Thoughts On ‘Interstellar’

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Christopher Nolan continues to stretch the IMAX medium to new cinematic and narrative bounds with Interstellar. But let’s get one thing out of the way; while Interstellar is grand and ambitious, it does not come close to the grandeur and majesty of 2001: A Space Odyssey, nor does Mr. Nolan even begin to approach the transcendent genius of Stanley Kubrick, despite the reports of some. Kubrick’s influence on Nolan’s work in general is quite evident, as is the influence of 2001 on Interstellar in particular. While a fundamentally a different film on many levels, Interstellar poses many of the same questions as 2001, exploring humankind’s place in the cosmos, examining our exploratory ambitions, and the limits of our abilities in those areas. 

The visual pallet of Interstellar is nothing short of stunning, featuring CGI on the level of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, but in the service of a far grander and more ambitious narrative. The images of Saturn, the wormhole, the waves on the first planet visited in the film, and the rotating black hole are all thoroughly impressive and a pleasure to behold.

Amongst all the visual splendor, however, the real centerpiece of the film is human emotion. Matthew McConaughey continues his hitting streak with another fine performance here in a role he’s  perfectly cast for; displaying just the right mix of “everyman” relate-ability, sophistication, and flyboy bravado as the pilot of the mission. The supporting cast is strong as well, especially Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, who continues to be as compelling to watch as any actor of the past half-decade.

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Interstellar has several flaws, none of which are major enough to sink the entire film, but large enough to somewhat blunt the impact of otherwise powerful material. Chief among the flaws in my opinion is a climatic and crucial turning point in 2B taking place while the principal characters in the sequence are wearing helmets, obscuring their faces. Within the logic of the narrative, this perhaps was somewhat unavoidable, but was distracting nevertheless.

I’m not a scientist, nor is Interstellar my film, but there are several moments which appear to me to be logically flawed in terms of both science and narrative. There is however, nothing so illogical in the film to strike me as completely implausible, and nothing to distract from my overall enjoyment. Perhaps the biggest leaps taken occur in the third act, which for me was the most engaging portion of the film, which is something I can’t say for any other Nolan film (the third act issues are my only major criticism of The Dark Knight and The Prestige, for example).

Despite its occasional flaws and overlong running time (which is certainly felt), Interstellar is a ride well worth taking, and one that I look forward to taking again. Nolan’s films make for thrilling cinema on the first viewing and rich experiences for subsequent reviews-I anticipate this one will be no different. My categorization of Inception was that to a certain extent it amounted to being Science Fiction for people who don’t like Science Fiction. Interstellar is not such a case; it is Science Fiction for people who love Science Fiction, space for people who love space and are enthralled by the possibility of traveling to distant stars and stretching the boundaries of human civilization. Interstellar speaks to that desire in a way I wish more films did and I admire it for doing so.

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