By Brian Frosti
Christopher Nolan’s latest mind bender, “Interstellar,” came out this past weekend. The movie relies heavily on the work of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who served as a consultant and executive producer on the film, and attempts to work its highly thematic arc through these theories. All in all, the film lives up to the Nolan brand, with good use of practical effects and a solidly executed intellectual premise, though this particular endeavor is likely to be more divisive than Nolan’s previous efforts.
“Interstellar” attempts to one-up Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” by expanding the scope of the modern space thriller beyond Earth’s orbit and into the far reaches of the galaxy. Unfortunately, the results aren’t as conclusive as Nolan, or his fans, would have liked. Some aspects, like the wormhole itself, are beautifully realized on screen in ways no film has ever done before. But the vast majority of the effects feel like a retread of previously seen sci-fi offerings. Where “Gravity” was immensely innovative and will be remembered as a movie that changed the course of film history, the visual effects of “Interstellar” didn’t break new ground.
But where “Interstellar” triumphs is in its use of sound, or, more accurately, silence. “Gravity” was often too noisy for viewers to appreciate the never-ending expanse of space and the paralyzing fear that comes with it. Nolan, on the other hand, finds a way to emphasize the silence of outer space in his scenes. But then he overuses the movie’s score to the point where it becomes difficult to hear what characters are saying. Hans Zimmer’s score is incredible — not that anyone would expect anything less from the legendary composer — but when it obscures the film’s plot, it detracts from the enjoyment of both aspects.
In addition to practical effects and a Hans Zimmer score, one thing that has become synonymous with Nolan’s films are strong, but rarely spectacular, performances. With the exception of Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” Nolan’s actors consistently turn in enjoyable, and occasionally Oscar-nominated, performances, but they are almost never what you walk out of the theater talking about.
This is no different in “Interstellar.” Matthew McConaughey delivers as the leading man, and he will likely end up with a Best Leading Actor nomination. But it’s a stretch to call him a true contender. The most memorable performance actually comes from Michael Caine, who has very limited screen time in this nearly three-hour-long offering. In fact, the only character audiences will be talking about is the hilarious robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin), who was both the funniest and most endearing character in the film.
Despite the flaws, the film’s 2 hours, 45-minute run time doesn’t drag at all, once the ship takes off. Time flies during this interstellar adventure, but getting off the ground is grueling. Too much exposition is crammed into the opening, especially during Coop’s (played by McConaughey) conversation with his children’s teachers.
Without a doubt, the hottest topic of conversation after seeing this movie will be the plot holes, of which there are many. Nolan himself has commented on how his films are held to a higher standard when it comes to plot holes, something he embraces, but that doesn’t make the holes in “Interstellar” any less jarring. Some films have holes that are easy to ignore, such as Nolan’s “Memento,” while others distract viewers and prevent them from fully enjoying the experience. Unfortunately, this time it’s the latter. Without giving anything away, there are simply far too many gaping issues, scientific and otherwise, to be ignored.
In the end, Nolan’s ambitious undertaking is a mixed bag. It’s intensely thought-provoking, though several of its themes are forced and heavy-handed, making them less impactful. The world building is shoddy, but the universe building is impressive. And the film is full of strong, but ultimately forgettable performances from its talented cast.
“Interstellar” has many flaws, but it’s still a very enjoyable viewing experience and should be sought out by anyone looking to pass an enjoyable three hours in the theater. Just don’t think about it too hard; it won’t get you anywhere.
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