Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Wes Bentley, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Elyes Gabel, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Casey Affleck, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn and the voice talents of Bill Irwin
A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
The power of hype is a curious thing – it can make one man weep, make another man sing. Christopher Nolan is sadly a man who suffers from too much hype. Ever since he re-invented the superhero genre with the Dark Knight trilogy and blew people’s minds with the excellent Inception, he is a man whose movies are declared “the best of the year” before a trailer even hits the Internet. Indeed, the trailer for Interstellar prompted the hype train to start rolling out of the station, to the point where the movie currently holds a score of 9.5 on IMDB before its even released. But unlike Gravity last year, Interstellar doesn’t quite meet the hype – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie.
This review will not divulge any spoilers or plot details so this plot description will be brief. Simply put: it’s the future and the world is coming to an end. In an effort to save it, former astronaut-turned-farmer Cooper joins a team of explorers to find a brave new world. But as they delve further and further into the universes, their expansions and black holes, they learn more and more about life and the way the world works.
Matthew McConaughey is absolutely fantastic, showing an amazing range of human emotions while also keeping that suave Southern-drawl performance he’s become known for. But this is hardly news as it’s been the case with every movie he’s done since the breath-taking Mud. Like his co-star Anne Hathaway, it’s hard to remember a time when these two weren’t knocking performances out of the park and his turn as Cooper is certainly no worse than his last few soft spoken showings. With that said, he does have one superb moment when playing back messages from his family that is as riveting as it is heart-breaking and could rival any of the best seen all year. Everyone pulls out first class performances, no matter how big or small their role, and with a director and master like Nolan behind the camera, this is to be expected.
What’s most impressive about Interstellar however is not just the scope of Nolan’s ideas, but how that vision is translated to the big screen. Every facet of this world has been designed to the letter, from the decks of the spaceships to the landscapes of the worlds they travel too. So much time, thought and effort has been put into Interstellar‘s design and that is shown on screen in full glory. The robot TARS is a particular stroke of design brilliance, a monolith looking device that is surprisingly agile and quick due to an original and clever design. TARS is not an over-the-top robot “from the future” as seen in other science fiction films, he’s a grounded idea that is completely plausible. But for all of its small intricacies, sometimes it’s just the awesome landscapes that are the most awe-inspiring thing about the movie. Interstellar is the sort of movie that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible because Nolan’s universe is too big for just the regular cinema auditorium.
But for all the great acting and brilliant visuals, Interstellar falls victim to two major problems – the story and the runtime. At just under three-hours long, Interstellar is a long and arduous film because you feel every minute of it. Like The Wolf of Wall Street and Transformers: Age of Extinction, Interstellar is just too long for its own good and there is only so much the gorgeous visuals and stellar performances can cover up before the movie starts to feel a bit tedious. An argument could be made for a tighter edit, but that wouldn’t have helped because Interstellar‘s biggest failing is in its meandering and mishmash story.
Interstellar is a movie about ideas and exploring those ideas. Nolan has been rightly praised in the past for making “smart blockbusters” like Inception and The Dark Knight, which challenged their audiences to not just sit there and watch the flashing colours but rather focus and take in the story and characters. The problem with Interstellar is that there are too many ideas. The film is unfocused and flits between being about family issues, loneliness and isolation, theory of relativity, love as the only sure entity and what its like to move between the space between spaces with no real fluidity. It posits an idea, discusses it briefly and then moves on to the next. All of the ideas presented are fine and in some cases brilliant, but it makes Interstellar feel disjointed, baggy and unsure of itself. Prometheus was criticised for feeling like the first novel of a sci-fi writer who wanted to get all of his ideas into his first book in case he didn’t get a second, and while this a lot better than the awful Prometheus, Interstellar also suffers from the same affliction. The film is at its best when it’s focused on the repercussions this trip has on Cooper’s family because this is where McCounaughey, Hathaway as well as Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain shine, but everything else feels like mostly white noise. It also doesn’t help that for a long portion of the movie, it’s runs a “disaster after disaster” routine which feels like Armageddon, only without the fun and levity.
You can’t argue that Interstellar isn’t a technical marvel and a joy to watch on the big screen, but the film is narratively empty. It poses a lot of questions, but they vary from interesting to laugh out loud silly. The movie will have a lot of buzz due to the name of the director attached, but this could be the man’s first truly average movie. It’s not atrocious, but it’s not outstanding either. It aims high and it should be applauded for trying, but it never reaches its lofty goals. Interstellar is the cinematic equivalent to being in the company of a sharply dressed person who has very little to say – there is only so much you can talk about their nice suit before the conversation runs dry.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.