Movie review: ‘Interstellar’ is big and small
People who haven’t seen “Interstellar” and are only familiar with its (three radically different) trailers are already comparing it to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Gravity” and Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film “Inception.” OK, maybe there’s some “2001” sensibility to it, but beyond an outer space locale and a complicated series of plotlines, there’s no resemblance to the other two.
Nolan is best known for his huge concept films – “Inception” and the Batman trilogy. But he’s also worked, with excellent results, on a smaller palette, directing “Memento,” “Insomnia” and the stagier “The Prestige.” This time out, Nolan, with his younger brother Jonathan providing the original screenplay (that Christopher later retooled), has made something to the effect of two films in one, with many levels of stories going on within them.
It’s a small, intimate film, set in the near future, when our planet has set an inner course to stop providing for us. A naturally occurring blight has put an end to most crops, and it is targeting the rest of them. Dust storms are wreaking havoc with our health. Space travel and most technology has come to a halt because the human race now needs simply to survive, not explore.
It’s also a huge, effects-filled adventure film that sets up the idea that survival just isn’t going to happen on Earth, and that we must head out into space to find another place to live.
Within the frameworks of those two stories, there are two more: one about a father who leaves his young daughter to help save the human race, and another about a daughter who leaves her father in order to do the same thing.
It’s no secret anymore that Jonathan Nolan’s script was to be directed by Steven Spielberg. No doubt, with Spielberg’s earlier accomplishments in the science-fiction, it would have been fantastic. But no worries, even though this is Christopher Nolan’s first foray into all-out science-fiction, this one IS fantastic. It would be nice if this was just a first step in that direction for him, as he has a flair for it, and could take the genre to new places.
The pretty much devastated Earth we see here is populated by a lot of folks that have given up hope. Some have done so because they feel that the end is near. Others, like Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA test pilot who is now a farmer, feels that his dream of space flight, that he once considered his destiny, is dead.
NASA, you see, was one of the first agencies to be let out to pasture when all the changes came. Remember, Earth needs people to supply food now, not to go riding through the galaxies. But hold on, something’s happening. What’s with that stray drone rocket shooting across Cooper’s cornfields? Where did it come from, and why is it still operational?
(SLIGHT SPOILER) It’s up there because NASA is still in existence, though very much underground; a plan is in place to search for another home for Earthlings; and Cooper’s dream may finally come true. (END OF SPOILER)
Through an ambitious amount of multi-level storytelling, both Nolans have come up with a film that’s as moving as it is spectacular. It keeps jumping back and forth between a life on Earth that’s getting more difficult and precarious each day, and a journey that takes a secret group of astronauts (McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and the rest of a small crew) on a distant search through a huge wormhole to a new galaxy, and maybe a new home.
Visual effects are as good as they get today (the dust storms and some tidal waves are mind-blowing), all performances are right on the mark – especially one by Bill Irwin as the onboard shape-shifting robot TARS, who has a sense of humor similar to but less dry than that of the robot on “Lost in Space.”
People are going to find faults with the film, beyond its almost three-hour running time. I found some, both in structure and dialogue, and in a middle part that features a well-known actor whose character doesn’t really need to be here. But I was still thinking about the film days after I saw it, and I am willing to forgive the glitches and praise the parts that impressed me, that overwhelmed me, that knocked me out.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow