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Interstellar (2014)

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

If we learned anything last year from Gravity it is that when dealing with movies based on science fact, less is more.  Christopher Nolan might have taken some of that to heart with his new space adventure Interstellar.  Here is a movie with infinite science and infinite filmmaking skill, but it weighs so heavily on an overmelodramatic bid for the soul of humanity that after three hours we find ourselves too exhausted to care.

The story, at its core, is a good one. We’re sometime in the near-future when the planet Earth is essentially on life-support (Al Gore will love this movie), suffering a resurgence of the dustbowl as our crops are drying up and humanity has regressed into an agrarian state. Amid this breakdown we meet Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a good-hearted former aeronautical engineer-turned-farmer who is raising a son named Tom, and a daughter named Murphy (if you forget that name, rest assured that Cooper will repeat it at least 300 times before the movie is over).

During a massive dust storm, Cooper and Murphy find themselves the recipients of a sign in binary that is either a message from ghosts, God or space aliens. In doing the math, Cooper finds himself among officials at the remains of NASA, and quickly assigned to travel into space, navigate through a worm hole and find another habitable planet to sustain mankind. His crew includes a mournful co-pilot named Brand (Anne Hathaway), a physicist named Romilly (David Dyasi); and a geographer named Doyle (Wes Bentley). Also, two robots named CASE and TARS, who look like monoliths and move like spiders. Actually CASE and TARS are the best things in the movie. They look like the kiosk that you buy your movie tickets from, but they break into smaller parts to perform rudimentary functions –they’re really quite impressive.

Through a plot that gets way too complicated, the crew find themselves on the other side of the galaxy where they realize that one hour on the new planet equals seven years on Earth. That leads to emotional crises on Cooper’s part because he’s the one member of the crew with kids back home. Time and relative space begin to spin and bend and twist until neither the crew nor the audience can figure what the heck is going on. This is a very complex story, one that I admit I struggled to follow (and I was able to follow Inception).

You find yourself having to look amid large chunks of story to find the main narrative. When you get there you find that through all the gargantuan special effects, music and sound effects, Intersteller is really the story of the disconnection between Cooper and Murphy. Cooper knows that when he gets back home that his daughter will be all grown up (and played by Jessica Chastain) so his mission is really just an effort to make things right. That leads to a long, VERY long scenes in which Cooper mourns the fact that he’ll never get to watch his little girl grow up. That would be fine except that the movie belabors the point for nearly three hours, playing the same overemotional notes over and over. Not to be heartless, but when traveling to the other side of the universe, I really could care less about a weepy little girl back home.

Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers. He is the one director working right now who really wants to put his vision on screen rather than pander to popular taste. We’ve seen in Inception , and the Batman pictures that he knows how to tell a grand story using logic and good screenwriting. He has a grand vision for what he wants to put on screen, but in Intersteller he goes over the edge. His overbearing emotional output becomes too much for the audience to carry.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.