Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Intense Perilous Action and brief Strong Language
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace & Matt Damon
INTERSTELLAR has been my most anticipated movie of 2014 and there are many reasons for that. The biggest of which is Christopher Nolan directing and writing. I love every single film that I’ve seen from Nolan. These include his DARK KNIGHT trilogy (RISES is actually my favorite of the three), INCEPTION, and THE PRESTIGE. INTERSTELLAR looked to be Christopher Nolan treading similar ground to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and that made me even more excited, not to mention throwing in a couple of brilliantly constructed trailers and promotional material that made me absolutely giddy. Now that I have seen INTERSTELLAR, I can safely say that it’s good, but far from perfect or even great. Part of my slight disappointment might come from high expectations, but most of it comes from the film’s problems that are too big to overlook. I repeat, this is a good movie, but you should temper your expectations walking into it.
An entirely different sort of apocalypse is hitting Earth. It’s full of blight and dust storms that’s slowly killing food supplies bit by bit. Cooper is a former pilot turned farmer in these troubled times and things are looking bleaker by the minute. When he stumbles across a top-secret NASA base, he’s recruited to pilot an interstellar mission to another galaxy that might hold hope for survival. Aided by three scientists and a highly intelligent robot, the crew make their trip through the worm hole and visit planets that could potentially be habitable for the humans. Meanwhile on Earth, things are looking even more grim and Cooper’s daughter tries to figure out a solution for humanity’s survival by herself.
INTERSTELLAR does a nice job of setting up this unique apocalyptic future. There are enough modern technology (cars, electricity) and customs (school, baseball games) to relate to, but there’s also addition of odd robots and severe dust storms that almost look like blizzards. I bought this world and the family living in it. A fantastical concept of time is made seeing as the intergalactic trip takes years to even reach the worm hole and time passes different on certain planets that the explorers are discovering. I didn’t buy a few clichéd elements that are fed to the audience later on in the film. Splitting the plot between McConaughey’s outer space adventure and the human struggle back on Earth mostly feels messy. Occasionally, one thread will flood the screen for too long and drown the momentum in the other plot. In a specific instance, Nolan cuts between both journeys at a jumbled pace. I was still interested in what was happening for the most part, but pieces of the story felt like they needed a little more work.
As for the cast, there are a lot of big names. Almost too many and it feels that way watching the characters. Some people pop in and out of the movie without much thought to them. These include bigger actors with minor parts. One of the characters is so unceremoniously disposed of that it made me wonder what the point was of including them in the first place. The cast of characters feels crowded and major people are pushed to the side in order to further along the plot. McConaughey is definitely the best performer here with Anne Hathaway being another solid presence. However, Jessica Chastain is wooden and Michael Caine is absolutely wasted in a throwaway part that merely lasts for a couple of scenes of exposition.
With all this complaining and praising aside, the film looks phenomenal and is further boasted by the always great Hans Zimmerman’s music. Spectacle used in bringing this new galaxy to life is hugely effective. I was on the edge of seat during numerous occasions in wondering how the characters were going to get out of the current messes they kept finding themselves in. If you have amazing looking worlds and keep cutting back to a dusty wasteland of Earth, the other planets become far more appealing to watch. I wanted to view the Interstellar voyage far more than someone trying to figure out a math equation to save humanity. This might be part of the reason that Chastain feels hollow in this particular film as she’s saddled with the latter storyline.
The biggest problems I have in INTERSTELLAR are one particular plot detail (no spoilers) and the lengthy running time. INTERSTELLAR is almost three hours long and feels like its three hours long. I wasn’t ever bored, but there were moments in which I wanted a scene to move faster than it was going. A certain plot detail is brought up early on in the film that seems out-of-place for this sort of story and it makes a few more appearances throughout the story. We are given a full revelation of this detail and I had predicted what it was in the first hour. This bit of circular logic opens a noticeable plot hole and has been seen before in many other stories.
INTERSTELLAR is good. It’s not great, spectacular, masterful or fantastic. It’s not even very good, but it’s just plain good. I had fun watching it and will watch it again in the future, but not in the near future. The overall movie is cool and highly enjoyable, but the plot can also be convoluted and silly. In the end, I felt like INTERSTELLAR was a three-hour-long glorified episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. There are merits and problems with that, but INTERSTELLAR is still well worth watching for fans of science fiction.