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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

‘Interstellar’ Takes Viewers On A Grand Voyage (Movie Review)

Interstellar: 4 ½ out of 5

Cooper:  Mankind was born on Earth.  It was never meant to die here.

A lot of times there is an urge to compare films to other films.  It may not be the best way to go about things, but it happens, regardless if one really wants to or not.  I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was very young and being transfixed by it (regardless of if I ‘got it’).  Apollo 13 was a film I saw in theaters a few times, as I was at an age where space and astronauts were the coolest things ever.  The Right Stuff I caught later, though it has become a favorite film of mine (along with 2001).  Having now seen Interstellar, a science fiction film from co-writer/director Christopher Nolan, I cannot help but think of these films that have contributed to my thoughts on the genre and how they served to influence Interstellar in various ways.  Still, regardless of how I think Interstellar matches up to those other films, what is important for this review is to communicate why I found it so worthwhile to go on this journey and would hope many others do so as well by way of watching the film on the biggest screen available to them.


It is interesting to see the kind of stops that Nolan has pulled out in an effort to put this film on the big screen in the biggest way possible, given how it is both his most epic film yet, while also very intimate.  It may seem odd that I use the word ‘intimate,’ but after thinking about how the scope of this film is portrayed, it is not just the consideration of the characters, but of the way Nolan chose to visually display this film.  While he once again chose to utilize IMAX 70mm film photography to achieve a sense of visual wonder in epic strokes, the film has a sense of minimalism in terms of practical set design, tight and up-close photography, and choices regarding the use of CGI.  While I am sure enough CGI was used for this film, compared to something like Nolan’s Inception, Interstellar felt more grounded, which is another odd word to use, given the places characters travel to in this film.

I guess one could say Interstellar feels more focused.  Rather than trying to throw a lot of rules at the audience, the film does its best to throw a lot of science (and science fiction) at you, after establishing the world the characters exist in and what the main drive of the story is.  In essence, earth’s population needs saving.  Matthew McConaughey is an engineer/pilot/potential space cowboy, recruited to be a part of the space crew that is on a mission to save humanity.  By going on this mission, he is forced to leave his two children behind, which remains as part of his drive in this film.  From there we get all the details surrounding this mission and what it will require.  Other actors step in as well, including Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, and Wes Bentley as the fellow space crew members.  All of them play scientists, who do what they have to in an effort to explore and discover possible ways to complete their mission.


For the record, I am no scientist and I am not about to use whatever knowledge I have and whatever I can surmise from Wikipedia to try and poke holes in a film made for the purpose of entertainment that has also certainly been made with its own level of understanding of science in mind.  Additionally, Christopher Nolan and his brother and co-writer Jonathan Nolan have not gone out of their way to solve the mysteries of space travel.  They made a movie and while that movie may have issues in regards to actual science, let alone script issues concerning convenient developments and conventional handling of certain characters/scenarios, it was a very entertaining movie that shows a lot of ambition, creativity, and a level of regard for audiences who get excited about cool sci-fi movies that can show them something new.

It is tricky to be that sort of movie.  James Cameron seems to enjoy taking on that challenge, as Avatar is about as conventional as it gets, but it still threw plenty of ‘new’ at the audiences around the globe in a way that captured a sense of wonder for enough people to turn it into the biggest film of all time.  Christopher Nolan may have different goals in mind and Interstellar is not a film I would fault too much for the way it handles its plotting, but it does do plenty as far as providing massive spectacle, while still being audience friendly.  The film is visually stunning thanks to a combination of visual effects and some wonderful cinematography, handled by Hoyte van Hoytema, but it also has a solid cast to back it up.


McConaughey fits nicely into the role of an everyman-type to help the audience along, while Hathaway serves as a strong foil.  I would also like to point out Bill Irwin, who lends his voice to a character that essentially serves as an outlet for humor in a film that could have easily lost itself in being too serious.  It is worth noting the welcome presence of actors like John Lithgow and Michael Caine as well, but we know how capable they can be, even if the film’s dialogue is not its strongest aspect.  Jessica Chastain also fills in a major part in this film, which leads into the other big discussion about Interstellar.

Christopher Nolan tends to have the character-based aspects of his films looked at as cold.  While I would disagree with that as a general association, I do see where it is coming from in regards to some of his features.  Interstellar seems like an answer to that criticism, as it feels like his most personal film so far, with a strong emphasis on building an emotional arc, based on certain character motivations, let alone the grandeur in regards to the message of the film as a whole.  Given where we, as an audience, focus in on, putting us into the mind of McConaughey’s character (as well as Chastain’s) allows for some deeply affecting moments, if Interstellar manages to work for the viewer in that way.  I was personally more awe-struck by developments in the plotting of the film and its visuals, while merely happy to enjoy the way the film dealt with the characters.  The kid in me who still loves everything about space and astronauts basically got the better of me, though the acting is quite strong and the handling of the characters is an aspect I would be curious to delve further into, upon revisiting the film.


Yes, it is not always easy to have the exact judgments of a film like this fully formed for the sake of timing a published post just right (and let’s face it, Interstellar practically seems to be demanding lots of consideration, given its anticipation).  With that in mind, I cannot see a reason why I should not recommend a film like this.  Interstellar has a conceptual boldness that managed to capture my imagination in a way that underlines my love for seeing films on a big screen.  Other films have done that as well of course and there are many that I have liked much more, but as far as Interstellar is concerned, Christopher Nolan has put together a terrifically exciting space adventure, which had me thinking of my favorites in the genre.  Given more time, I may put forth the effort to compare them, but for now, it is just grand to see something so wildly original in the realm of mainstream cinema hitting giant screens all over.


Cooper:  We’re still pioneers, we barely begun.  Our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, cause our destiny lies above us.



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