Once in a while a film comes along in every generation that is life changing, a piece of artwork that will stand the test of time as a shining example of what film-making can be. Interstellar is not one of these films, but damn does it want to be. Interstellar is a movie about a lot of things. Our place in the world, our future on or off of that world, respect for science ( namely the space program), our duty to our race and our love of our families are all subjects this film concerns itself with. That’s a great many directions for one movie to go and it shows.
With a bloated run time of just under three hours Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s longest and possibly most uneven film. It’s pacing is awkward and abrupt with an overly long first act it takes forever for us to get to what we all came here for, space travel. While the scenes on earth aren’t completely terrible there are easily fifteen minutes of them that could be truncated or cut entirely. John Lithgow and Mackenzie Foy are a bright spot of these scenes as McConaughey’s Father in law and daughter respectively. The early scenes on earth are well grounded, a very believable future version of earth, it sprinkles some details about this earths history without hitting us over the head or talking down to the audience.
However these scenes are drawn out and can seem a bit cliché at times. Also certain plot points that come about, mostly how McConaughey’s “Cooper” gets involved with the expedition comes off as overly simplified and then we jump straight to the mission, no training is shown or spoken of at all. I suppose in the future space travel is liking riding a bike, plus where are we going to fit any training in a three-hour movie? We might have to miss one of the several Dust storms we get to see, heaven forbid!
That being said the Dust storms are done fantastically, the effects here, like the whole film, are top notch. It’s also a very interesting direction to go for a pre-apocalyptic earth, rather than nuclear war or the normal reasons we get a much more likely and for me that much more frightening scenario of falling food production and dust storms ravaging as our foe. No bad guy here, just lack of human foresight and unalterable mother nature.
Once we get to the actual mission the film really takes off ( pun intended). The visuals are incredible, a definite must in IMAX if you have the option. The sound design has gotten a great deal of press coverage and its easy to hear why. Parts of the film sound muddled or drowned out by the mix of sound effects and vocals. I however did not have any issue with this, the scenes where the actors are hard to hear seems to me completely intentional. The dialogue they are delivering in these moments is not really important, whats going on in the rest of the scene is the real focus. It also illustrates what the characters are hearing in those moments as well, sometimes when a rocket is going off yes it is hard to hear people and that makes things for pilots that much more difficult and frightening. I found one particular moment amazing as engines were throttled up the bass was beating so hard I could feel it in my chest almost like experiencing G-force speeds, it was almost difficult to breathe.
Moments like that through the film are part of why when taken as a whole its a tragedy things don’t come together more even and cohesive. The middle two-thirds of the film are by and large amazing, but the beginning and end of the film don’t really reach the same heights. The last fifteen minutes or so feel rushed, like Nolan didn’t have an ending and then had to make something up on the day. While not the worst ending you’ll ever see there are plenty of questions and plot holes left glaring at us when the dust settles (see what I did there?).
If you have the desire to see this film, seeing it in the theater is definitely the way to go, as the experience of the large and loud makes up a lot of the wonder. We go from Armageddon to 2001: A Space Odyssey and back again in terms of narrative and artistic quality, luckily we spend the bulk of our time in 2001. While its great to see a big Hollywood film be so pro science and pro exploration, their reach, no matter how altruistic, certainly exceeded their grasp.