DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
May Contain Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? YES
The long awaited Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar arrived with bang, not a whimper, on the November 7th. Clearly wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Contact (1996) and an array of 70’s Sci-Fi flicks. Moon (2009), which is in itself an homage to 70’s Sci-Fi also looms large over this epic.
Set in the near future, the world has been ravaged by a “Blight” which is systematically destroying the world’s food supplies. Corn is the last grow and Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, is one of those farmers still able to produce it. But through a series of strange events, “Signs” as it were, M. Night Shymanan’s Signs (2002) clearly another inspiration, Cooper finds himself piloting a mission to explore new words through a wormhole just off Saturn, with an aim to relocate humanity on a new world.
Firstly, I jumped at the chance to see this in IMAX, 2D, which was a nice change and not something I do often. In fact, I have a limited experience of IMAX and to be honest, I’m not really impressed having never left a screening particularly happy. Yes the large screen and the candle extinguishing sound is good but not spectacular, not when a background bass rumble was so distorted that I struggled to hear or understand the dialogue.
But the visuals were stunning, and evocative of the genre at its most elegant, basically pre-Star Wars era, in which due to technical limitations, made space travel graceful and space feel vast and empty. No air equals no sound but this real life detail only works with certain movies, but this 2001 inspired epic is one of them. Alot of the photography is fixed cameras on the hull of the space craft to give a sudo-documentary feel, clearly evocative of IMAX docs themseleves but with the added drama and Hans Zimmers Straussian score, this is a bold and ambitious take on the space opera.
But space is only half of the movie and in many ways, disposable in favour of its core plotting. This is about the love between a father and daughter across the vast distorting and perverted span of interstellar time, effected by worm and black-holes alike.
So this needs to be a tight story… and it is far from it.
Baggy is word and this is where Interstellar’s problems lie. Basically, Copper seeming chooses to leave his 10 year old daughter and 15 year son in order to pilot a mission to save the world. But it also clear that he is doing it because he WANTS to. He is only a farmer by fate, not by choice, with his real passions being engineering and flying in world which needs little of either.
So in real terms, Cooper is fed up with his lot in life and abandons his to motherless children to pursue a life which he would prefer.
Deadbeat dad anyone?
Is this civic responsibility of parental irresponsibility? Are we supposed to get behind this man? Well, here comes the argument that will no doubt upset a few readers, but in my mind, there was more logic and empathy to get behind in Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998) in which we are expected to believe that it is easier to send untrained oil drillers in to space than train astronauts to dill a hole!
At lease when Bruce Willis and his crew risk and sacrifice their lives for mankind, there was some, if not troubled logic justifying their dissensions beyond simply wanting to go. But here, we are expected to believe that Cooper was needed to pilot the mission which was already manned and pretty set to go but had no pilot? What?
And this is the issue. The film is built around several elements and the plot details were clearly contrived later. Taking a realistic look at worm-holes and black-hole theory was clearly one of them, attempting to remake 2001 was clearlly another. Trying to make time tangible and bring the unquantifiable emotion of love into quantum physics was another.
But the plot contrivances to bring these element together were clumsy at best, with a baggy story and reasonable characters but nothing spectacular beside the visuals and some of the scope. But time has always been a key factor in Nolan’s work, namely his debut film, Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006) and more recently, Inception (2010).
But if you took out all the references to space travel, you would have had a nice, neat little indie flick about time and the fractured relationship between an abandoned daughter and her regretful father. And that’s the point. It’s quite episodic and fails to bring these elements together tightly enough for my liking.
But the ambition is laudable, as Nolan continues to redefine the blockbuster with every film, bringing mind-bending Sci-Fi to the masses and successfully dramatising some pretty complex ideas in very palatable way.