The great wonder for many is what is out there beyond our world in the deep depths of space. It seems recently that many filmmakers have made more attempts at exploring space for films. However, director Christopher Nolan wants to attempt something much greater and far more ambitious than most films would dare to attempt. Nolan’s latest feature some of the best cinematography of the past few years, fantastic performances headlined by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain, and a story that does attempt to be something unique and special. However, it’s not perfect or close to it. The film is very flawed and despite Nolan’s ambition, Interstellar never fully grasps its full potential.
Set in a futuristic town in America, Cooper (McConaughey) is a pilot-turned-farmer who doing his best to protect his family and survive the dangerous conditions of Earth. Those main issues happen to be dust clouds which are affecting Earth’s crops and the human race will go extinct sooner rather than later. Humanity’s last chance lies in the hands of a mission to find a new home, capable of saving the human race. Cooper is asked to lead the mission and travel through a mysterious black hole and save the world.
The film is such an odd case of being simple and complicated at the same time. In terms of a storyline, Interstellar ‘s emotional story between Cooper and his daughter Murph (young version portrayed by Mackenzie Foye; older version portrayed by Chastain) is by far the simplest story Nolan has ever used before. The film’s connection to the audience is mainly based on the emotional issues between Cooper and Murph. The father and daughter relationship is rocky at times and is ultimately where the film’s heart lies.
Now for the science part of the story, it’s just the opposite. To try and dissect all the science elements of Interstellar would spoil the movie and take some of the fun out for the experience. It’s hard to keep everything in front and remember especially since it’s about 3 hours long and this is material that requires years to learn. Everything Nolan attempts to present to you feels cool and overwhelming at the same time. One of the biggest issues with the film is that Nolan is too smart for his own good and it hurts the film in that sense.
What doesn’t hurt the film are the phenomenal performances by McConaughey, Hathaway and Chastain. Already apart of a giant career revival, Matthew McConaughey adds another great performance to his already impressive list. The great chemistry between he and Foye show how much the southern-accented actor has grown. His emotional journey feels impactful and very genuine, which adds to the film’s overall impact. Hathaway’s character Brand, a scientist who is also on the trip, shows the range with an impressive performance. Hathaway’s emotional trip trying to stay strong is illustrated very well considering when we first meet her. She seems so relaxed and calm until the plans don’t go accordingly. Yet despite getting the least amount of screen time compared to the two leads, Jessica Chastain holds her ground as Murph. The events that unfold turn Murph into someone who lives with much doubt and anger towards Cooper. Chastain breathes life into Murph’s emotional distress based on everything that transpires.
Yet the film’s greatness and faults lie in the hands of the director. For all the brilliant scope, gorgeous cinematography, fantastic score and the ambitious ideas Nolan gives us, the film never fully realizes the ideas. For all the love Nolan has received from his previous films, people will give him a pass for all the faults. The film’s explanation and the inability to properly tie up all the loose ends end up making the finished product clunky and uneven. The film tries to explore hard science fiction with real science but they take a left turn in the final act and make it about love. It never feels truly genuine despite the film trying to establish a real connection between McConaughey’s Cooper and Foy/Chastain’s Murph. It works very well for the first act but once the film gets to the space travel, it occasionally brings up the relationship but it forgotten in all of the film’s deep exploration of space.
The biggest problem with the film is that something people would call the George Lucas Syndrome. As many know, Lucas is the man behind the Star Wars franchise and was the reason why the prequels sucked. When they began making The Phantom Menace, Lucas began to work on the film’s script and obviously went with his gut instead of having people edit some of it out. Nobody had the balls to tell Lucas that some of the ideas he had in the script (the first hour, Jar Jar Binks, the development of Anakin) needed to be edited or just plainly cut out. Due to the fact that Nolan is the man responsible for The Dark Knight series, Inception, the criminally underrated Memento, nobody wanted to tell the auteur that maybe he and his brother Jonathan Nolan should think about the third act’s ideas. Or even if it did sound great at first, they should have realized that maybe while filming they should have scrapped the idea and done something that fit the film better.
It’s hard to not recommend the film but it also hard to recommend as well. As a big Christopher Nolan fan, I will say the film is definitely worth seeing in theaters. The special effects and cinematography are easily the best part of the film and the acting is great as well. The film is Oscar-Worthy for the most part but unfortunately Nolan decides to take a route that feels too easy and ultimately a crowd-pleasing ending that feels out of place. The film will be a player at the Oscars but Nolan never grasps the ambitious ceiling it sets itself and comes down to just a really, really good film that ultimately fails to reach the greatness it tries to set for itself.