Interstellar (2014) – Review

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine
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.

Okay, so here we go. The biggest movie of the year so far, many would argue. Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic realised, or perhaps this years’ Prometheus? Either way, there is little chance of avoiding it for very long. I managed to not watch The Dark Knight Rises for three weeks after release, but given my love of Nolan in general and the addition of mind-challenging science-fiction (and it really is) by the great man himself, how could I refuse? The only reason I left it until two days after release was to avoid the masses on the opening night, whose popcorn-munching, pepsi-slurping and general ignorance of cinema etiquette was bound to put a dampener on my experience, which I most certainly did not want to happen here. I wanted to be enraptured, enveloped, immersed and lost in Nolan’s newest playground and having some fat kid kicking the back of my chair for the best part of three hours did not seem like a plan.
So, after an extra long pee, just to make sure, I headed in. And after another long pee, I’m back again…

Time. Those two last sentences were punctuated by about four hours. You wouldn’t have known this of course, as it doesn’t seem like that time has passed to you. It’s all about perception y’see. Half a second to you seems like four hours to me. The science geeks know where I’m going with this already. If this doesn’t apply to you, then you might want to hold onto your hat.

This has been called, by others, a flawed masterpiece. Now, as I see it, it can’t be both. Perhaps those uttering these comments have a better grasp of quantum mechanics than I do and will argue that yes, this can indeed be the case. In can be both, either, or even neither, come to that, all at the same time.
Personally, I don’t think that’s the case and that they are not, in fact, imparting some quantum irony. I just don’t think they know how to be honest with themselves and others and sitting on the fence may seem easier than arguing your point with everyone else who agrees with the masses that, frankly, just don’t know any better.

At time of writing, Interstellar had scored 9.1 on IMDB (91,631 votes). Yes ladies and gentlemen, you read it right. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a stupid person (though admittedly, I’m no rocket scientist), but if the majority of the population had a problem getting their heads around Inception (and it’s widely believed that they did) then those same people are going to have some serious issues with this subsequent offering from Mr Nolan and chums.

To call it a garbled, incoherent mess may be judging it too harshly and may say more about my lack of understanding. Anyone that’s been reading my blog for any amount of time will already be aware that I write reviews based around the entertainment value of anything I see. After that comes the plot, the script, the performance and direction etc. On this basis, it is true that Interstellar is vast, rangy and challenging. Cinematically it is occasionally provocative and sometimes alluring. The performances are, for the most part, perfectly adequate and sometimes very good. The story is complete nonsense from both an emotional and scientific standpoint and it is littered with way too many unanswered questions that Nolan will probably excuse as intentional when they are probably anything but.
In that respect, Interstellar is a little disappointing. Given the great man who made it, wrote it and put his name all over it, you can (even if not very often) set expectation levels to maximum. It’s Christopher Nolan doing Space! I mean, that’s like getting Professor Brian Cox to sit in your living room and explain the large hadron collider to your children, or Carl Sagan to turn up at your dinner party just because he had a bit of time to spare, had a bag of weed and a couple of nice bottles of wine and was in the mood for a chat. In this scenario, however, instead of regailing us with his vision of humanity and beyond, as we sit wide-eyed and full of awe, Sagan just decides to give your Labrador blowblacks, get pissed as a fart and ends up urinating on your Lego Death Star, on purpose.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but as crushing disappointments go, this is really high on the list. This doesn’t make this a poor film, however, as Nolan makes a better film than most. His off day is better than most on their best day, but it still doesn’t stop me from bemoaning how much better I expected, nay demanded, Interstellar to be. And it just wasn’t.
Dust? Anybody? No?….Dust?
Influenced, seemingly, by many things, Interstellar is trapped between trying to provide at least two messages and ends up mostly failing in both departments. Nods to the likes of Contact, Close Encounters and Armageddon are all clear indicators that Nolan has his sights firmly set on providing his audience with a clear message about the right thing to do in the event of an imminent end to life on earth. Upon the discovery of a wormhole that can take humans to another galaxy to look for other suitable planets because we have made such a royal arse-end job of looking after our home planet (crops are dying out, it’s getting altogether too dusty), it is deemed that ex-pilot and now farmer Cooper (McConaughey) is the perfect candidate for zipping off into the stars to save the human race by locating the promising signals of other astronauts sent a decade earlier. That’s right, a whole decade earlier. Odd then that he had to find out about the project himself, with the aid of his ten-year-old daughter, who seems to be having some issues with her library of books in her room, that apparently do not want to stay on the shelves if they can possibly help it.
Oh the agony! What will he do? He is being sent to space to save the world, but it means he may never see his children again. Well, his daughter, anyway, he’s clearly not too bothered about his son. He of course takes up the challenge, what Hollywood A-lister hero wouldn’t (just ask Bruce Willis)?
So begins a journey that will take them (rather matter-of-factly, if we’re honest) across and out of our galaxy into undiscovered realms, chasing the messages of astronauts already ensconced on suitable planets, just waiting to be visited. Here we are treated to a (again, if we’re honest) somewhat hurried explanation of relativity and the consequences of time passing more quickly on earth than it does for our intrepid heroes. When they land on the first of these planets, a shin deep, watery conundrum that still manages to have thousand foot waves, we are told (more than once, incase you didn’t get it the first time) that every hour spent on the planet means seven years on earth. So in essence, in the time it takes for Anne Hathaway to stop and pick up the missing data recorder, Justin Bieber’s career will have just about been and gone. A plan with at least some silver-lining then…
As if to accentuate this time-passing motif, by the time they get back to their ship, which seemed like it was just in orbit around the said planet, the remaining crew member on board had aged twenty-three years. If they knew they were going to be on the planet three hours, why didn’t they take the poor bugger with them? Plus, if they were there for the requisite amount of time to make it twenty-three years in the ship above them, it would have to be three plus hours. This was never the case, however, as they were there for less than what seemed like five minutes. This would still equate to a rather protracted wait for a bus if you were sitting there, twiddling your thumbs, on the ship, but nonetheless, still preferable to missing nearly six world cup finals.
Regardless of Nolan appearing to try to shoehorn science-fact into science fiction, but dressed up as quantum theory so no-one can actually disprove it, he also appears to be throwing an emotional story of familial responsibility, albeit also unconvincingly, as Cooper can be heard mentioning that when you become a parent, the most important thing is to ensure your children are happy. We have to assume that this is what he would do, of course, if he wasn’t off spending fifty odd years in deep space, saving the world by finding a new one. Given he used to be a pilot, and apparently a very good one, we can also assume that he is not daft as a brush either, so did he not think to ask how the boffins at NASA planned to get all of the people, including the children he apparently cares so much for, off this planet and on to the new one? Oversight? Much?
So, like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the initial motivation is admirable even if the method of its delivery is indeed flawed. Heaven help us all, however, if Nolan and his contemporaries decide to stop making these blockbusting, eye-watering marvels of cinema as these are the projects that put bums on seats in their millions and with them in existence, more valid and honest pictures may get to see the light of day that otherwise would not. Without question in the eyes of this reviewer, this must go down as the least worthy of Nolan’s productions thus far, with its replay value equally unlikely, compared to his previous projects. Still, for those of you out there wanting the cinematic ‘experience’, Nolan continues to provide this without measure or equal at this time. 

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