Interstellar (2014)

Your Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

I finally got a chance to see Interstellar. I can’t say I loved the film, nor can I say I hate the film. My feelings are really mixed about the film. Breaking the film down into three parts, here’s what I think about it:

The first hour or so of the film is Christopher Nolan pretending to be like Steven Spielberg (this portion of the script was the leftover portion from when Spielberg was originally attached to direct Interstellar). The problem here is that Nolan is a brilliant visual director, but he is not very good at getting the audience emotionally attached to characters. His style is very cold and sterile compared to Spielberg. Spielberg knows exactly how to pull the emotional strings of the audience, Nolan not so much. This first hour has Nolan trying to create emotional beats, but that is exactly what it feels like: A very synthetic emotional beat that resonates a little, but feels forced. Even so, this first hour was the best part of the film. There is a great sense of wonder here.

The middle portion of the film is Nolan being Nolan. There is a lot of science in here and it is good. Visually, this is the best part of the film as they explore the planets; and we get to see the wormhole; and we get to see the blackhole. The science is solid here (thanks Kip Thorne). While I liked the middle portion of the film, it did seem a bit long. Did they really need to visit two of three planets? The first planet seemed like filler for an action sequence – and while the huge wave was visually impressive, this sequence added very little to the story. The second planet was OK, but again there seemed to be sequences added as filler – mainly, I am thinking about the extended fight scene between Cooper and Mann. Did it really have to last so long? Not really. Nolan again tries to hit emotional beats here: Mann crying like a baby after being woken up. Works? Nope. Cooper watching videos from the last 23 years. Works? Kinda, but not really.

The last portion of the film goes off the rails and is Nolan trying to out-Kubrick Kubrick’s 2001. It is hard to describe, but again, it seemed to have been a bit stretched out which too much exposition of the obvious – the long sequence of Cooper figuring out he is watching and trying to communicate with Murph could have been shortened up by a lot. A sequence where Murph is trying to save her sister-in-law and nephew was completely unnecessary. Then there is Nolan trying to hit emotional beats in which he fails to – the strength of Ellen Burstyn and Matthew McConaughey’s acting kept the reunion scene from falling completely on its face.

Random thoughts about the film:

  • TARS and CASE robots elicited chuckles from the audience every time the robots were on screen. I too chuckled a few times because the robots looked so… silly. This was especially so when the robots were in motion. Ugh.
  • Hans Zimmer’s score was loud. Really, f’ing loud. Like so loud it prevented me from hearing dialogue. This wouldn’t be too bad, except that his score wasn’t all that great. The cacophony of organs really pulled me out of the film. The score actively worked against what was happening on screen and it was wildly distracting
  • Did Nolan take a page of out George Lucas’s Star Wars Planets books? First planet: Water planet. All water, all the time. Second planet: Hoth. All ice, all the time. Speaking of the first planet, wouldn’t it have been nice to circle the area around the beacon first to get a lay of the land? I mean, big waves don’t come out of nowhere, a quick flyby would have shown waves with the height of Everest – or even shown the clear wreckage of the original lander.
  • Matt Damon. Cooper rips open the sleep pod and whoa, it’s Matt Damon. A high paid actor. Well, that takes me out of the movie and second that means that this is not a bit part – that for sure this guy is not going to be a good guy. And, well, he wasn’t. Nolan could have done better by putting someone less well-known in the part of Mann.

So, Interstellar… Glad I saw it on the big screen for the visuals. Wish it had a much tighter edit. Really wish Nolan had picked a better composer for the score. Great trying to work outside your boundaries by trying to get the audience emotionally attached to the characters, but practice makes perfect Nolan.

Addendum

This is my follow-up review after a second viewing on December 20, 2017. I have seen the film a couple of times since then also.

Sometimes, time and a second viewing of a film will make it grow on me. This happened with Interstellar. I rewatched this film on UHD Blu-ray and visually, it was fantastic. On a second viewing, the flaws above still exist and still bother me, the film does age well.

A second viewing with knowledge of the structure of the film and what eventually happens helped me enjoy the film more. The structure of the film in which the beginning has multiple points that tie back up with events at the end of the film made it difficult to keep track of on the first viewing. Coming back to the film for a second time with knowledge of what happened really helped me understand some of the intricacies of the plot – though, I do think that the it is plotted a bit too clever for itself.

During the time between my first viewing and this second viewing, I have come to listen to Hans Zimmer’s score detached from the film and have also come to like the score a lot – it now stands as one of my favorite Zimmer scores. Maybe it was just too different at the time that I heard it paired with the film, but now that I have heard it through a few times, having it paired back up with the visuals makes it fit.

There were some things that did come back this time around as flaws. The speech by Brand near the end of the film about love was cringeworthy and could have been left out. Casey Affleck’s character and his small storyline was a distraction and really did not provide much to the film over all – it would have been better to cut his character out of the film completely and focus on Cooper and Murphy.

While the ending of the film is still off-the-rails, it does make more sense now that I have seen the film again.

Maybe, I will return to see this film again in a few years and see how it has aged since this viewing.


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