Review: Interstellar

Christopher Nolan is one of the most ambitious minds in the filmmaking business, and perhaps one of the only directors to crack the code between thoughtful art and abrasive  blockbuster. Interstellar, the ninth film he has directed, has been my most anticipated film all year, and for good reason. After coming off of such highly praised works like The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, it’s hard to believe that this is Nolan’s biggest and most ambitious film to date, both visually and in terms of story-line. I had to take a few days to fully digest what I saw on screen before writing a review, but honestly, my head will probably never be fully wrapped around this bold mind trip–this is far from a bad thing.

The film opens on the planet earth in the not-so-distant future (the year is never given to the audience, which adds to the mystery). Earth has become a dirty wasteland, where food has become a thing of the past and dust clouds threaten the health of all humanity. In short, the planet is dying out, and it seems that all is lost. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is an engineer-turned-farmer who has dreams and higher aspirations for the human race and refuses to believe that our greatest achievements are behind us. Cooper is recruited by an old professor of his (played by Michael Cain) to embark on a mission into the cosmos, where he and his crew will travel through a mysterious wormhole to find a new planet on which the human race can live.

The only thing holding Cooper back from this adventure are his kids, Tom and Murph. Tom can hold his own and understands the need for his father to go, but Murph is a fragile young girl who needs her father in her life. The relationship between Cooper and Murph is one of the most touching father-daughter stories I’ve seen in a long time, and it is some of the more emotional writing and acting to ever come from a Nolan film.

With time passing quickly in the first half-hour, Nolan takes no time at all moving the characters, and audience, out into space. At this point, the film takes a turn from good to spectacular. The hype is real in terms of the visuals, for they really are some of the most stunning and jaw-dropping screen effects I have ever seen. When the crew first enters the wormhole, for example, the audience feels like they are on a roller coaster ride, but not in a gimmicky sort of way.

The first planet they visit is a point where some viewers may be thrown off. After reaching a brand-new galaxy, Cooper and the team find themselves on this planet completely made of water, but where time is also altered. There is much talk of time alternation, different dimensions and black holes that, for some, makes it difficult to keep up with everything.

Even if all the scientific jargon isn’t true and seems a little far-fetched, it’s important not to get hung up on that. Everything is presented to the audience in such a believable way that I was able to go along with it, despite not knowing much about the topic of intergalactic dimensions (but really, who does?).

Christopher Nolan enlisted physicist Kip Thorne, the world’s leading expert in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, as a consultant for the film. Instead of taking every little fact bit by bit and presenting them, Nolan was able to place a visual interpretation based on Thorne’s theories, which I look at as the perfect marriage between science and fantasy.

Like most Sci-Fi films, which can have some of the best visuals, characters, and ideas ever put to film, the ending is what matters to the audience. The ending can be the “make it” or “break it” to everything the movie has built up so far. The ending to Interstellar will likely divide the masses by going to unexpected places.

A criticism of Nolan that is becoming somewhat of a pattern, are his weak characters. As much as I admire this movie, and Nolan as a filmmaker, some of the characters are pretty poorly developed and have personalities that are all over the place. The worst of the bunch was Casey Affleck’s character, who didn’t need to be present in the movie at all; Brand (played by Anne Hathaway) was also one of his more thinly-written characters.

While the movie is not the masterpiece the general public had speculated it would be, it comes pretty close. McConaughey, coming off of his recent Oscar win, gives yet another award-worthy performance. His emotional scenes and his relationship with Murph gives the audience something to hang onto other than this movies’ out-of-this-world visuals.

I’d recommend seeing the film in IMAX format, because this movie really is an experience worthy of the premium ticket price. Interstellar is an emotionally-rewarding, visually-stunning cinematic experience that will no doubt be remembered and talked about for years to come.