365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

11Nov/142

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar is a good movie that aims to be not just a great movie, but a movie that people talk about for years and years to come. I imagine that there will be a circle of fans who will do this, but I think, for the majority of people, this will be a movie that they enjoy, but won't ever think of as being amazing or legendary. I could be wrong, but I think this movie tried too hard to make that lasting impression rather than just living in the moment of making a great film. As I will mention below, this movie could have been much simpler and, in doing so, much more effective. I felt the first 45 minutes of the movie created a cast of characters and a setting in which numerous stories could have been told and the film could have succeeded. I say this because really Interstellar this is first and foremost a space exploration movie with overtones of the importance of human relationships as well as the weighing what is best for society against what is best for an individual. Ultimately though, you want to know if I recommend the movie. And I do recommend it. As much as I wanted it to be great, it just wasn't. But it was still good. At 168 minutes, it is at least 45 minutes too long. And the spaceship scenes themselves are absolutely brutal. There is way too much boring talk of esoteric physics that went straight over the heads of 90% of the audience. It wasn't needed and forced you to try to use your brain to comprehend everything that was happening. That wasn't why I was there. I go to movies to not have to use my brain.

Film fans won't be able to not compare this movie to Gravity, a similar space exploration movie that came out just a year prior and is widely regarded as one of the two must-see movies of 2013. Gravitywas a better visual display (although Interstellar was shot beautifully). It is the one movie in the last few years that, if you knew you wanted to see it, you had to see on the big screen. As I mentioned in its review, it feels like you are floating through space while watching Gravity. It's a must see in 3D. In terms of the overall story, many will point out all of the scientific inaccuracies with Gravity. I'm sure the same inaccuracies could be pointed out in Interstellar, but it is going to be given a much more serious pass because, while both are in the science fiction genre, I think Interstellar tries to be based far less on fact. I think Gravity wants you to believe what happened could actually happen where Interstellar goes with the approach of saying, "Yeah, this plot is WAY out there."

In any case, in Interstellar Matthew McConaughey Cooper (Dallas Buyer's Club, The Lincoln Lawyer) is a former pilot turned farmer. The movie is set in the not too distant future, but the year is never stated. The world is ending. It is filled with thick dust that is making the people who breathe it in sick. The food supply is also running out. There is no money left to fund anything. There is a sense of doom, but not yet panic, all around. Yet Cooper remains positive and optimistic and a life he shares with his 15 year old son son Tom, 10 year old daughter Murph, and father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow - Terms of Endearment, The World According to Garp). Cooper's wife was killed a few years prior to the start of the movie because, as he explains, she had a tumor that wasn't discovered until too late that could have been discovered earlier if MRI machines were still available.

Fast-forward a little...Cooper and Murph uncover a hidden message that leads them to a hidden NASA facility. It is there that we meet Professor Brand (Michael Caine - The Dark Knight Rises, The Cider House Rules), his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables, Love and Other Drugs), and a host of others. The location is hidden. The organization is unknown to the general public because there would be outrage that this program is still being funded. It is explained to Cooper that the goal at this point that the only way for the human species to continue to exist is to find life outside of earth.

Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) plays some serious homage to Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey too. If you weren't the wiser you might think that this was some kind of sequel to this movie. There are just so many similarities.

***Start of spoilers***

This movie has holes. You are forced to completely suspend your reality for three hours in a variety of ways. If you don't, you'll be shaking your head earlier and you might be downright frustrated by the end. It is science fiction and it doesn't claim to be anything but, but Nolan still wants us to believe that something like this, some day, could potentially occur. It just happens that Cooper stumbles upon the hidden station of the thought to be defunct NASA program. The fact that it was within driving distance from his farm is a bit of a mystery too. And it just so happens that the man who discovered this hidden facility is a former pilot. Suddenly we have our hero who can hopefully help save mankind. Conveniently, the space station is already set up to be a spaceship too and it takes little convincing to get Cooper on board with the mission.

Professor Bland explains that there are two plans for the mission. Plan A includes leading the species to a new galaxy through a wormhole that may allow the crew to explore the new world for human life. But if Plan A fails, there is Plan B. Plan B involves rebuilding life through fertilized embryos that would replace human life. Bland tells the four member crew that he believes Plan A is a definite option and why would anybody question the wise professor, especially when he is sending his own daughter Amelia and a former student (who just happens to be Cooper) on the mission. We learn later that there is more than meets the eye with a lot of this movie. Expect some twists, some of which you might like, some of which you might not.

You might ask yourself an hour into the movie that you thought Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Take Shelter) was in this movie. Patience is a virtue. She is in the movie and she is good. She is not Academy Award nomination good (though there is all kinds of buzz surrounding her performance. I think that it is just because she plays a character that is so different than what we are used to seeing her play that his raising her stock). But, as I said, she is very good as Cooper's now adult daughter. The sadness and anger that she felt towards her father when he left the family with no real timetable on when he would return has turned into a bitter rage now that she is in the middle of her life. She works in the very same NASA facility that she discovered with her father. But over a period that has been just a few hours to Cooper and Amelia has been 23 years for everyone else.

And then there is this whole travel back in time component that further complexes the story.  Cooper falls through some sort of other wormhole that allows him to travel back in time to the very day that he leaves his family to pursue his mission. And he is trying to communicate with Murph as we revisit a scene that was shown very early in the movie. It was confusing. And while it added to the story, it just didn't make sense to me. I actually liked the part about how aging in time is different than aging on earth. I thought that further added a moral component to the decisions that needed to be made. An hour on one planet being equivalent to seven years on earth was both crazy and ingenious. Watching Cooper's children practically age exponentially and all he could do was witness it all through video was heart-wrenching. Seeing the ups and downs and the questions his kids had for him that he couldn't answer was tough, but when they told him, through video, that they believed he knew he would never be coming back to them (that this was a one-way mission so to speak) and that there was nothing he could say to prove to them differently, you could sense that he would give everything up just so they could be made aware of the truth.

