Interstellar (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

film interstellar_smTo help add to its throwback quality, it makes astronauts look cool again, too.




film interstellar

The obvious thing to do here is to compare Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar to the big, visionary Hollywood films of the ’60s and ’70s; works that directors such as Lucas, Spielberg, and Kubrick made, or might have made. To do that would be a little misleading; when you invoke these Hollywood titans now you tend to imply that the new film you seek to compare to them comes from a student of their school. To get a little closer to the truth, though, Nolan seems like he’d fit in better if he’d been a contemporary of theirs, and not a newbie looking up to them for inspiration.

That is to say, Interstellar is a big Hollywood movie, especially in terms of budget and marketing. Interstellar is a movie of ideas and an interesting story, but it also has cool special effects and a couple of explosions. And to help add to its throwback quality, it makes astronauts look cool again, too. Granted, one might be inclined to say the same about last year’s Gravity, but that film looks slight when compared to Interstellar. (Remember, Interstellar is BIG.)

But then, Interstellar is one of those movies that does everything pretty well, but nothing very well. The characters are interesting but not endearing. The writing is smart and sometimes funny, but never entirely realistic or credible. The cinematography is epic but not majestic. You’ll be entertained—the 169-minute runtime will effectively fly by—but you probably won’t find yourself thinking about the film too long after you’ve left the theater.

Here, it seems like a disservice to describe the plot to you. Most of the American movie-going audience knew weeks ago whether they wanted to see this or not, and a spoiler-free summation of the plot likely won’t change that. Besides, it’s a movie that’s effectively about exploration; it’s fun to explore the narrative’s wrinkles yourself. But since it’s part of the film critic contract to include a synopsis of some sort, here goes: Aging astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) meets the daughter of one of his old professors, and the two of them, with some others, explore a wormhole near Saturn to try and find a habitable planet to move Earth’s population, as Earth is on its way out. Cooper has two kids, which raises the stakes for him to find somewhere they can grow old. His ex-professor’s daughter, Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), probably has her own motivations, but she’s keeping them close to the chest.

The storytelling, while lucid enough, probably isn’t as clear as it wants to be, and the pacing of the film is kind of funky—it’s one of those slowFASTslow types of films. There’s an overbearing score by Hans Zimmer that really bugged me at first, but which I eventually grew to like. The performances are uniformly strong (not surprising, as I count five Oscar winners and three more nominees among the film’s main cast), but no one has catapulted themselves into being a sure thing at this year’s Oscar race. The bottom line is, while I didn’t love this film and may not ever watch it again (though I do think it would benefit from a second viewing), I do wish more films would come out that were like this. Smart Hollywood genre films are all too rare.

Nolan’s two offerings immediately prior to Interstellar, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and 2010’s Inception, were the first two of his I didn’t like, so it’s nice to see him back on my side again. Do him (and me) a favor and see this film the way he wants you to see it: on the big screen, from a film print. If you live in St. Louis, that means seeing it at just about any Wehrenberg theatre (though be sure to buy tickets for the screen specifically labeled “Interstellar 35mm”) or the Hi-Pointe; those are your only options for a film print locally, at least as of this writing. (Only one 70mm print came to Missouri, and it’s in…Branson. Cue sad sound effect.) An added bonus is that, at least at the screening I attended, the trailers before the film (one of which was for Inherent Vice) also came from film prints. Seeing that trailer on film is alone worth the price of admission. | Pete Timmermann

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