Synopsis: From director Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight trilogy) comes the story of a team of pioneers undertaking the most important mission in human history. Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club) stars as ex-pilot-turned-farmer Cooper, who must leave his family and a foundering Earth behind to lead an expedition traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars. Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway and Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain also star in the landmark film Lou Lumenick of the New York Post calls “one of the most exhilarating film experiences so far this century.”
eyelights: the script. the direction. the performances. the casting. the visuals. the soundtrack. the score.
eyesores: the undecipherability of some of the finale.
“Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.”
‘Interstellar’ should be ingrained in my memory: seriously, the 2014 Christopher Nolan film was the best science fiction film that I’d seen in years. It’s so well-conceived and well-paced that its 2h40m runtime didn’t even seem indulgent; it just flew by, initially piquing my curiosity, before unfolding, then building up to its climax.
Afterwards, I even regretted not seeing it on the big screen, in 70mm; it was far too breathtaking for home video.
Even on blu-ray.
So why is it that it hasn’t left me with a lasting feeling? Whereas motion pictures like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ and ‘Baraka‘ leave me awestruck, and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘ has an emotional resonance that has permanently etched my soul, why is it that the technically masterful ‘Interstellar’ leaves me feeling nothing?
It’s like a dream that I vaguely remember having.
‘Interstellar’ is a story of loss and survival. Set in the near future, it shows humanity on a decline, with an environment poor enough that the only crop left is corn – and even that won’t last. Scientists are convinced that the only chance of survival lies beyond the stars – though governments downplay that possibility completely.
In this future, the Apollo moon landing is considered fake and students are groomed for farming jobs. Governments want their citizens grounded, not looking at the night sky with dreams of escape. There is no escape: the only hope for humankind’s future is a global effort to labour, to struggle united against these withering elements.
That is the larger tale.
The more immediate tale is that of Joseph Cooper, a former NASA pilot who discovers a secret plan to explore the galaxy for planets able to sustain human life. Though leading this expedition to the stars, NASA’s second one, means pulling his family apart, Cooper decides that finding out what awaits humanity would benefit them all.
It’s the story of a man who has lost sight of his true purpose in life and finds renewed vigour in the face of the unknown. And adversity: For the adventure that he and his three-human and two-robot crew are about to undertake is going to be fraught with all manners of risk and danger. Their chance of succeeding on this mission is abysmal.
But it’s the only chance humanity’s got.
Meanwhile, Cooper must contend with the loss of his family, as his children grow older than he – he’s missing out on crucial years of their lives. And an emotional distance develops between them – in particular with his daughter, who resents his departure despite her pleas for him to stay. Does his family have any chance of surviving this ordeal?
What can Cooper do?
‘Interstellar’ is multilayered storytelling.
It’s a big picture.
And it’s not just impressive from a storytelling standpoint: ‘Interstellar’ also challenges the intellect – not just by posing plausible challenges that humanity may someday face, but also in its handling of wormholes, the effect of space travel on humans, of the relationship between gravity and time, and many other concepts far too complex for me.
Hey, I’m no astrophysicist.
I’ll just have to trust Christopher and Jonathan Nolan on this.
It’s also a feast for the sense. From a purely technical standpoint, ‘Interstellar’ is stunning: from its scope, to the visual effects, to the set pieces, to the action scenes, to its incredibly dynamic soundtrack, to its oft-Brian Eno-esque score, it’s a picture that outperforms most of its peers. It’s a film so meticulously-crafted that it immerses you.
So why has that feeling escaped me since?
Is it the cast, who were rock solid, absolutely impeccable, but didn’t move in the way you’d expect them to? I’ve never been a huge fan of Matthew McConaughey, for instance, but he’s excellent. And I despise Anne Hathaway, but she’s quite superb here. Would I have preferred it if it had starred George Clooney and Sandra Bullock instead?
So I went and watched it a second time, just to see what I’d think of it then.
The same thing happened: ‘Interstellar’ is a phenomenally impressive motion picture on all counts, but especially from technical standpoint. The human drama, as it is, never really managed to connect with me. And its assertion that love is a tangible connection felt hollow, if not a bit hokey, to me – as if the Nolans grasped for meaning.
But the most remarkable aspect of watching it a second time is that all of the surprises inherent in the first viewing (I had purposely read nothing about the picture!) lost their impact this time around – so many of the punches were dulled out. Those “holy crap!” moments were gone. And that made a huge difference with respect to my appreciation.
I was still bowled over by the visual and aural quality of the picture. Although the choice of IMAX imagery seemed a bit random at times, the sights are always awe-inspiring. And the lossless blu-ray audio track is rich in detail all the while rattling the room. Amazing. And Hans Zimmer’s score, though its homages are too obvious, is absolute gold.
My only reservation with the picture remains the third act, which obviously intended to ramp up the proceedings. I find this unnecessary; ‘Interstellar’ was already fascinating enough without all the drama and action. It’s also still far too abstract for my taste, what with the five-dimensional perception of time and how Cooper relates to it.
Hey, I’m still no astrophysicist.
Where I really take issue, however, is in how Cooper influences the past from this 5D vantage point. The thing is, there’s no way that he could have influenced the past before leaving on his journey since these events haven’t taken place yet. It’s like, unless he affects the past, he can’t leave, but unless he leaves he can’t affect the past.
It doesn’t work: it’s a catch-22.
And, to make matters even more impossible, unless Cooper leaves, humanity will become extinct. If it becomes extinct, it won’t evolve into a race of beings capable of navigating the 5th dimension. But, unless they do, they won’t be able to help him leave and save the human race. Argh! It’s yet another loop that doesn’t make any sense to me.
Then again, maybe I have a 2D perspective on traveling the 4th dimension.
In any event, ‘Interstellar’ is a must-see motion picture. In an age where cinema is devoid of meaning and is merely a showcase for product, it’s nice to see a filmmaker use science fiction as a vehicle to discuss more significant matters. And though it may be beyond the scope of many audiences (including yours truly!), it remains exciting.
Let’s just say that the rebooted ‘Star Trek’ franchise could take a few lessons from the Nolans.
Whatever you do, see ‘Interstellar’ for the first time on the biggest possible screen and with a proper surround system. If it means waiting until it plays at the cinema again, or if you have to goad a friend with a hardcore home theatre, then so be it (though I doubt you’d have to): ‘Interstellar’ is a movie that should not be seen and heard small.
Give it a chance to be the stellar cinematic experience that it’s intended to be.
You’ll be very happy that you did.
Date of viewing: August 21, 2016