It's interesting to see director Christopher Nolan's take on how society has shifted their focus from the pursuit of higher ideals and advancement to simple sustainability. His vision of an environmental apocalypse is extremely realistic and well thought out as far as the minute details go. The believability of the initial Earth-bound story is driven by some fantastic acting, mainly on the parts of Matthew McConaughey, who knows he is destined for more but stays in his place because he's a good father; Michael Caine, who is shrouded in the belief that we can succeed in getting people off of Earth; and Mackenzie Foy, a smart child who resents her father for leaving her and is perpetually plagued by her want to know about the anomaly going on in her bedroom. In fact, the acting all around is stellar, though we thought that the inclusion of Matt Damon in the movie made virtually no sense. You could have put anyone, any other lesser known actor in his role, and it probably would have been fine and convincing given his character. It felt like Damon wanted to work with Nolan so badly that he was willing to take anything, anywhere, and it was a distraction when he came on screen since we didn't know he was in the movie. While his acting was fine, he just didn't fit in this movie.

Once the crew of Endurance makes it off of Earth and into space, this is where the incredible visuals begin. It should be noted that relatively little CGI was used in this movie, and everything that could be shot on a soundstage was. It's not a bunch of actors jumping around on a green screen, and this only adds to the plausibility of the story. We wish more directors had this line of thinking about movie-making since we are getting ridiculously tired of over-CGI'ed fluff bombs. The visuals remind us of "2001: A Space Odyssey," as referenced by almost every other movie critic in the blogosphere. We've never been to space, but this is what we'd imagine it would look like. The planets visited are well-conceived and each is given a unique environmental feature (though, to the detriment of the astronauts). Even the transitions that distort space and time are excellently captured. This movie could be classified as an absolute "must see" on the big screen. If you have any desire, big or small, to watch this film, do yourself a favor and see it at a movie theater. Much like "Gravity" the year before it, "Interstellar" is massively impressive on a visual scale. Its special effects, graphics and brilliantly crafted score are something that should be experienced distraction-free and on the silver screen.

While this film is visually stunning and superbly acted, somehow, even with a promising beginning, it manages to go wrong. We have mentioned many times on this blog that we have no problem whatsoever suspending disbelief for most things. We like orcs and stormtroopers and the apocalypse just as much as the next Joe Schmo. But, when the better part of an almost 3-hour movie it spent shoving science jargon that is so grounded in reality down your throat, only to turn around and flip science on its head in pursuit of fantasy, it loses a little bit of its momentum for us. We are not snobs and we completely understood the point of what Nolan was trying to accomplish with the last hour of this movie, we just didn't care for it. Unfortunately, we cannot go into huge detail because we don't want to spoil anything for those of you that haven't seen the film yet. The film shifts and creates some paradoxes and plot holes in its last hour that had us rolling our eyes, the friend that went with us included. It felt like Nolan was trying really hard to have his Kubrick-esque moment in the sun (so to speak) by giving audiences a balance between fantasy and reality that we just can't deny because love is the key to everything. Beyond this, there were a few characters the felt either useless or underdeveloped as a whole, but this is a minor complaint. It sucks that the end of the movie was not for us because up until that point, it had a ton of promise.

The word "masterpiece" keeps getting thrown around when people talk about this film. While we both agree that it's a good movie, to us, it's not a masterpiece, and it's not Nolan's best ever. The bottom line is that love can transcend space and time, whether that love is romantic in nature or the love between a parent and their child. While we are inclined to agree in a different setting, a movie that spends so much time on science, only to turn around and pull the "listen and follow your heart" card just seems hokey and Hallmark. It's nice to know that, while this isn't his best film, Christopher Nolan continues to show his worth, growth and imagination, and even this slightly above average film is better than at least a dozen movies from other directors we have seen this year.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment