#FILM: Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” Is a Love letter to Astronomy, Science and Discovery

Action / Adventure / Drama / Sci-Fi / November 7, 2014
THE WHO

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine in a film directed by Christopher Nolan.

THE WHAT:

With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers, led by Matthew McConaughey, travel beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

THE BIG DEAL:

“Interstellar” follows the story of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former pilot and engineer, who is now a farmer due to widespread hunger caused by a future blight.

He lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), teenage son Tom, and 10-year-old daughter Murphy (named after Murphy’s Law, because of course). Cooper is a fine farmer but he really wants to get back to being the explorer he once was. While his son is more enamored with the farmer aspect of his life, it’s the daughter who carries the adventurous spirit of her father. She believes a ghost hiding in a bookcase is communicating with her but when Cooper discovers it, he interprets this instead as gravity. The gravity is sending the two a set of coordinates in binary, which takes them to a hidden NASA base.

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There, the two meet with Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), scientists at the facility. They explain a previous mission through the wormhole that narrows down three possible new home planets, and the two plans in place to save civilization and ask Cooper to join. Cooper reluctantly goes along and joins Amelia, and two other scientists and a sophisticated robot assistant TARS to journey into space and begin the two-year trip to Jupiter and the wormhole.

The story is as seemingly straightforward as possible. A dad, who is also a space cowboy, tries to save the planet; this is a Chris Nolan film however, and plot is nothing more than a catalyst to get to what really matters: the awesomeness of space.

Nolan seems as fascinated with space as any doe-eyed child who spent their days watching “Cosmos.” The movie’s approximation of space (on an IMAX screen) is spectacular.

Just as “Gravity” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” before it, “Interstellar” captures the wonder, beauty, seemingly endless vastness and pure fucking terror of space. There are times when the actors seem like distractions to what is really a love letter to space and the infinite possibilities inherent.

Despite this, this movie would still be a lot more fun if it didn’t get trapped under the weight of Nolan’s self-serious and self-important need to make this some sort of definite statement on mankind’s instinctual sense of survival and the can-do American spirit of exploration.

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McConaughey is the proto-typical masculine American cowboy. He’s great in this because he does what’s asked of him: he’s pure charisma, he’s built as the kind of handsome hero that a space folklore would need and he’s serviceable as a dad who just wants his kids back. Yet, there’s no room for him to be anything more than a driver for this vehicle and there’s even less asked of from the other great actors in this movie. Nolan packs this film with an ’80s Lakers roster of top-notch talent and then asks them all to be role players to service his grand doctrine on love and humanity (Jessica Chastain might be strongest after McConaughey).

For someone who’s on his fifth major studio film (and is more or less guaranteed to inexplicably fill a movie theater), you’d think he’d learn the number one secret of these kinds of movies: they’re supposed to be fun.

That’s not to say it doesn’t work at all. This movie was an amazing experience. Nolan has a clear vision and fascination with science and astronomy. Each planet that the explorers visit in the film is mesmerizing: one that’s one big tidal wave, another that is covered in ice. The film’s vision of a blackhole and infinity is original and sublime, even if the science behind it may not be completely sound.

You end up leaving this movie wondering what it would be like if Nolan went full Kubrick and didn’t even bother tacking on an action movie to what is essentially a love letter to astronomy, science and discovery.

Nolan thinks huge and goes for more; his movies are beautiful, lush and every detail is thought over. He’s in love with loud—so much so that in the brief moment in the film where everything goes quiet it’s a jolt to your system—but he has Hans Zimmer there to soundtrack an epic feat of moviemaking like only he can. While the lesson of “love conquers and transcends all” doesn’t completely land, what does is the idea of dreaming big and reaching for the stars.

THE GRADE: B-

Tickets & Showtimes | Movie Trailer | Official Website

Interstellar opens today in theaters everywhere.


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Israel Daramola
Israel Daramola is a writer, video editor and cake enthusiast living in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on twitter or you can go to your mirror, turn off the lights and chant his name three times and he will appear.




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#FILM: Christopher Nolan's “Interstellar” Is a Love letter to Astronomy, Science and Discovery