When a filmmaker as ambitious as Christopher Nolan wants to make a space adventure drama, you know you are in for something interesting. You will also automatically compare it to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (if you have seen it of course). This is unfair as 2001 is easily one of the best pieces of art regardless of the medium. Period.
Many critics and audience members have already started comparing Interstellar to 2001 but quite frankly, the two movies are almost polar opposites despite looking extremely similar. Kubrick’s film is about how humans are powerless and insignificant to the vastness of space as well as the collapse of human kind through our own inventions. Nolan’s film is more uplifting in the sense that Interstellar is about how humans are able to conquer the odds of space and time. So when you watch Interstellar, don’t look for 2001 or any other film, instead embrace the film for what it is. Not what you want it to be.
With that out of the way, I can focus on Interstellar. In Interstellar, at some unspecified point in the future, Earth has become a huge dust bowl that can’t sustain human existence anymore. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a widowed former NASA test pilot turned farmer. Cooper lives with his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), son Tom (Timothee Chalament) and father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow). They survive on corn, as the Earth gradually gets worse. Through a mysterious “ghost” Murph discovers Cooper finds coordinates to a secret NASA base. Cooper decides to leave with a team of astronauts to find a new planet for humans to habitat. Cooper must leave his family, much to Murph’s disappointment. From there on, the film goes through many twists and turns.
Interstellar is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, especially Memento and The Dark Knight. Nolan does have his issues but has never made a necessarily “bad” movie. Walking into Interstellar I wanted it to be amazing, perfect, awesome, and mind-blowing and the best movie of the year. Is it all of those things? Not really. Is Interstellar bad? Not at all! Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s flawed masterpiece.
Interstellar is absolutely great in many aspects. First of all, the film’s ambitions and themes are great. Nolan is famous for making blockbusters more meaningful than their outer appearance. Interstellar is no exception. The film deals with a lot of heavy yet interesting scientific concepts, including Einstein’s theory of relativity. The film also introduces many themes about human emotion and human nature. The film surprisingly has some emotional substance as well as a soul compared to the rest of Nolan’s work. Nolan is generally more of an “engineer” in filmmaking rather than a “poet”, making him films seems emotionally inert and highly dependent on logic. Interstellar is Nolan’s most spiritual work and also feels like his most personal piece of work. Interstellar is easily one of the most ambitious films to come out in recent years, at least from Hollywood.
Matthew McConaughey is amazing in this film and has continued his great line of work in the “McConaissance”. He seems to carry a certain amount of intensity in his performances but also does it with care. Mackenzie Foy also does a great job in the film, helping me forget that she had a role in the god awful movie adaption of the already horrendous Twilight books, if that’s what you can even call them. The main emotional arch of the film is mostly created through the conversations between Cooper and Murph thanks to the great performances. Anne Hathaway did a good job but not the best she has ever done. Another really impressive performance comes from Jessica Chastain. Some people complained that she just copied her Academy Award nominated performance in Zero Dark Thirty for Interstellar but I disagree. Chastain had a lot more heart and depth in her performance in Interstellar than in Zero Dark Thirty. She did a wonderful job at how it feels like to grow up with parents and definitely struck my heartstrings at a few moments in the film.
In terms of the technical aspects, this film is incredible. The musical score from Hans Zimmer is booming and powerful. The score is haunting and truly fits the atmosphere of space. What also makes the score great is that Zimmer managed to depart from the usual big drums and horns from his scores for Nolan’s other movies, such as The Dark Knight and Inception. Christopher Nolan told Zimmer to create a musical score before Zimmer even knew what the film was about! Nolan decided to use that score for the final film and look at how well it fit the film. That is pure talent. The visuals are also magnificent. Christopher Nolan has always been very good with creating a strong atmosphere using visuals. The special effects are just plain awesome in Interstellar. From black holes to giant waves to ice planets, everything looks stellar, no pun intended. The production designing of the spaceships look great, even if they are not the most original. Nolan has been reported taking inspiration from the International Space Station to create the Endurance space ship in the film. Nolan also took a visit to SpaceX to see how spaceships are designed and built, as well as how spaceships function. Funny that SpaceX’s goal in real life is actually quite similar to NASA’s in Interstellar. But the one aspect that I think deserves a lot of praise is the cinematography. Hoyte van Hoytema replaced Christopher Nolan’s usual cinematographer Wally Pfister, due to Pfister working on his directorial debut Transcendence. Pfister has impressed me with his cinematography, especially in The Dark Knight but Hoytema is no less great. There are many sweeping landscape shots as well as some impressive cinematography in representing black holes and the 4th dimension. Hoytema and Nolan went as so far to build an IMAX camera into the nose of an airplane just film scenes in the air! How cool is that! It is the first time that a camera has been built into a flying vehicle. That just shows the stretches that Nolan takes as a director to have his vision realized.
Interstellar is not without its detractors. The major complaint between people is that the film’s narrative has some issues, and I have to agree. Interstellar almost feels like it is three different movies because the three acts of the film are so clear. The first act is basically building the relationship between Cooper and Murph, as well as introducing how crap the situation is on Earth. The second act is all of the science mumbo jumbo and the cool space stuff. The third act is the emotional climax and the philosophical themes. Its good that the structure is well thought out but the biggest issue is that there is no flow. I think with brisker editing and pacing the film could have flown better. I do have to praise Lee Smith for his constant use of the match-cut in order to connect what is going on in space with what is going on in Earth during the third-act of the film. Some people have complained that the film contains a few plot holes. But to be honest, if you don’t notice it immediately, then why should you care? Nolan has created films with plot holes before but none of them really distracted me from having an experience (with the exception of the The Dark Knight Rises). A few Nolanisms do appear in the film, such as, huge amounts of expository dialogue, self-importance and have course ambiguity. I personally enjoy these Nolanisms but it really depends whether you like Nolan’s style or not. Another huge issue is the three-hour runtime. Is it totally necessary? No. If the pacing was better and if the last 10 minutes were edited out, then the film would have been better. Also, the sound mixing could have been better because the film is WAY too loud. Certain scenes with spaceships blasting off are almost deafening to the ears. It made me feel like it was hard to breathe sometimes. The musical score, being amazing and all, is also way too loud. Sometimes the organ in the score becomes so loud, that you can’t even hear what the actors are saying. Either this is intentional to give a feel of being inside a real spaceship, or just miscalculated sound mixing. Either way, it needs fixing.
Interstellar is a thought-provoking, intense, enthralling and epic film that most of us have come to expect from Christopher Nolan. I absolutely adore Interstellar for its ambition, themes, performances, musical score, direction, technical aspects and production values, although the film does suffer from narrative issues, pacing issues, a three-hour runtime and some below average sound mixing. A few small things that make happy about Interstellar is the fact that Christopher Nolan didn’t use 3D just for the hell of it and that Nolan used REAL film instead of crappy digital film. Interstellar might just be the last film shot using real film. Studios are converting to digital just to save money. I highly recommend checking Interstellar out, as it is masterpiece even with its flaws. I give Interstellar a B+.