Christopher Nolan returns to the sci-fi genre once again, after completing his Dark Knight trilogy. Last time he gave us something original, we all ended up leaving the theater amazed and in a state of shock as Inception changed the filmmaking game yet again. Now, Nolan returns with Interstellar — a much more ambitious effort that attempts to make bold strokes, but comes up a bit messier than one might expect. It’s not that Interstellar isn’t good — in fact, it’s actually really great in some areas, but it’s also a bit sloppy in its execution and comes up a little short when being compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other all-time classic pieces of science fiction. Interstellar is challenging, brave and very honest filmmaking that occasionally shambles under its own built up pressure.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former pilot turned farmer in a futuristic world where corn is the only bankable crop that still grows. Earth as we know it is dying and there’s not much hope left for mankind as a species. That is until he and his daughter Murphy accidentally stumble upon NASA’s top-secret station, which is prepping for its biggest mission ever. The crew involved will be journeying through a black hole in hopes of finding new worlds that will be able to house the future of the human race.
Now, Cooper must go out into the unknown, with a bunch of Earth’s best, brightest and last hopes for survival, in hopes of finding a new livable world to support and continue life. He must also leave behind his daughter and son, because the mission will stretch out so far across the universe, to the point of time and space mixing together, separating him not only by distance, but also time.
Interstellar might go down as Christopher Nolan‘s biggest crowd-splitting film yet. On one hand, you have a film that’s visually remarkable — a true beauty and direct result of an artist shooting on expensive and expansive 65mm film to produce an image that’s simply breath-taking. Interstellar will set you back in your seat as you watch Nolan unravel the universe in awe, with such cinematic scope and beauty. There’s no denying that Nolan has created something stimulating on a visual level.
But there’s also the other hand of the conversation, which points towards Nolan’s weaknesses as a filmmaker. Interstellar is definitely not his tightest film, with a somewhat bloated running time that definitely puts an emphasis on the importance of time when related to Cooper’s own journey across the cosmos, but this also puts a crutch on Nolan’s rhythm as a filmmaker and Interstellar as an effective film about love and family. There’s just too much back-and-forth spent during the film’s homestretch that not only takes away from the task at hand, but also downplays some of the emotions that Nolan is trying to heighten. Certain scenes, and even certain characters to an extent, have absolutely no benefit of being in an already long film.
Nolan’s inclusion of scenes that take place back on Earth, while Cooper and the rest of the crew are out exploring other worlds, only drive the film down when things should be elevating more and more. Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck do very little in the film’s later scenes and yet Nolan constantly revisits them and their situations to try and hit his message home, but instead of doing so he creates a disconnect in his storytelling and inserts slightly boring sequences into an otherwise packed and crowded film.
Interstellar doesn’t gain anything with these insertions and instead loses its steam and becomes slightly jarring. It shambles under its own pressure and tries to become something more than it actually is.
This is definitely Nolan attempting to make his most personal and yet largest film yet, combining such intimate narratives with space and the entire universe as his platform, yet Interstellar slowly starts to lose its own life as the film eases to a stop. There’s still a lot of challenging material to be chewed on and discussed with others for hours, if not days, because Interstellar certainly says a lot and shows even more, but the heart of the story — the core of the film, has a slightly rusted aftertaste that doesn’t quite hit home as hard as it should or as strongly as one might expect from the man behind Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Interstellar is without a doubt one of Nolan’s finest-looking films and a movie that needs to be experienced on a gigantic 70mm IMAX projector, because it contains some of the most beautifully-shot sequences ever to be filmed, but it also contains a messy story that tries to wrap around and stay contained and focused on the constant idea of love, but it ends up falling a bit short on that goal.
It’s so hard commenting on a film as layered as Interstellar having only seen it once. Perhaps a second or third viewing will help smooth things over for me or maybe repeat viewings will only reveal the gaping problems even more? I’m not exactly sure just yet, but what I do know is that Interstellar is worth at least a single viewing. It’s not his best film, but it’s also not his worst. Nolan is still one of the better big-budget filmmakers out there, but he’s also not the next Stanley Kubrick or even Steven Spielberg and part of the film’s problem is that it feels like he thinks that he is.
Interstellar – 8/10