It’s finally happened- we’ve depleted the earth of a precious resource, and we must decide if we’re going to leave the earth or try to save it. It’s a question that scientists are already asking, but fortunately, leaving the earth isn’t something we need to worry about for a long time. The question makes for a good premise in a sci-fi film. It’s captivating and sets the course for one of the most well-constructed sci-fi movies of the last decade.
“Interstellar” stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. It’s visually and conceptually audacious, and it’s more emotionally accessible than any of the director’s other work. It’s his biggest project yet, but it’s not his best. That honorable title goes to “Inception.” Nolan continues to do what he does so well, which is take bold ideas and make great statements on a grand scale. He doesn’t reuse, and he doesn’t recycle. He even explores the physics of space travel and has his characters attempt to explain to the average moviegoer how time dilation works. It’s refreshing, as one thing Nolan will never want to be known as is a standard popcorn flick entertainer.
McConaughey leads the ensemble with his portrayal of the visionary and kind-hearted Cooper, whose relationship with his daughter, Murph, is at the heart of the story. Murph is already becoming a visionary like her father, as at the tender age of 10 she has an incredible intellectual curiosity about physics and the universe. When Cooper decides to leave his family to find the human race a new home, Murph treats it as abandonment, and resents her father for his decision. Throughout the film, their relationship is explored in incredibly potent ways.
Of course, a Nolan film wouldn’t be Nolan without Michael Caine, who plays Professor Brand, the man responsible for sending Cooper on his mission. With Professor Brand, all seems to be bright sunshine, but there is more than meets the eye. Professor Brand’s daughter, Amelia Brand, is sent on the mission as well. Hathaway’s portrayal doesn’t quite hit the mark, as her character’s reliance on love as being the most powerful feeling in the universe comes off as childish for a seasoned scientist. Coop and Amelia form a bond during the mission, one that never feels that powerful but is unmistakably there.
Brand’s love belongs to Edmunds, an astronaut sent on an earlier mission to one of the planets. Here a conflict arises, as the Endurance only has enough fuel to visit one of the two planets listed as hospitable (either Edmund’s or Dr. Mann’s). Dr. Mann supposedly represented the best of the human race and has been sending an unambiguous message stating that they should come to his planet. Brand tries to convince Coop that they should visit Edmunds’ planet because their love “transcends dimensions” and should be trusted over technical data. Who to choose…
Much of “Interstellar’s” intelligence comes from its ability to tell a heart-wrenching story while adhering to the theory of relativity. Time is the antagonist here, as minutes on one planet can equal months or years back on the ship, which translates to many more years back on earth. I can’t imagine being in that scenario, constantly feeling guilty in taking a minute to shift through my thoughts or think through a course of action. The multiple plot twists in the climax are quite impressive, and handsomely help the viewer understand how Coop’s connection to Murph is quantifiable in infinite time and space.
The film’s weakest part is its ending. Spielberg is known for tying the plot up in a bow, but Nolan’s bow is left one end untied. The last ten minutes creates more questions than answers, which is disappointing after sitting through the competent previous 2 hours and 40 min. The soundtrack is simple but effective. It’s too loud at times, distracting me from visceral scenes that might have been better handled with silence. And after having my ear drums nearly blown out by Zimmer’s music, my ears were strained trying to catch on to the dialogue that McConaughey was speaking. Would it be too difficult for him to enunciate?
What makes “Interstellar” stand out, along with Nolan’s other efforts, is its originality. Granted there are painful nods to “2001,” as the robot character TARS feels like Nolan’s version of HAL, and there are quite a few reminiscent drawn out space shots that eat up the unnecessary three-hour runtime. There really isn’t enough dialogue or complexity to warrant a three-hour extravaganza, and I believe that with a stronger narrative structure, a stronger ending, and some smart cuts, the film could have had a more competent and bearable runtime. Nevertheless, Nolan crafts another intriguing and hallowing picture that, in the end, has us screeching for more.