Interstellar is the newest film from acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan. It is a science fiction film that is, vaguely speaking, about a group of astronauts/explorers that travel through a wormhole in order to save humanity from extinction on earth. The film was massive (some might say bloated) and epic in terms of scope that it was a staggering film experience to process. I will outright say that I loved it and thought it was affectively powerful, if you allow the experience to fully submerge you. However, I still wasn’t able to fully grasp the entirety of what I watched. This is true event filmmaking. The film starred Matthew McConaughey as Cooper a father, farmer and pilot who had been grounded, Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain as Younger and older Murph (Cooper’s daughter), Michael Caine as Professor Brand, Anne Hathaway as Amelia Brand and a host of other fantastic actors.
The film’s story was epic but Nolan tried to explore so many themes and issues beyond the expansive theme of space travel. On top of this, the film’s “rules”, most of which are scientific rules, became difficult to follow and every plot point eventually became difficult to follow as well, given the sheer amount; almost every bit of dialogue spoken was vital to one’s full comprehension of the film. The film demanded so much of the audience and this may be the first film Nolan created that was too smart for the audience. The film focused on the relationship between the father-daughter, Coop and Murph, which is the heart of the film and honestly, my favourite part of the film. Some have commented that the relationship falls flat and was too melodramatic, which I was dumfounded by, because the performances of Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey were so honest and one could feel how personal the topic was to Nolan. This latter point especially affected me on an emotional level.
Though the film was an original, there were many visual and situational references and homages to science fiction classics. 2001 was an obvious one, strong touches of Contact and even Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The film also took strong cues from a non-science fiction inspiration, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, in its exploration of human frailty. The film also branched out to numerous science fiction themes such as the ecological devastation of the earth, a dystopian future, the perils and possibilities of time manipulation and the possibilities of failure and resilience of the human spirit in the face of impossible odds.
The film looked stunning and I’m not even talking about the awe-inspiring space cinematography. Who knew IMAX shots of corn fields could be so beautiful? The film had amazing visuals but I loved how the film was so much more than merely a pretty looking piece of art. The visuals gave off a tactile feeling that you normally don’t get from digital projection; this tactility helped create an immersive experience unlike anything offered by 3D. The immersive quality was essential to enjoying the experience because of how quickly the film went and how much the film contained. It was nearly 3 hours long, more specifically it was 2 hour 49 minutes, but the run time didn’t feel long at all. Honestly, I could have watched a 3 hours 30 minutes version of the film and still wouldn’t have felt the time.
Christopher Nolan had talked about how he wanted to make a film that harkens back to the blockbusters of the 1970s and of Spielberg and he accomplished what he set out to do. The film contained thrilling set pieces and action but it was different from what we have seen in Inception or The Dark Knight trilogy. If anything this film covered a new territory for a Christopher Nolan film, including the heavy emotional reliance of the story. Nolan has always played with time, analyzing it forwards and backwards, through different levels of reality and, in Interstellar, he played with time through different dimensions, with the use of black holes and wormholes. Similarly, he updated his other authorial themes such as the figure of the grieving husband focuses more on his children than his wife’s death, the paranoia and fear is not much of a part of the main character so much as the world around him. One could say that this was the first Christopher Nolan film that has almost no Noir element in it and it was his most hopeful film which is so optimistic about the possibilities and power of mankind to go further and achieve greatness in the face of not only the impossible but at the end of all that we know. Hope was a recurring and powerful theme in The Dark Knight trilogy and, to a minor degree in Inception; however in Interstellar, hope was the driving theme of the film.
This film was an absolutely phenomenal blockbuster that provided more than mere escapism. Like Memento and Inception, the film will make you think about it for hours and even days after the experience. Also, like his other films, Interstellar will likely require multiple viewings of the film in order to fully grasp the full extent of its reach. At its core, this film was about emotion and family and humanity by merely using space as a way of exploring this in a fantastic way. You should try to go into this film and let it wash over you. The film was definitely bursting at the seams but thematically and emotionally, it was so resonant that it should hopefully be the best theatrical experience of the year.