by Coop Cooper
The film takes place in a future where war has been eradicated and forward technological progress has come to a standstill. Although there is peace, the world is suffering due to lung disease caused by unending dust storms and all edible plant life is dying from an incurable blight. Farmers are more valued than spaceship pilots, so Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has forsaken his gift to live in the country and raise corn with his family. When Cooper and his spirited, genius daughter Murphy investigate a paranormal event in their farmhouse, it leads them to the location of a secret government project to discover life on distant planets and risk a new means of travel to get there. Cooper is inducted into the project and sent into space, leaving his grieving daughter behind. Battling the dangers of space and fluctuations in time, Cooper tries desperately to complete his mission and return home while his faster-aging daughter (Jessica Chastain) attempts to solve a formula that will allow the rest of the human race to meet him halfway.
That synopsis barely scratches the surface of the plot to “Interstellar”, a film so complex and overthought, it makes “Inception” seem sensible. So many plot cheats, concepts, story devices, technical jargon and conflicting genre tropes were crammed into the film, making sense of it all could give one a headache.
I have so many questions about the film that were never answered and probably weren’t needed to tell an effective sci-fi story. What could possibly happen to a planet that would stop all war and technological advancement despite rampant disease and famine? Nothing I can think of and it wasn’t explained. Why are their schools using textbooks that claim the NASA Apollo program was faked to economically crush the Soviet Union? Does director Christopher Nolan actually believe that? Why was sending drones/robots so unfeasible when they would have been the perfect choice to explore and report back on the undiscovered planets, especially when NASA is currently leaning so far in that direction? No clue. Etc…
Deus Ex Machina (God in the machine) is a film term used to describe a lazy film cliche where instead of the hero saving the day on his/her own, a magical occurrence or coincidence aids them in completing their task. This film is FULL of Deus Ex Machina and Nolan should have known better. ‘Magic’ is an actual thing in this movie and it saves the day too often, even when it could been handled in a more realistic, believable way.
More annoying is the verbose exposition that spills forth from the characters’ mouths, especially when they are trying to rationally explain their ridiculously irrational decisions. They mumble or shout through it so quickly, you can hardly understand what they are saying and when you do understand it, it sounds like pure nonsense. “Inception” did the same, but kept it fun and fast paced, like a game, challenging the audience to keep up with it and if they didn’t…
It doesn’t matter because there is enough action to keep them occupied. Conversely, “Interstellar” rambles and stumbles through these moments, causing the audience to tune out or outright laugh, particularly at Anne Hathaway (playing Dr. Brand Jr. to Michael Caine’s Dr. Brand Sr.) as she tries to explain why she is making a stupid decision because she believes ‘love’ is a quantifiable force of nature which might be actually trying to consciously help her. McConanughey’s character tries to explain some things that are even more ludicrous than that.
While the plot, dialogue and performances are an absolute mess, there are a few bright points in the film. The cinematography is gorgeous as it is shot on actual film and really fits the visual style. The outer space scenes when their lives are in peril are breathtaking, especially one particular scene where Cooper tries to dock his ship with another that is spinning out of control. Also, the music by Hans Zimmer is so strange and interesting, it doesn’t quite fit, but it does stand out. Finally, the robots on the mission, TARS and CASE, were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Like giant, walking ‘Leatherman’ tools, they transformed into bizarre geometrical shapes in order to get around and perform specialized tasks while providing some much needed comic relief.
This was Nolan’s attempt to make his version of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but it ends up more like Brian De Palma’s “Mission to Mars” (incidentally, one of my worst-reviewed films of all time). It was a lofty ambition and I think Nolan has it in him to surpass his other films, but this is the first of his I truly disliked. The near three-hour runtime didn’t help either.
Rating: 2 out of 5