Christopher Nolan’s latest is one of those movies that makes me feel like I’m missing something. It’s Christopher Nolan! You know, the guy who wrote and directed the Dark Knight Trilogy and the mind-bending Inception! You have to love it! The trouble is; I didn’t. That might have something to do with the fact that I am not a science nerd, but I think that there is more to it.
Interstellar is based on the scientific theories and script treatment of theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne. Press materials suggest that the movie “will depict a heroic voyage to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding.” That is a very true statement. This is a very deep movie, but not necessarily an enjoyable one. At least not all the way through.
The movie is set in the future where space travel in debunked in high school textbooks and crops are dying. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former astronaut-turned-farmer living with his father (John Lithgow) and two kids. Tom, his oldest, is set to continue the family farming tradition while the hard-headed Murphy has her sights on bigger things.
Cooper becomes convinced that man was born on earth but not designed to die on earth. In an elaborate set up, Cooper finds himself involved in an underground space program that has grandiose ideas about moving the humans on earth to a new home in the stars. It is headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). They want to send him into space to see if earth’s humans can sustain living in a variety of planets. However, the catch is that space travel may prevent Cooper from returning home until many years later causing him to lose many years with his kids. Still, he doesn’t hesitate to volunteer, much to the anger of Murphy.
As expected, halfway through the film Murphy grows up to become Jessica Chastain. She is still angry that her dad left and yet is hopeful that she will one day see her dad again. Meanwhile, while in space, Cooper and company have deep scientific conversations. These are very “talky” scenes with some of McConaughey’s dialogue sounding like it came from his recent car commercials.
Filmed with IMAX, the photography is pretty impressive, but the movie has its flaws. Many of the characters have conversations where you only understand about half of what they are saying. Then there are the odd action and/or dramatic scenes. Tension builds during these scenes. You know this because the music builds and gets louder, but you don’t understand why.
As the movie goes on, it becomes incomprehensible with theories about gravity and love. Some audiences are completely at home with this time of storytelling, for others, like me, it just feels weird. I know that I am “supposed” to love it, but I don’t. You know that there is a deeper meaning, but you don’t know what it is. The storyline is very uneven and you leave the theatre feeling unsatisfied but glad that it’s over. I’m not sure that was the effect that Nolan was going for.