OKLAHOMA CITY – Of all the movies released this year, none excited me more than Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Nolan has directed some of my favorite films, and his mastery of practical effects and his (usually) interesting and provocative stories make him what I believe to be one of the finest filmmakers alive. Although I have not been crazy about all his recent efforts, I was highly anticipating Interstellar.
So, it was especially disappointing when the initial response was mixed. Critics, though calling it a well-shot movie, complained about clunky dialogue and story elements. Iwis, I was disappointed. I wanted it to be a classic!
In the end, I decided to see it anyway. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – maybe I would love it!
Sadly, after seeing it, I have to say this film is not great. It isn’t terrible; I would recommend at least one viewing. But, it has sufficient problems to keep it from being the instant classic for which I was hoping. I give it a 6.9/10.
The biggest problem is that the film tries to do too much. At one moment, it is an exciting survival thriller, the next moment it is expounding pseudo-philosophy about the transcendence of love. Then, it explores the psychology of human loneliness followed by garden-variety time-travel elements. As my buddy Ben put it – the film was hitting on all the big themes.
Unfortunately, those big themes all took time and pacing away from the actual storyline of saving humanity from a dying planet. While I realize that science-fiction films often touch on more than just science, and while I don’t necessarily mind the topics touched upon, I believe the movie was simply trying to serve too many masters. This thing needed one more rewrite/edit.
Other issues are minor compared to this. There were moments of weak character development, too many “convenient” science motifs, and false philosophical assumptions. But in the end, none of that was enough to ruin the film. What keeps the film from achieving greatness is that it just tries to do too much.
Moving on to what there is to like about the film – there is actually a lot. I will focus on two things: practical effects and cinematography.
This movie has a laudable amount of practical effects. In a cinematic world suffused with CGI, Interstellar is a breath of fresh air. The spaceships were actual models, most of the sets were entirely real, and the space flights were taken from real footage! Just kidding about the space flights. But seriously, the practical effects are great. The nubivagant* shots especially resonated with me, for even they appeared to use models! It felt like a glorious throwback to the 70s.
But, of all the practical effects, one shot stands out above the rest. It occurs when Anne Hathaway’s character takes Matthew McConaughey’s character into a lab to demonstrate “Plan B,” and everything in the lab is real. There was no CGI. Love it.
Interstellar also contains great cinematography. Nolan had to do without regular collaborator Wally Pfister, so this film has a slightly different feel than his other work. Still, it looks great with rich colors, effective lighting and gorgeous space vistas. There are a couple of brief shots that didn’t feature complete clarity and focus, but overall, this thing is beautiful.
In conclusion, Interstellar is a masterpiece of practical effects and cinematography. Unfortunately, the film tries to cover too much ground, so the overall effort falls relatively flat. Still, I recommend at least one viewing, as it is the best-looking space movie in years.
* this fun English word is found at www.phrontistery.info/clw3.
Grant Stevens writes reviews of books and movies, and he listens to lots of apologetic material. He is the Régisseur of the Use Ironic Correctly Society (U.I.C.S.), and he has recently founded and named himself El Presidente of the Keep English Alive Commission, a commission dedicated to saving the English language from extinction.