Interstellar is the story of an ex-NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) turned farmer who gets the chance to pilot a spacecraft into a wormhole to try and help find a planet capable of supporting life in another galaxy. In accepting his mission he has to leave his young son and daughter (Murph) behind with the prospect of returning to them years later – in fact time and space and the theory of relativity and all that coupled with a black hole in the vicinity of the three potentially life supporting planets means that while an hour might be spent dicking around looking for beacons on a planet seven or so years might have passed back on Earth. In a similar way to “Inception” the variable speed at which time passes becomes a very big factor in the storyline.
Matthew McConaughey is undoubtedly the star of the show with other big name cast members such as John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway and Matt Damon taking up simple supporting roles as mentor, gatekeeper, eye candy and HAL replacement respectively. The film has obvious parallels with “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Contact” and “Gravity” and is equally as good as them all. Most of the technology shown is grounded in today’s science with the exception of the quirky monolithic robots which at times add a little comic relief to the otherwise very serious storyline. Earth’s crops are failing one by one and humanity needs to find another home.
Themes of family and love hold the science fiction action together and make the film a lot more thought-provoking than it would have been in their absence. The action does not feel overblown (let’s say like a Transformers film) and complete shots of the spacecraft are kept to a minimum – Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”, “Memento”, “Inception” etc.) preferring fixed camera POV shots which help to create a realistic atmosphere. At times the in-space action looks like authentic footage from the Apollo missions or ISS and I have not seen Iceland look so alien – I didn’t think ‘oh here we are in Iceland again’ this time around.
If I had to make some criticism then I have to say that I found the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer to be far too prominent in a lot of key scenes and the dialogue in a pivotal scene starring Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain (playing an adult Murph turned mathematical genius) was lost in Zimmer’s bombast. It felt like trying to decipher the mumbling of Bane all over again and although I got the gist of what he was revealing (because it is discussed in later scenes) the immediate emotional impact of the bombshell was thoroughly lost among the cacophony and I expect I will have to turn on subtitles once it comes out for hire to find out what he said.
Anne Hathaway didn’t get much of a chance to shine on screen because her character’s potentially interesting relationship with her genius father was not developed and her biggest scene portrays her as a bit of a muppet. She does get to deliver a clumsy piece of foreshadowing which gives away a major plot point, that is if you haven’t already guessed it based on the fact that we already know that Nolan loves to use circularity in his storytelling. The storyline between Cooper and Murph takes centre stage and I guess we didn’t really need to see another father-daughter story played out in any great detail. The father-son relationship between Cooper and his infinitely forgettable son is also largely ignored.
All these are minor criticisms which fail to chip away at a really good 169 minutes of cinema, and for me at least this is up there with Kubrick’s classic which is not without its own faults and musical pains.
UPDATE (with Spoiler Alert)
Having had time to think about this some more I think I was a little generous with this post. I am sure Honest Trailers will have a field day with this film and frankly I think the film actually falls down on its main plot point. If the beings that Cooper is saved by are so advanced why the fuck is he resorting to pushing books out of shelves to communicate through time and space with his daughter – it is frankly absolutely bloody ridiculous.
No amount of IMAX eye-popping visuals can make up for the stupidity of the story.
That’s it. Period.
Breathe. Relax. Move on…