Here’s the bottom line about Interstellar: It is grand science fiction, conceptually brilliant and entertaining. However, because of its flaws, especially in the ending, it lacks the cohesiveness necessary to make it a classic for a wider audience outside its genre.
The first trailer for Interstellar came out a year ago, and built huge expectations for a smart, meaningful space drama with epic spaceship launches and a voiceover about the expansion and scientific triumphs of mankind. A slew of physics research inspired the film, which promised an old fashioned “family” adventure across wormholes, black holes, and time itself.
The good news is that this movie delivers on all of those promises. Every moment of the liftoff, dimensional travel sequences, and exploration of the vast unknown of space is a joy to watch. Never before have planets been rendered so beautiful, and the intricacies of the cosmos have never felt so tangible as in the hands of Christopher Nolan. Everything feels big. The drama is rife with intensity. It was even shot on 70mm film.
This is a high concept piece. The science is rigidly documented, theoretical and fun, while uncertainty abounds. Nolan draws on the model of classic science fiction movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey to take the audience on an adventure, without ever letting them know where they are going. It is the thrill of discovery that fuels Interstellar, rather than the destination itself. This kind of sci-fi movie has been sorely lacking in recent years.
Interstellar also proves that it can tackle big, thematic ideas maturely. Amidst the desperate race to colonize space before Earth dies are motifs of destiny, humanity, and willpower, as well as more narrow topics, such as family loyalty, the fears of abandonment or wasting your life, and, of course, love.
These themes are carried well largely due to the movie’s praiseworthy acting. Matthew McConaughey is a convincing and exciting lead in every scene throughout the movie--even the hokie bits, and Jessica Chastain, though not billed highest, has a presence that practically steals the second half of the show. Those two keep the movie emotionally relevant. Also notable is a brief but impressive appearance from Matt Damon, which keeps things lively.
On a conceptual level, the movie works. However, there is also a list of things that weren’t great about it.
Unfortunately, Nolan likes words, even when too many of them make for clunky writing. The movie’s beginning, though imaginative, is terribly slow and heavy on exposition. Thematic material tends to be delivered in sequences of memorable lines, rather than character action, and a consequence of this is that some of the movie’s great themes do not converge in a satisfying way. Interstellar can also be too smart for its own good, bordering on pretentious and leaving the audience behind in a wake of scientific technobabble. Perhaps most problematic is the movie’s ending, which is rather misguided all around. Finally, I should mention that the entire movie is overlaid with an obnoxious Inception-esque blaring sound.
Ultimately though, none of these issues are insufferable. They are confined problems in a script with many awesome, wonderful merits.
As stated earlier, sci-fi is often about the journey, not the destination.
So to conclude, though it’s not his best film, if you like Christopher Nolan, you should see Interstellar. If you like sci-fi, you should definitely see Interstellar, because the movie is excellent. Though maybe not for everyone, Interstellar is a rare treasure of a movie, and a refreshing reminder of why we enjoy classical science fiction. Three and a half out of four stars.