With his last original film being the genre inspiring ‘Inception,‘ and his last franchise being the heralded ‘Dark Knight Trilogy,’ it’s no wonder that Christopher Nolan’s new film, ‘Interstellar‘ has the amount of hype it does. Starring Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, bringing back Nolan favorites like Michael Cain and Anne Hatheway, and using the brilliant cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (‘Her’), ‘Interstellar’ has all the ingredients for a bonafide hit. And it does come close to living up to the hype, until it’s sucked back into mediocrity by a black-hole of a deus ex machina that ties everything up a little too neatly for this viewer.
The film follows McConaughey’s character, Cooper, as he and his family struggle to live on a fading corn farm during the final years of Earth. A blight virus has been destroying earth’s crops one by one, with corn being one of the last foodstuffs left for mankind. The blight is also converting the Earth’s atmosphere, and in a number of years humanity will not be able to survive on Earth. So after a chance meeting (or so we think) with an old friend named Professor Brand (who happens to be the chief scientist for what remains of NASA), Cooper is drafted into service. In his younger days Cooper was a scientist, and an engineer, and the best pilot NASA had ever seen, which is all very fortunate as that’s exactly the type of man NASA needs to lead a team on an interstellar voyage to find a new home for mankind.
The film has lots of emotion, pulling at the heartstrings as it examines the loss of family due to the realities of relative time due to space travel and gravitic fluctuations, with Cooper having to miss seeing his kids grow up and their bitterness that he left them in the first place. It tries really hard to build up that sadness, that sense of loss and desolation, with many deep and moving performances and tearful scenes between the characters. Problem for me was that it felt they were trying a little too hard, had a few too many tearful scenes, and while I was moved by many of them, at a certain point it just felt overwhelming. It was pretty clear that this was originally a Spielberg project, as the father to child relationships played very heavy, and Nolan isn’t quite as adept at that dynamic as Spielberg has proven himself to be.
Visually the film was stunning, definitely one to see in as large a format as possible, IMAX if you can, as many scenes were shot for the colossal IMAX screens, and its size really enhances the scenes shot in space and gives visuals like Jupiter or a massive black-hole depth and dimension. Though its clear the film was heavily inspired by Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ I never felt any of the shots were copies of things done in Kubrick’s film. The special effects team, working with theoretical physicist (and producer) Kip Thorne, produced some truly brilliant designs and resulted in many never before seen images (which I won’t give away here) that gave the cosmos a different feel than anything we’ve ever experienced before.
In the end, ‘Interstellar’ is definitely worth the price of admission, but one should be cautious about going in listening to all the hype. It’s not Nolan’s finest (which I would still argue is a toss-up between ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Inception’) but it is definitely a film that has the potential to be embraced by audiences, with a story that is relatable despite the heady scientific overtones.