There was a moment as I was walking into the theater this afternoon where I started to get worried. I haven’t been this excited to see a film in a long time and I thought, “What if it doesn’t live up to my anticipation? It can’t possibly be as good as I think it’s going to be.” I had no reason to fear. Interstellar blew me away. It was better and bigger and grander and more ambitious than I possibly could have imagined and I loved every second of it. It was one of those films that left me in awe with a smile of pure joy on my face. In the hazy post movie glow it is easy to call this one of my favorite films by Christopher Nolan just because of the pure spectacle of it all.
First there are the visuals. This is where inevitably Interstellar will be compared with last year’s Gravity. Except you cannot compare the two. Gravity doesn’t even come close. Whereas last year I didn’t think anything would thrill and excite me visually as much as that film did, Interstellar did all that and then some. I can say without a doubt that is one of the most visually appealing films I have ever seen to the point where I was gasping aloud at some parts. Hoyte Van Hoytema is a master with a camera and it is his cinematography combined with the incredible special effects that really make this film. See it on as big of a screen as you can, you won’t be disappointed.
Okay, time to get into the good stuff.
Interstellar is by no means a perfect movie, but it is a perfect movie-going experience. I have already seen people complaining about the Plot Holes and Implausibilities and I find myself ready to take up arms in defense of Nolan. I believe in a science fiction world where the rules are set up by the creators of said world and you just go with them. This is not to say I do not look at films critically, but I also don’t go into them nitpicking every small mistake. I admire people like Nolan who have the sheer audacity and brain capacity to make a movie this complex and keep even a little of it straight.
Do I have a lot of questions? Sure, but I also feel like the film set up everything we needed to know and let us go from there. I like a movie where I can figure out what is going to happen before it happens, but that still manages to surprise me at the same time. The premise of the film starts out fairly simple: the world is running out of food because of dust storms and crop blight. It comes off as vaguely “Be careful this can happen to us/climate change-ey” and under another director it would be much more heavy handed, but with Nolan this was never about saving the Earth. This film is about the next great adventure and that is space. We need to find another planet to save the human race and that is where Matthew Mcconaughey and co. come in.
We don’t get much background on Mcconaughey’s Cooper other than that he was a NASA pilot and is now a farmer who really hates his job. What he does love are his children, Tom and Murph, played in her younger version by Mackenzie Foy and her older version by Jessica Chastain. Murph could have just been there as the character to make us care, to show us that the personal stakes are high for Cooper, but she is so much more. Her connection with her father is one of the driving forces of the film and as many a girl can tell you there are very few things in this world like a girl’s bond with her father. Foy plays an important part because she makes us invested in their relationship early on. Her anguish at Cooper leaving and later Cooper’s explanation for why he didn’t really tell her why are heartbreaking. Chastain rounds out the part as a woman recovering from abandonment by becoming a more than capable scientist. Before we even saw Chastain on screen there was no doubt in my mind who intelligent, curious Murph would grow up to be.
And that is the most heartbreaking part: Murph grows up while her dad is off on a failed mission to find an habitable planet. To Cooper, Brand (Anne Hathaway), and Doyle (Wes Bentley) it has been mere hours, but on Earth it has been TWENTY THREE years. As the astronauts watch the transmissions from Earth and we see the changes in the characters lives and physical appearances many a sniffle could be heard throughout the audience. (Confession: mine was one of them.) This movie is science fiction with a cost. These people are not exploring for the sake of adventure, they are leaving their entire world behind to save it without knowing if that is even possible.
Matthew Mcconaughey sells this especially well. Cooper undeniably has a thirst for adventure, a desire for something more, but he is also painfully aware of what he is leaving behind. Mcconaughey as the skilled and semi-cocky pilot seems natural, but it is in the quiet moments where he shows Cooper’s emotional side that he really shines. He is also not a perfect character. He abandons his children with the slightest opportunity and disregards the opinions of his fellow astronauts essentially compromising the mission (although without all that we wouldn’t have a movie).
Anne Hathaway is good as Dr. Brand, but I felt something lacking in her performance. Her character was an interesting one in that she was allowed to be both scientific and emotional, but she also lacked depth. I felt more could have been made to compare her relationship with her father (Michael Caine) and Cooper and Murph. I cared about Professor Brand because he is Michael Caine and really little else. Although I did find myself as devastated and shocked as the characters when it was revealed that Professor Brand didn’t really believe in Plan A and had tricked them all along.
While Interstellar works on a large scale with it’s superb effects and loud crashing score, it were these small, human moments that really made the film. The characters and their motivations. The constant setbacks and disappointments. The species will to live. And underneath all of that the sense of adventure, the desire to know what else is out there. There wasn’t struggle to understand the science because I took it with a heavy dose of fiction. Also, I found it hard to worry about the physics inside a black hole when I was busy wondering if the characters were going to make it home or solve the equation or get off of
Hoth Dr. Mann’s planet alive.
But the real reason I loved Interstellar was the pure escapism. There was a point where I found myself genuinely shocked to see the other seats around me. For a moment I had been completely transported away from a theater in Los Angeles, California to a the unfathomable depths of space. That alone is worth the price of admission.
- I don’t think Nolan will win Best Director for this film. I do hope/think it will pick up awards for sound, cinematography, and editing.
- I don’t know if it was just my theater, but the music was LOUD. So loud that it drowned out a lot of the talking.
- I have so many questions about Plan B: Would the new species of humans be taught/raised or would they just be sent to the new planet to live on their own? Would they be taught about Earth and the old humans? What would they think about it all? Would they learn anything or would we just mess up this next new Earth?
- Once I realized Doyle was Wes Bentley I couldn’t take him seriously because I just kept picturing him with his Seneca Crane beard.
- Everyone seemed to love the robots. I thought they were alright and very weirdly shaped.
- What Clooney got himself sent into space and now everyone wants in? I see what you’re doing Matt Damon.
- “The world doesn’t need any more engineers. We didn’t run out of planes and television sets. We ran out of food.” (This one just stuck with me throughout the whole film.)
- “Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”-Dylan Thomas
UPDATE: I just watched the trailer for the first time and boy am I glad I avoided it. Some of my favorite/most jaw dropping scenes were in it so I’m glad I got to see them on the big screen for the first time.