Rage rage against the dying of the light. Just one of the famous refrains from Dylan Thomas‘ poem that is recited on an almost consistent basis in Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar. While it’s a powerful poem that is basically lyrical exposition, it does nothing but remind us about the bleak future that awaits our characters should their mission to save earth by finding a new one in galaxies far away fail.
There is no doubt that Nolan is a master of the filmmaking craft. While the average person does not possess the means to travel to worlds beyond our own, we write stories that have characters who do. And they written in such beautiful and descriptive detail, that makes the reader believe that these worlds actually exist. Now you add a visual medium to that story, it becomes enhanced, more life-like than ever before. There is no doubt that Nolan knows how to use empty space and fill it with beauty. Interstellar throws around plenty of ambition, and has deep-provoking thoughts on science and our relationships to our fellow human beings, but all of that is lost in a poorly written script that has familiar beats. Hit the jump for the full review.
Interstellar is a grand sweeping story that stretches beyond time and space. So without getting into spoiler territory, I will spare you from trying to piece together the science jargon that is woven into the story, you will have to deal with all of that on your own. In the film, our world is dying, natural resources are becoming more scarce, and we have reached a point where our children’s future are determined by standardize testing. In layman’s terms, you will either be a farmer and provide food, or you will be a scientist and help save the future of mankind. A widowed Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is mankind’s last hope, and he will leave his children Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and Tom behind. He will pilot a crew of scientists into a worm hole not knowing when they could come back in hopes of finding a planet that could sustain mankind and save them from a dying Earth. Tom accepts this fate, while Murph cannot accept that her father doesn’t know when he will come back.
Once again, the mysterious of outer space seem to cloud humanity’s or in this case NASA’s judgement – not good for a space program that is currently grounded. Our heroes, such as they are, are blasted into a worm hole with little to no information about what is on the other side. This sounds oddly familiar. But the story, written by Jonathan Nolan, was grounded by Kip Throne (an expert on all things relating to time and relativity) and more touching by the younger Nolan. While the emotional aspect makes the film more relatable, it’s the science jargon will confuse the average viewer. It becomes almost a nuisance to even try to comprehend what any of the scientists are saying.
The script almost clouds Interstellar ambition as a film. While it is a visual spectacle, its almost as if that is lost because of some the the predictability and droll storytelling of the mission itself. You add the completely unnecessary subplot, and the film becomes even more of a bore and painful to sit through – remember this film runs as 169 minutes, you will be doing a lot of sitting.
Interstellar does have an emotional aspect that is quite compelling, the they way the Nolan’s tie it in with Throne’s theories is somewhat asinine. There are plenty of times in the film where you start to see the connections the between the two, which makes it less of a metaphor, and more of an annoying point that the film is trying to make. But the film’s relationship between a parent and child, particularly the one shared between Cooper and his daughter Murph, is the glimmer of hope. We see how strained a relationship can be when Cooper makes the ultimate sacrifice, and how Murph cannot come to terms with her father leaving her and not knowing when he will come back. There in lines the heart of the film. It is that emotional tissue that binds this film together, and what makes this film so entertaining.
To be fair, Interstellar is as close to being real as any sci-fi film will get. Subplot or no subplot, we learn things about space and chemistry that I would normally sleep through. So I guess I have to thank the Nolans for keeping me awake, and learning a thing or two about space and chemistry. Not only is the science as close to being real as possible, but the Cooper and Murph’s story is as real as any modern day relationship.
And that relationship is strengthened by the incredible cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema. Hoytema, who replaces Wally Pfster – a long time collaborator of Christopher Nolan, who left to work on his directorial debut – captures space beautifully. Through the blackness of space, Hoytema paints a picture that can suck the air right out of a room in almost an instant, which makes it even more of a crime not to see Interstellar in 70mm. Hoytema makes space look even more specactular and grand than it already is. Even the fictional planets our characters visit look beautiful. And untouched, untapped world, with no humans or life, never looked so breathtaking. The flight scenes are absolutely stunning, and again, witnessing space flight in 70mm is something you don’t see everyday.
Interstellar is a beautiful film, with an almost beautiful story. Had the film’s science been dumbed down a few more notches – word is it was already dumbed down a bit – then the science-filled dialogue wouldn’t have been tough to sit through. When it comes down to the story, it all seems too familiar, almost as if we have seen it all before. The film grabs elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Field of Dreams, and expects the audience to think that it is original storytelling. But I am willing to forgive some of the flaws thanks to the story about love, and the bond shared between a parent and child that is colored by the blackness of space and the beauty of simplicity.