Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie Review: "Interstellar"

Director Christopher Nolan's new film, Interstellar, examines the macro-size of the universe by observing the micro.  Having more in common with works like 2001:  A Space Odyssey and The Tree of Life than the works of Steven Spielberg, or even Nolan's previous films, Interstellar is a film that takes you on an interdimensional journey across the stars.

Matthew McConaughey portrays Cooper, an ex-pilot/engineer, who is now reduced to being a farmer on a not too distant future Earth, that is slowly dying.  Basically think of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression times ten and you get the idea of Earth at the start of Interstellar.  However, while the film is about the dire straits Earth is in at the start of this movie, we never see the global impact of this almost apocalypse.  Told entirely from the point-of-view of Cooper and his family, in particular his relationship between his 10-year-old daughter Murph (played exceptionally by Mackenzie Foy), the film relays the larger story of what's happening on Earth through the microscopic lens observing this one family struggling to survive.  When Cooper is eventually recruited by NASA to pilot a last ditch effort to find a new habitable planet out in space by traveling through a wormhole by Saturn, Interstellar maintains its macro through micro approach by keeping the story firmly engrained within Cooper and his relationships, and that is where the bulk of this movie transpires, in deep space with five astronauts and two robots.

Interstellar plays a lot with the theory of relativity, so it should be no surprise that there is a little bit of time manipulation that goes on in this story with Murph aging on Earth, while Cooper stays the same age.  This is probably the most unique aspect of the movie, and it lends itself to some of the more emotional moments of the film when Cooper gets video messages from his adult children who are filled with a lot of resentment at his having left them to more than likely never return.  It is these emotional aspects of the film that keep Interstellar from feeling too much like a physics class and being human.  As a matter of fact, while this film deals heavily with exploring the cosmos, it's pretty clear that the film is more about exploring ourselves than it is in what lies all around us.

The two human concepts of love and truth are probably the most prevalent themes in a film that has a great many themes that it is juggling at all times.  Even when you get lost in all of the science mumbo jumbo, that often goes beyond simple theorizing to just pure science fiction itself, it is these themes that keep you watching, even if it feels a little like a chore.  

The biggest thing with Interstellar is just that it's so darn serious.  There is very little levity, and not a whole lot of fun going on, which makes it more of a $200 million art film than a blockbuster.  I don't know what the box office prospects for this film will be, but I can say that most average moviegoers should probably just skip this one, because this is a long movie that favors talking over action (though the few action scenes we do get are some of Nolan's more thrilling).  If you are a moviegoer that loves films like 2001, or the work of Terrence Malick, where you have to think about what's transpiring onscreen, then you will more than likely love Interstellar.  I am in a camp somewhere in the middle.  As a fellow filmmaker, I can appreciate everything here that Christopher Nolan has done with Interstellar, but I really have no desire to see this one again, because it just doesn't do for me what I tend to want out of the movies I see, which is allow me to escape from my reality and have fun for a few hours.  

This is a movie that is constantly reminding us of our reality, and you couple that with the beautiful, but overbearing organ music from Hans Zimmer, and you can very easily get antsy and nervous before all is said and done, and not in a good way, but in an oppressive one.  So it's safe to say this is not my favorite Christopher Nolan film, in all actuality it's probably my least favorite of his films, but with that said, this very well may be his most ambitious and thought-provoking film he's ever done.  As far as my recommendation goes, go see Interstellar if you love your sci-fi as realistic and thoughtful as possible.

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