Interstellar ✮✮

Have Rocket ‒ Will Babble

by Glenn Lovell

Now may be a good time to reassess Christopher Nolan’s standing in the firmament of important American filmmakers. I’ve always thought the guy was overrated, that his films, dating from “Memento” and including “Inception,” were too overly calculated and hermetic by half ‒ interesting schematics for movies rather than interesting movies. In this respect, Nolan is a bit like Brian De Palma.

Nolan’s latest, a $165-million Paramount-Warner Bros. co-production called “Interstellar,” proves a New Age-y, fuzzy-headed sci-fi’er that borrows liberally from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Contact” and the director’s own “Inception.” It’s overlong, talky and, depending on the crisis, either dopey or pretentious … sometimes both. During the Big Revelation, which is supposed to make us feel all tingly and wonderful inside, interstellar-movie-trailerI was reminded of John Carpenter’s Kubrick spoof, “Dark Star.” In that shaggy-dog cult item, the astronaut-cum-glorified garbage collectors behave less like Flash Gordon than The Three Stooges.

Maybe the best way to describe this expensive boondoggle is as cornpone existentialism. About a third of the film takes place on a Midwest farm in the near future, when sandstorms and dust-bowl conditions have rendered Earth all but uninhabitable; the rest of the story unfolds in deep space aboard a ringed centrifugal craft called The Endurance. The crew, led by Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and science officer Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), have been tasked with traveling to Saturn and exploring the most promising of three planets in another galaxy ‒ accessed through a gaseous wormhole much like the terminus Stargate in “2001.”

There’s much talk about quantum physics, higher life forms, and transcending “the dimensions of time and space.” None of this scientific palaver, however, amounts to a hill of beans. The missing element in the equation? With apologies to the Beatles, “Love, love, love.” (At crucial junctures, Hans Zimmer’s familiar score is cranked up to drown out these silly exchanges.)

Because the four-member crew and their surprisingly agile security-bot (voiced by Bill Irwin) are passing into another dimension, every hour spent on a planet equals seven years back home. This makes Coop especially uneasy because he’s a single dad and has promised his kids that he will return in time to save them and the world. Alas, NASA and Amelia’s father (Michael Caine), the project’s lead scientist, have not been totally forthcoming about the mission’s contingency plan. And time’s a-wasting. Coop’s teenage kids have already morphed into Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck.

But that’s the least of the mission’s worries. As orchestrated by Nolan, who co-scripted with brother Jonathan, nothing adds up here. Former test pilot Coop just happens to wind up on NASA’s doorstep and, with nary a refresher course, is hailed as the only man who can head up the mission to save mankind, either by ferrying Earth’s population to a new planet or by repopulating the planet with cryogenically preserved eggs. Brand has her own secret agenda. She makes like a laboratory wonk but her silly smile gives her away: She’s less about saving mankind than fixing a broken heart. The less said about the physicist (David Gyasi) with a bad case of motion sickness the better.

Matt Damon also shows up in what’s supposed to be a surprise cameo. He awakes from a sleep chamber in a foul mood.

“Interstellar” can’t be faulted for a lack of ambition. When was the last time you saw a film that crosscuts between a domestic dispute down on the farm and a disintegrating spaceship? It’s sort of like watching a TV with a loose connection ‒ one moment you receive “August: Osage County,” the next “Mission to Mars.”

INTERSTELLAR ✮✮ With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Ellen Burstyn, Bill Irwin, Casey Affleck. Directed by Christopher Nolan; scripted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. 169 min. PG-13 (for violence, profanity, intense action sequences)

33 Responses to “Interstellar ✮✮”

  1. CmdrR Says:

    “Dark Star.” In that shaggy-dog cult item, the astronaut garbage collectors — Actually, their mission is to blow stuff up.

    I think you mean the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” the refrain of which is “Love, Love, Love.”

    I agree on most of your points. I was curious whether anyone who has seen this movie can explain how what happens leads to the ending we see? (Don’t want to be spoiler-y.) I just couldn’t connect a few of the dots. I also couldn’t get past the time-whimey chicken-and-egg conundrum involving “the ghost.”

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    • Glenn Lovell Says:

      Thanks for feedback — fixed the Beatles lyric.

      I still think of Carpenter’s space travelers as glorified garbage men, even if they do blow up things — I think that’s the joke.

      Best, GL

      Like

  2. tigermetal Says:

    I should have read this first. 3 hours of my life I can’t get back.

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  3. gerfinch Says:

    Cheers for this. I can’t believe what a mess this film turned out to be. Why has it got such high ratings? It is McGuffin cake with stupid sauce on top – three bloody hours of it. They even stuck in a red-shirt trope — that is desperate. The cinematography reminds me of Resident Evil one, the camera stuck at the worst possible angle all the time. It even looked dull in IMAX, which is an achievement in itself.

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  4. facereplacer Says:

    I find this review childish and myopic. Delete my comment, do whatever, but it’s obvious you didn’t understand the film, or your mother and father didn’t love you enough or something, but you remind me of the “hate everything” crowd who was into John Carpenter before anyone else was. You’re like Simpson’s comic book guy. Have fun with that.

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  5. Lady Kaede Says:

    I feel terrible for reviewers who are expected to step out of a single viewing of ‘Interstellar’ and immediately write something coherent and useful. I have been sitting with my reaction for 24 hours now (had ‘Interstellar’-related dreams last night I can’t quite remember), and I still can’t put better words than these to my experience. As with most of Nolan’s non-Dark Knight work, unpacking what the heck he’s actually saying seems to require multiple viewings — and in spite of being exactly his target audience (a father with a daughter, a Nolan fan, a sci-fi film and literature afficianado, a believer in the method of science and the aim of religion, fairly well-read in relativity theory), I suspect it’s going to take a lot longer to come to rest with this film than with any of his others. So . . . does that make it more or less successful? I’m glad it exists, I look forward to seeing it again on the biggest screen available. But I doubt that anything written or said about this film is going to be remotely definitive for years — and that’s probably it’s biggest parallel to ‘2001.’

