Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar (2014)

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 49 min.

Release Date: November 5th, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Christopher Nolan Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn

 


 

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t begins with an interview with an elderly survivor, as if to suggest that the following depictions will all be true. Several more snippets chime in with comments on the environmental catastrophes that jeopardized the earth with total destruction – chaotic dust storms and a severe shortage of food (corn is the only vegetable still being grown, and its quantities are rapidly diminishing). This framing device is particularly unnecessary, not only because there’s little chance of convincing audiences of the factualness of the plot (regardless of the relevance of global warming), but also because it wasn’t even effective in the previous films that utilized it – namely, 1981’s “Reds.” Plus, any extraneous sequence that further pads the monstrous running time of “Interstellar” is a serious detriment.

Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), once a skilled pilot and engineer, now spends his days struggling to maintain his farm and keep his children Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) from mischievousness and trouble at school. Like countless others facing an overwhelming dilemma of blight, a lack of variety and prospects in life, and the knowledge that the planet is unavoidably transforming into a barren wasteland, Cooper hopes for a brighter future and suppresses a sense of futility. The 20th century was a period of constant excess, leaving the present (an undefined not-too-distant scenario) to suffer from dwindling provisions and vanishing modern conveniences.

When a gravitational anomaly in Murph’s bedroom leads Cooper to a top secret NASA facility, he learns of a decades-long project to save humankind that is well underway. “Plan A” is to send a small team of astronauts into a wormhole near Saturn, where previous missions, codenamed Lazarus, have been sending signals detailing three potential planets that could serve as replacements for Earth – provided that Professor Brand (Michael Caine) can solve an equation for combating gravity to transport a massive spaceship to the new location. “Plan B” is to populate one of these planets with ready-to-go incubation contraptions, manned by scientist Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), in the event the space travelers are unable to return home before its inhabitants are consumed by sandstorms. Cooper is asked to captain the shuttle for the “save the world” opportunity – but at the cost of possibly never seeing his children again.

The setup takes 40 minutes. And the anticipated blastoff seems to signal the beginning of a completely different film. There is clearly more than one story weaving through “Interstellar” as director Christopher Nolan ambitiously attempts to tackle too many subjects simultaneously. A cautionary tale of gluttonous nimiety; an analyzation of humanity’s survival instincts, pursuit of adventure, and desire for love and companionship; a father’s sacrifice of family for the bigger picture (a section seemingly designed just for sentiment and melodrama); and a suspenseful intergalactic race against time and diminishing fuel supplies all exact attention, preventing any of them from individually receiving proper treatment.

At its heart, “Interstellar” is a heady science-fiction epic that wishes to be impractically grounded in reality. With its focus on simplistic robots (like something out of “The Black Hole,” “Forbidden Planet,” or “Silent Running”) rather than advanced androids, acceptable approaches to hypersleep and space travel, and the explanation of actual theories of singularities and relativity, the film tries desperately to retain a level of believability surrounding the many weighty concepts (the best of which toy with time dilation and spacetime frame-dragging). But as soon as fourth and fifth dimensions are mentioned and the manipulation of time is stretched out of sensible proportions, the entire premise leaps wildly into the domain of essentially unfathomable quantum physics phenomena. Audiences are sure to lose their suspensions of disbelief over the nearly impenetrable climax. While it’s an exploratory, thought-provoking, innovative abstraction, peppered with genuinely suspenseful moments (and a bit of derivation from “Alien” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”), there’s simply too much going on to do justice to the most involving parts. Next time, Nolan should essay only one unfilmable idea at a time.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10