So often Christopher Nolan has been accused of making films that have no emotional depth (which I think is pretty much true). He has made another film, Interstellar, that is full of gear and gadgets and scientific jargon, but this time has added a veneer of soft gooey sentiment. At one point, a character is basically summarizing the song “All You Need Is Love.” Nice try, Nolan, but it doesn’t work.
Not that Interstellar doesn’t provide an audience with a decent evening/afternoon. The plot is intriguing: the Earth is dying, due to a blight that has wiped out most crops and created a new dust bowl. The only solution is to find a new home for humanity. NASA, which is operating secretly, has identified 12 possible planets, all accessible through a wormhole near Saturn. They’ve narrowed it down to three. A crew of four heads out to check them out.
There is a lot of science in this movie, and I won’t pretend to know what is accurate and what isn’t. I do know that prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has given his seal of approval, although he doesn’t even know what they’re talking about when they say “solving the problem of gravity.” The film also contains a closed time loop, which is a dangerous but favorite plot point.
Where the movie fails is it’s attempt to be human. This time around it’s love, love, love. Matthew McConaughey is the pilot on the mission, and he spends all his time worrying about his family (mostly his daughter–the son, who grows up to be Casey Affleck, is kind of left out). His daughter (Jessica Chastain as an adult) grows up to be a part of the team, working under main scientist Michael Caine. His daughter, Anne Hathaway, is on the mission, and reveals at one point that she wants to go to a certain planet because she loves the guy who’s on it, basically risking the future of mankind for her own selfish reasons. But, she basically says, to hell with numbers–it’s all about love.
Interstellar requires a great deal of attention, and an advanced degree might help. But those who have trouble with simple algebra, like me, can still get caught up in the story, when it doesn’t start singing “Kumbaya.” The first planet is covered with water about as deep as a wading pool, except when skyscraper-high waves crash down. This planet is near a black hole, and thus time is altered–for every hour spend on it, seven years of Earth time go by, which makes a visit need to be short and efficient. The second planet, which looks like the ice planet Hoth, has a surprise visitor (this actor, whom I won’t name, loves making unbilled cameos) who is seriously whack. His character’s name is Mann, which is a bit obvious.
The film ends with McConaughey in a black hole, and time becomes a physical space, which is all theoretical but pretty neat. I won’t go into any more details, but mind you you’ve been in the theater for over two and a half hours by this point.
As is pointed out all over the Internet, Interstellar is full of plot holes. I will only point out one, since it’s at the beginning of the movie. McConaughey and his daughter (played as a child by Mackenzie Foy, and credit to Nolan for casting a child who actually looks like Chastain) find NASA by deciphering binary code left by wind-scattered dust on the girl’s bedroom floor. Question: if McConaughey was the best pilot they had, and knows Caine, and lives less than a day’s drive away, why didn’t they just pick up the phone and call him? Were they really set to fly to a wormhole near Saturn without their best pilot?
There’s a lot more where they came from.
Interstellar is clearly Nolan’s homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s the hint of advanced alien races helping us, there are chatty robots, there’s a trippy ending. But Interstellar doesn’t have the mind-blowing qualities of that film. It does have some of the wooden acting, though.
I liked Interstellar in doses, and recommend it for those who like sci-fi and all matters cosmic.
My grade for Interstellar: B-.