Saturday, 8 November 2014

Review: Interstellar

World of Blackout Film Review

Interstellar Poster

Interstellar (SPOILERS …ish)
Cert: 12A / 166 mins / Dir. Christopher Nolan
WoB Rating: 5/7

You see, I'd wondered what I was missing in the trailers I'd seen for Christopher Nolan's space-epic Interstellar. People were getting very excited for this film, but try as I might, all I could think was "Okay, so Earth's dying, Mumbler McConaughey goes into space to find another home, and then what?". Because that seems like an initial setup rather than a plot in itself, and the trailers seemed to be deliberately coy with the film's USP. After watching the just-under-three-hour flick, I now understand that if the trailer had explained the level of moral and metaphysical pondering that was going to accompany the space-travel, the film's casual audience would be reduced dramatically. That's not to say that Interstellar is a brain-numbing minefield of Inception proportions, but it clearly wants to be.

After a series of crop-droughts in Earth's not-too-distant future due to irreversible atmospheric mutation, a NASA programme is developed to explore new worlds fit for human habitation. Farmer and ex-astronaut Cooper is called upon to head the culmination of the programme on what could turn out to be a one-way flight, but reconciling the continuation of the human race with losing his family is something that will haunt his journey for years to come...

With a lot of navel-gazing and a lot of star-backed docking-sequences, Interstellar seems to be reaching for the visual effects of Gravity and the philosophy of 2001, but ends up not quite achieving either*1. Nolan's use of time-differentials (think of the dream-layers in Inception) also goes some way to muddying the waters, even if there's a sound scientific reason for it being present. The film does a fantastic job of building characters, but the plot (and backstory in particular) is left to amble along at its own pace. Luckily Nolanesque stalwart Michael Caine steps into the trousers of Captain Exposition, as an elderly academic who in a film by any other director would be played by Morgan Freeman.

The performances are solid enough, even if many of the characters' motivations seem a little hysterical at times, and the production design is great, but without being remotely revolutionary. There's the feeling that with the themes being explored and the run-time to explore them, the whole thing should hold more weight, somehow.

Interstellar does a lot of things well but ultimately feels unfocused, mixing science and philosophy without being prepared to fully explore either. Crucially, it didn't leave me wanting to watch it again, so any callbacks and plot-points which my brain didn't piece together by the end look to be staying unstuck for some time, yet (and because of the erratic structure of the plot, there are plenty of those). Although with the best will in the world, the reveal™ in the third-act seems to have surprised Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain's characters far more than it did anyone in the auditorium…

I think Nolan's vision may be grander than the film, this time.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
The film's a lot more ponderous than the trailer, and that's a ponderous trailer.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Kinda. ish.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Not quite.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're going to see it, see it big.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
At some point, but I feel no burning need.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Not that I heard.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Why isn't this film called Relativity? That'd make far more sense for both the plot and the themes, surely?

*1 And interestingly - as in the film Gravity - NASA still seem to be prepared to send people into space who are completely psychologically unequipped to deal with it. It doesn't seem to have previously occurred to the any of the astronauts that they may not be returning; that the mission they're carrying out is clearly far more fucking important than them returning to Earth with rock samples and a tan.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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