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    • facereplacer Says:

      I completely agree. Both me and my husband woke up thinking about it. He had dreams about it. We both immediately felt we needed to see it again, as we believed there was some layering in the visuals, dialogue, etc. It’ll be interesting to see how the perception of it shifts, if it does.

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  6. Tyler Kent Says:

    I couldn’t hear some of the dialogue, particularly the narration at the end, thanks to an obnoxiously loud score blasting in my ears. Despite (or perhaps because of) the score’s nerve-wracking decibels, the score contains more drama and tension than the plot.

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  7. Cyber GAP Says:

    “cornpone existentialism” Perfectly succinct. I can’t believe how misled I was by the pre-release press and director interviews. I was expecting to walk out speechless at the depth of what I had just seen. Instead, I walked out shaking my head, $40 lighter. So many holes, so little time to list them. Here’s one: See how long it would take to write down on a note pad just the digital data contained in one DVD movie, in morse code. Without making an error. I’m thinking years… I’ll stop here. It’s all been said, and I agree with every negative critique. The Nolan brothers need to take a lesson from the Wachowski brothers.

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    • Pete Says:

      I can’t believe this actually has to be explained to you. TIME was being modified, controlled, altered. That was the whole point of that scene, did you watch the movie?

      Like

      • facereplacer Says:

        These were the same people who said “Inception is just The Matrix but with dreams” back when that came out. They are sad, pathetic types that probably think they’d write great movies if they could ever transcend sh****** on them.

        Like

  8. Pete Says:

    Every minute spent reading your angry and pretentious review felt like 7 years. The fact that you are outraged by the theme of this movie (love) makes me think that you really need a girlfriend (or maybe just a friend?)! Also, revealing a previously held personal bias in the second sentence of a “review” is a really bad idea if you expect readers to take you seriously (“I’ve always thought the guy was overrated”).

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    • facereplacer Says:

      I think it’s cool to hate quality work. Dude gave Gravity 4 stars and I found that to be the most trite, predictable piece of Hollywood schlock. He probably liked Crash too. Not the Cronenberg one, the one that won Oscars for being predictable and insipid.

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      • Pete Says:

        Wow, I’m really glad you pointed that out to me. I thought Gravity was a self serving piece of Hollywood garbage myself. It’s all making sense now 🙂

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  9. Chef Tony Says:

    All I can say is beware the screenwriter who doesn’t have any writing credits away from his super-director brother Chris Nolan. I’d like to know if at any point, Chris Nolan told his brother, “this part makes almost no sense, and there’s too much recited poetry, audiences will hate this,” probably never and not enough.

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    • Glenn Lovell Says:

      Excellent point. Along the same lines, Paul Schrader had an interesting relationship with brother Leonard, who came up with ideas for “The Yakuza,” “Mishima” and “Blue Collar,” but had to contend with either story credit or share screenwriter credit with Paul — until he broke out on his own with “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

      Like

  10. Carm Says:

    This movie sucked. So called A-list actors overacting, a confusing storyline, a senseless appearance by Matt Damon. It was laughable seeing him arise from the hibernation pod. It reminds me of that useless movie a few years back (Book of Life), which was also a waste of time.

    Like

  11. Michael Says:

    I really wanted to like it….it was so bad….

    Like

  12. joc Says:

    Your star ratings is weird. What reviewer rates films ‘best out of 4 stars’, normal critics review ‘best out of 5’.

    Like

  13. Tim Says:

    Great cinema photography, the whole movie should dubbed over with new dialog, maybe a new story, maybe a new title, Corn farmers adventures in baby sitting / Astronaut flying and philosophy 101 ….. just a thought….

    Like

  14. Tim Says:

    Do you think when Matt Damon came out of the hibernation pod, he should have said, ” I’m Matt Damon, lol, of course not, but it would have been the funniest moment in an already crapy movie, i was finding hard to take seriously…

    Like

  15. Tim Says:

    There is no crying in outer space….

    Like

  16. Jimmy supernova Says:

    This was the flattest, dullest, uninspired, craptacular film this year and I love science fiction and physics in general.

    Bad story, acting, design, science, direction, even effects – bad everything.

    Shame on Chris Nolan you just imploded like tarantinos movies surfing on his “brand” name.

    165 million TURD.

    One more bad: bad robots.

    Only good thing:

    Good marketing!

    Like

    • alex Says:

      This was the worst film of the year? Are you an idiot? The science was over seen by actually scientists, the design was realistic. Please can you tell me what effects look bad, they were almost photo real?

      Like

  17. Clint Montgomery Says:

    Can’t wait for the “Mystery Science Theater” version of this laughably absurd piece overwrought fantasy fiction, yuk, what a piece of self-important crap, stretched to 3 hours, with irritatingly loud church-organ tones to impart gravitas. A by-the-numbers film recipe without a shred of real Art or Genius.

    Like

  18. tomchapman500Tom Says:

    I’ve been looking for a review to sum up my feelings toward this woeful film. Did anyone see ‘The Player’? This is like the sci-fi film that movie sends up … Thanks for documenting my thoughts.

    Like

  19. Charlotte Says:

    What confounded me was the complete lack of personality in any character. You are traveling in space and all you want to do is talk about physics? The movie would have pulled me in more if these characters discussed their families, listened to music, anything but the droning on and on about the time-space continuum.

    Like

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