INTERSTELLAR (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT
**IF YOU CAN WORK OUT THE PLOT – THERE ARE SPOILERS**
So, Paul – what’s Interstellar (2014) all about?
Well, the film is a science-fiction epic about the end of the world. Some astronauts are sent on a deadly mission – led by Matthew McConaughey’s ‘Coop’ – farmer – to try and find habitable existences in outer-space. To do so they must travel into the unknown across the heart of darkness; through worm-holes; through black-holes; crossing temporal and spatial dimensions to find a solution to save the human race.
Meanwhile, the emotional meat of the story is supplied by McConaughey/Cooper’s relationship with his daughter portrayed by Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain. He had a son as well but apparently he didn’t matter as much and was ultimately used as weak final act plot point.
Yes. It is. And also very very long. So load up on popcorn.
What did you like?
This is a visually stunning experience with some incredible set-pieces on Earth, in Space and on other planets. But from a visual and conceptual genius such as Christopher Nolan I expected as much. The “wave” sequence on ‘Miller’s Planet’ is an oxygen-stealing delight and I was gasping at the awe of it all.
Moreover, space has never looked so beautiful and dangerous and Nolan — clearly inspired by Stanley Kubrik’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) — delivered a truly spectacular experience when Cooper’s craft hurtles through the black hole Gargantua at the end of the lengthy middle act.
The film also has some wonderful science-fictional ideas relating to time and space and being a big Doctor Who fan I almost got my head around them; sort of. Such concepts will of course solidify on further viewings once the blood in my buttocks begins to re-circulate. Did I say it was a very long film?
Yes. Yes you did. So, Paul, what didn’t you like about the film?
Well, I think there is an Alfred Hitchcock quote – which I’m paraphrasing now - where the Master said “if the audience is thinking too much they’re not feeling.” Something like that.
Oh, that’s clever. Using another director’s words to critique another.
Yeah – it is. And my main problem with the film was that I was so busy trying to get my head around the plethora of concepts in the screenplay that I didn’t feel ANYTHING for the characters. I would have been happy with the film on a visual and poetic level if ALL the dialogue had been removed and emotion allowed to arrive between the spaces. But by over-reaching it dragged the whole film itself into a black hole of incomprehension.
To me the best science fiction marries concept with emotion. Some of the acting was fantastic notably from McConaughey but – like the superior Inception (2010) – many of the characters are reduced to mere expositional tools – Anne Hathaway’s Brand being an example of this. Inception worked better because it was grounded in the heist movie genre where Interstellar is all over the shop from: disaster-movie-to-space-opera-to-thriller-to-art-cinema-genres.
There were numerous plot-holes throughout beginning with the awful first act which set up the characters badly and then ran with poor characterisation throughout the film. Many of the cast, notably Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, were given a bit to do but far too late in the narrative. And the speed with which concepts are thrown at us in the last 40 minutes are just damn confusing.
What did you think of the film overall?
Watching Christopher Nolan’s over-expensive and humourless folly was like eating your favourite cake for 3 hours on a rollercoaster. I loved it – then I hated it – then I loved it – then I hated it – then I felt horrifically sick and wanted to get off. By the end – like life itself - I wondered whether it was all worth it.
It felt like a big-budget apology to his family for perhaps being an absent father. Perhaps it’s a film to watch with the sound off and classical music on; although I did enjoy Hans Zimmer’s score . Yet, the over-loaded plot-lines and weak-movie dialogue ruined the stunning visuals and action set-pieces for me. Indeed, I watched Nightcrawler (2014) on the same night and that took a simple premise with one major character and rinsed that idea for all the suspense and drama it could.
Nolan has made some great films with clever ideas such as: Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006) and aforementioned Inception (2010) which retain their emotional impact while delivering some mind-bending concepts. Moreover, he breathed life into the Batman franchise with his brilliant take on the Caped Crusader. However, Interstellar is a fail for me. It’s a magnificent looking jigsaw but if the maker doesn’t give you all the pieces, or the bits you do have don’t seem to fit properly; all you’re left doing is banging the table in frustration.
Who do you think you are slagging off one of the great filmmaker’s of our time?
I am no one. I work in a Scrap Metal Yard. But I paid my £11 entry fee and thus feel like I am entitled to an opinion. My feeling after watching Interstellar - and following his involvement in the dire Man of Steel (2013) - is that Nolan the director should sack Nolan the screenwriter. Perhaps he’s spread himself too thin producing and directing several big budget films in a short period of time? Nonetheless there is no doubt Nolan is a genius filmmaker creating marvellous blockbusters-with-brains. But, as a storyteller he is losing the plots somewhat and in danger of disappearing up his own black hole.