Oh yeah, and Matt Damon is in this movie too and it's more than just a cameo. He can play an egocentric coward as well as anyone. We don't see that very often with him, but he's done so effectively in School Ties as well as this movie.

***End of spoilers***

Ultimately , this is a film less about science or the end of mankind and more about the love between a father and his daughter and the great lengths a parent will go through to be the everything that there kids need them to be. The road to get there was, at best, frustrating and, at times, maddening, but the intention was there. The acting was very good. The visuals were great and I loved the music. But ultimately, what a lot of us are looking for first when we go to the movies is a great story. And Interstellar just wasn't a great story. It was a good one, but I think a lot of us will be disappointed because of our unrealistically high expectations for Nolan.

Gravity was my #6 ranked movie of 2013. I don't expect Interstellar to be ranked that high by the end of this year and 2014 is proving, at least at this point, to be a much poorer year than 2013. We are running out of opportunities for 2014. I still have hope, but I had much more hope a month ago before Gone Girl, Birdman, and Fury all disappointed. Nightcrawler lived up to the hype, but when I list my absolute must-sees of a year, I'm expecting a better success rate than 25%. Kill the Messenger was an unsuspected surprise, but it was never on my must-see list. I really am hoping that the best movie I've seen so far this year will still not finish in my Top 5, but I'm losing more and more hope each week. Perhaps this just won't be the year. I will continue to be optimistic though.

Despite its flaws, I would still recommend seeing Interstellar. If for some reason you aren't able to see it in the theater, I might suggest abandoning it though. I'm not sure how well it would translate at home.

*** Plot 8/10 (Parts of this I loved and parts of this were maddening...it was reminiscent of Gone Girl in this regard)
*** Character Development 8/10 (The scenes when McConaughey was thinking about his family were golden...his kids were so important to him and you could feel his futility in curing their sadness and doubt in him...but at other times, I felt his kids were the furthest thing from his mind...Cooper also seems to live his children unequally too...his seems much more interested in his intellectual daughter than he does his farmer son...speaking of Tom, he goes from a likable teenager to a hardened, bitter old man with really no rhyme or reason)
*** Character Chemistry 8/10 (With the talent on board, this should have been better I thought)
*** Acting 8.5/10 (McConaughey was great...not amazing, but great...Chastain was also awesome in her limited appearances...Hathaway was a little lifeless...it made me wonder at times if she regretted signing on for this movie, because her character didn't have a chance to excel)
*** Screenplay 8/10 (It was much more complicated than it needed to be...I was a little lost with the time travel component at times and there were far more destinations than there really needed to be)
*** Directing  8/10 (This was Nolan's most relationship-based movie. He did a pretty decent job with that part of it, but you could tell he was outside his comfort zone. And I don't know why he felt that need to make the movie more complex than it needed to be. It could have been simpler and been just as, if not more effective, than the end product. It wasn't his best movie, but not everything he does can be a masterpiece)
*** Cinematography 9.5/10 (It was beautiful...surprised it wasn't in 3D, but I don't think Nolan has ever done a movie in 3D)
*** Sound (9/10 (I loved the Hans Zimmer score so I'd give the music itself a 10...however the music was LOUD and there were multiple times where I could not hear important things being said. Michael Caine's character, in particular, said something of great import (ance to Jessica Chastain's character and I made out maybe one of every three words)
*** Hook and Reel 9/10The first 45 minutes were so well done that Nolan could have told hundreds of different stories based on his established characters and the town where these characters lived, but I felt the spaceship scenes, in particular, were a little drawn out, repetitive, and dull)
*** Universal Relevance 9.5/10 (We are spending lots of money on any everyday basis to find ways to sustain life outside of our planet...while life on earth will continue to go on, most likely, for generations to come, the fact of the matter is that one day our planet will one day be inhabitable)
85.5%

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Ok, finally was able to watch this last night at the firehouse (albeit interrupted by a couple of calls). To your point about watching this outside of the theater…yes, no problem – as long as you have a 50″+ screen, the ability to basically black out the room, and a sound system that goes a long way in mirroring a much larger one.

    I enjoyed the movie, for all of the same reasons that you did. My first comment afterwards was about how the movie could have been about 45 minutes shorter with some of the otherwise pointless space ship scenes minimized. That said, it didn’t feel like a three hour movie while watching it like some movies tend to do.

    I didn’t however have a problem with the level of scientific confusion in the film. I don’t mind – quite enjoy as a matter of fact – being challenged in that way when I watch a movie. Non-thinking movies are a dime a dozen, so it’s fun to engage in a movie that won’t make me hate parts of the world (certain documentaries) while still living in the alter world of Hollywood. My complaint about the level of science was more in line with my complaint about Inception – too much explanation. I understand that it was almost all for the audience, but it seemed really clunky at times within the dialogue. For example, when they were about to enter the wormhole and Cooper needed an explanation about what a wormhole was. Really? You wouldn’t have had that conversation at an earlier point in this whole mission?

    I liked the plot, I liked the twists (didn’t see them coming), I liked the overall acting, I liked the direction, I liked the cinematography, and I loved the music.

    Overall rating for me: 8.5/10

  2. The score was amazing and it was stunning visually. I do think Nolan has a tendency to want to show us that he is always the smartest person in the room. I wish the relationship component was a little more consistent. There was a lot he wanted to do and not enough time to do it. As a result, a movie that could have been *stellar* fell a little bit and ended up being classified as very good.

    Thanks for the read and the comment!


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