Crops on Earth are dying. Corn is the last one to survive, and only a matter of years away from meeting the same fate. And then it'll be humanity's turn. But NASA has been working in secret on a way to save the humans. When a black hole opened up in space near Saturn, they saw their chance and took it -- sending astronauts in to explore the planets in the new galaxy, in the hopes that they'll find a habitable one.
Through a series of strange events, Cooper, a pilot-turned-farmer discovers NASA's secret headquarters. There he is told the truth about Earth's impending demise and is recruited to lead one last mission into the black hole -- to visit the three planets where the surviving astronauts are sending out signals indicating that the planet is potentially habitable. Knowing that the mission would take many years, Cooper doesn't want to leave his two children behind, but takes the job anyway, to save them.
|Ladies and gentlemen; 3001: A Space Odyssey.
Never mind if it's enjoyable; never mind if it's entertaining; the biggest issue and controversy surrounding Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster epic is whether or not it's scientifically viable. I started out without any specific explanations of the science behind this movie, but I had heard about relative time in space travel, and I know all about paradoxes too... because Doctor Who. So the parts in the film that had to do with space travel -- the black hole, the time differences, the technical aspects -- made sense to me as the film explained them. It would be a whole other issue if the story was being sold as a true story, but it's science fiction, so making sense within its own explanation is all I require to give a stamp of approval.
The previously mentioned aspects I can see the more involved (read: geeky) fans debating over, about potential holes, or whether or not the science is applicable in reality, but a lot of the less science-y events made we wonder how far people's claims of this film's incredible accuracy actually goes. Are people swallowing that the Earth will eventually die via the natural extinction of plants? That humans will eventually evolve to be able to see and manipulate time? I love a good bootstrap paradox in my entertainment, but that involves literal time travel (not just space travel "time travel"), backwards time travel, and that, as fun as it is to enjoy in a film, is a little silly to call scientifically accurate.
|Short answer: no; it's not scientifically accurate. Proof? Bookcases.
Now that I've dealt with that, on to whether or not Interstellar is enjoyable and entertaining -- an underrated point that I put a lot of importance on when evaluating entertainment. And this is actually a pretty unique case. Usually in a big blockbuster I have a backup for if the plot fails to engage and impress; the cast. Usually there's at least one actor or character present that I can turn my attention to. This movie, not so much. It has a huge cast, but isn't made up of many actors that I'm automatically biased towards. Plus Matthew McConaughey was the only constant character, and I'm neutral towards him. I didn't find much to connect with Cooper on, except that I really did appreciate his extreme will to survive because of his love for his children (child, really). Only, that came from the script.
Anne Hathaway I actually dislike generally, and her character being so dramatically sentimental and inept (she was probably a descendant of Gravity's Ryan Stone) didn't help one bit. She killed my favorite character, Wes Bentley, who died predictably early. Then all I had to look forward to was Matt Damon's appearance, which ended in surprise when Mann turned out to be a coward and a villain. And while I'm on the subject, can I just ask; why did Mann want to kill Cooper and the others? I mean, they all wanted to leave. I just can't see what he thought it would help. If you have an idea about that I'd love to hear it. The only possibility I see is that he was just plain crazy. Cooper's daughter Murph was best when being played by Jessica Chastain, who handled the potentially annoying characteristics of the character much better than the younger portrayal. As for the son, Tom, he was set up for development as the younger, but once he grew into Casey Affleck, no use was made of it. I was sad for him though because Cooper never seemed to care one iota about him compared with Murph. Michael Caine was around, which was a good thing, and so was Topher Grace all of a sudden, and I spent a lot of time wondering where he came from... and who he was.
|Woman, please, pull yourself together.
So since the entertainment "backup" of the cast was so slight and so often absent, I had to almost solely rely on the entertaining elements of the plot to involve and impress me. On that score the film skews toward to positive side. The movie was overlong in my opinion, but it was able to keep me interested while waiting for the cool things to happen. When the cool things did happen they weren't so exciting as to change the tone which helped. If they had been, the slow parts in between would have been more boring by comparison, and since there was more time spent in the in between, that wouldn't have been good.
Visually, the movie was pretty fantastic, with consistently great cinematography, even during the scenes that weren't really going for the "wow" factor. Hoyte Van Hoytema is cinematographer instead of Nolan's usual Wally Pfister, and he gives the movie a fresh look, but it still maintains that Chris Nolan flavor too. You know what I mean. In the big "wow" scenes the effects live up to the hype and the vision they are portraying. Even if there isn't much to see that the trailer didn't show us. The most memorable part of the whole film is how creatively beautiful it is.
Here's something I don't usually mention: the score. Typically, unless they're particularly good or particularly bad, they don't stand out to me. Well this one stands out. In a particularly bad way. I suppose I should give Nolan and Hans Zimmer credit for attempting something bold, but for me it wound up being mostly ineffective, almost always distracting and nerve-grating, and often way too loud, covering up dialogue. In fact, the sound in this movie was just the pits. Characters would mumble and whisper, barely audible, and then five minutes later would scream their heads off with no evidence of dampening. I spent the whole movie adjusting the volume. I don't care what realistic, dramatic, or edgy effect you're going for; if it causes your viewers to rewind to hear a line right before blowing their eardrums out, it's a bad idea.
|Usually we take a film's sound for granted; here it's the biggest downfall. Such a little thing...
I would have liked the characters if they'd been played by different actors; I may have liked the actors if their characters were better written. The science would have impressed me more if not for random gaps in logic, and everything that happens after Cooper goes into a black hole the second time. But, the big twist would have been cooler if it didn't take itself so seriously. The big twist also would have been less predictable if less time had been spent hinting at it... And I would probably want to see it again -- if I didn't have to sit through it all again.
A little too ambitious for its own good, Interstellar never settles on what it wants to be. It winds up in an awkward middle ground of incomplete brilliant ideas and deeply thoughtful hogwash. It's too serious and focused on the theories and the science to be thoroughly entertaining as a sci-fi space adventure; too out there and theatrical with its elaborate fiction to be taken seriously for its theories and science. A grand and beautiful mess.