Eagerly anticipated, Christopher Nolan’s latest film is a science fiction epic that borrows heavily from other classics in the genre, most noticeably 2001: A Space Odyssey (USA, 1968; Kubrick).
Before seeing the film, my colleague and I were discussing the potential of Interstellar. He mused that it would become the “2001” for a new generation. After seeing it this weekend I can assure you it is not. Kubrick’s masterpiece is still the only essential “Space Odyssey” for any generation and in my opinion, it always will be. Every time I watch 2001 I feel like I’ve been somewhere else. Taken on a journey through the universe within, represented in the film by a man flying into a black hole. Powerful, creepy and awe inspiring film-making.
Interstellar is more akin to Armageddon (USA, 1998; Michael Bay). Instead of Bruce Willis we have Matthew McConaughy playing the Flash Gordon-esque man who can save the world. Despite minor changes to details, it is essentially the same story. McConaughey is excellent in the lead role as Cooper and his performance retains verisimilitude and dare I say it, gravity.
There are also star turns from Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain and most notably John Lithgow. I enjoyed his performance as the guardian grandfather, looking after Cooper’s kids while he blasts off to save the earth. Nolan favourite Michael Caine returns, this time playing a NASA science boffin. Being a big fan of 1970’s US new wave films, I was also happy to see William Devane in a small but memorable part as a NASA official.
The story takes place in the near future, where the earth has been ravaged by food shortage and extreme weather. It is implied that there has been a revolution in society and government, brought on by the increasing severity of the earth’s climate. Cooper is an ex-pilot and engineer who never got his chance to fulfil his potential before the disastrous events that precede the film’s story. After several weird happenings at his home farm in scenes that smack of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (USA, 1977; Steven Spielberg), Cooper is “called” to a higher purpose.
The next section of the film does away with any unnecessary exposition and moves at the speed of light sending Cooper and his fellow explorers into space, on a mission to find a habitable planet beyond our galaxy. The space sequences are handled well. The cinematography is accurate in its representation of weightlessness and the spiralling motion of the spacecraft is very effective. That is if you want your audience to feel nauseous. Cooper’s adventures lead him to several planets, each with its own dilemmas and dangers. Without wishing to divulge too much of the plot, I will say that the characters are strong enough to invest in and that there are moments of peril which are incredibly exciting to watch.
Overall I felt Interstellar was trying too hard to be the ultimate space film. When the story was complicated, it was over-complicated and left me questioning plot holes that didn’t seem to have a clear resolution. It was also overly simple and dismissive in other areas that may have benefitted from more development within the frame of the story. The ending felt rushed and throw-away.
I did enjoy Interstellar but I wouldn’t recognise it as a classic on a level with ‘2001’. It looks modern, has an environmental subtext and the performances are solid. But the climax of the film left me feeling a little cheated. The huge build up and anticipation of what lay beyond the black hole was wasted on a scene more akin with an M. Night Shyamalan or Harry Potter film than a Kubrickian mind-bender. Worth seeing for the suspense and excitement of the action scenes but film aficionados who are hoping for a little more substance will not be as easily pleased.
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