There’s a lot of hype about this movie. It’s directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) and its mysterious trailers have given very little away. I’m always hesitant about this sort of hype, so did Interstellar live up to those expectations?
The gist is that the world is unsustainable and it falls on former engineer and pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to find a new planet for Earth’s remaining population. The problem here is that he must leave his family in order to do so and doesn’t know when (or if) he’ll ever return home. He is joined by Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, and some more surprise appearances.
Nolan has a unique visual style and that comes across here. This is really a science fiction movie but manages to be believable and a world that we can become invested in. Interstellar definitely puts family in the forefront, both with McConaughey and his son/daughter/father and also with Anne Hathaway and her father (Michael Caine). Those relationships work and those performances are great.
Actually, performances across the board are pretty incredible. McConaughey has a few breathtaking moments with/about his family, most notably in the second half of the movie. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain deliver great performances as well.
What didn’t work?
Sadly, there’s a few things that I didn’t really feel about this movie. The length of the film isn’t an issue but the pacing of the film felt off. I caught myself on numerous occasions wondering how long was left. It drags in moments and the nearly three hour movie could’ve benefited from some cutting.
And one of those moments cut should have been the final moments of the movie, which offers up a “Hollywood” ending that nicely wraps up a lot of the issues in the movie, in a way that might please audiences but really doesn’t make sense when you look at it critically. I teared up a little bit but it was a cheap move and one that undermines some of the more intense decisions our characters made by essentially unraveling those choices.
This movie hinges on the science of the film and I found that aspect really weak. I’ve seen more movies and television shows about wormholes than I can even count. These explanations of space and time were confusing and sometimes downright insulting. My audience would actually chuckle when a scientist would offer up explanations using science buzzwords in a way that makes you think it made sense but it really means nothing. I worried about this with Christopher Nolan because he’s not always tied to the real world. In Inception, he played around with dreams and how they work but we all bought it. In The Prestige, he played with magic and electricity and touched slightly on the science of it all. Here, the script struggled with legitimizing this science and making it plausible. Even my incredible sense of disbelief wasn’t fooled by this.
In terms of visual effects, I was also not super impressed. I thought Gravity set the bar really high when it comes to outer space action and it made some of these action sequences pale in comparison. There were some incredible ones yes, but the action here floundered next to Nolan’s Batman movies or even Inception.
In general, I felt like Nolan tried to create a big mind-boggling epic journey just for the sake of making one. There are moments that have you confused for no reason, when a more concrete answer would have been emotionally more impactful and would’ve just made more sense in the big picture. The M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end was unnecessary and I think a detriment to the film.
Some people will love Interstellar. It will challenge you mentally as you struggle to understand what’s happening but the film makes this hard for you by throwing some unnecessary twists and some impossible science your way. If the movie had been simplified and focused on the incredible performances instead of these open-ended questions to make the film complicated, I think Interstellar might have been great. The talent is great but the longer the movies lasts, the emphasis becomes making you think as opposed to making you feel. After more viewings, my opinion may change but I consider this Nolan’s weakest movie in his arsenal and just a little too bloated with concept to be truly great.