Last night, I sat in a theater chair for almost three hours and watched Christopher Nolan’s latest work, Interstellar. Although this movie is an original idea created by Chris and his brother, it has a lot of film-school references and probably the most important one is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
The general setup
The movie is set in the near future, in an unknown place (probably US) where nothing but corn will grow anymore, where the humanity is doomed to fail and to perish. There are some minor references to time, but judging by the old-fashioned technology used by the characters, it doesn’t look that much into the future. Everything is recognizable. Interstellar begins slowly, introducing Cooper – McConaughey’s character, his family and his farm. To tell you the truth, most of the scenes that took place at the farm reminded me of “Field of Dreams” and “Signs”. Throughout the first 20 minutes of the movie, I was asking myself over and over again how would Nolan send Cooper from a farm into outer space using a story telling that’s not too far fetched. And he did. The transition was boosted by a strange ghost-like phenomenon that was happening in Cooper’s bedroom, a gravity malfunction that allowed them to find NASA’s underground base. There, Cooper learns that there is a bigger plan to save humanity, a plan that involves traveling through a worm hole to a distant galaxy where an exoplanet that could sustain human life may exist, a plan that also includes Cooper (if he’s willing to accept). Michael Cane plays the role of the scientist that created this ambitious project and he (apparently) hopes to solve a gravitaty equation that holds the key to saving human kind (plan B). There is also a plan A that involves colonizing the far-away planet with fertilized eggs. From here on, the space journey begins …
Based on real science
The physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer and a consultant on time travel, relativity, black holes and wormhole for the movie, so you should expect that many elements present in it to have a scientific base. I can’t talk much about the scientific verosimility of Interstellar, but I will tell you that it contains some of the best scenes from space I’ve ever seen in a movie, including the warm hole representation. It is an astonishing spectacle to watch, and the soundtrack created by Hans Zimmer doubles the experience. Just like Gravity, this movie makes you forget that you sit in a theater chair and it transposes you into the shuttle, near the protagonists.
Twists and character relationships
One of the “twists” of the movie was somehow predictable, but I couldn’t help but notice that it was played with grace and with enough directorial gimmickry to make it work. Nolan knows how to deal with such scenes, and the Harley Dent switch to Two-Face is a good example in that regard. The second major twists happens towards the end of the movie, when we find out that the “ghost” that was talking to Cooper’s daughter was actually a future version of Cooper that gets stuck in a tesseract. And while I’m on the subject, I should talk about the human drama versus the intergalactic spectacle from this movie. Somehow, the only real connection I felt while I was watching this movie was between Cooper and Murph, his daughter. Every other human interaction fades, and this gets me to one of the reasons I think Interstellar is not perfect.
What’s up with that ending?
Nolan parts ways with his common approach on movie endings, and decides to close every loose ends of the story, probably in a final attempt to please everyone. For me, the movie ends when Cooper is floating in the loneliness of space with his eyes closed, looking like he’s having the inner peace with himself. After that moment, everything goes down fast, and the story presents multiple endings, none that are fulfilling to me. There is Cooper being rescued, him seeing his now-aged daughter on the death bed and a poor written conversation between them that makes no sense to me. Everything concludes with the main character going to find Amelia Brand, the other astronaut that survived in a mission, but which is on the other side of the worm hole. I didn’t understood why he needs to find her, since there was no actual romance between them portrayed until then. Actually, for a good part of the movie, she was in loved with another astronaut that was send on the same mission years before them. That ending makes no sense to me.
… and there is TARS
TARS is probably the character that saved this movie from being a 3-hour boring spectacle. In the beginning, TARS is presented like a retro-looking robot with a poor monolith design, but later on we find out how awesome it is in its interaction with the astronauts and with the environment. Also, it plays an important role in the end of the movie, when it uses the essential data inside the black hole in order to solve the gravity equation that was bugging Murph (Cooper’s daughter) for so much time, the equation that will save humanity. TARS is the HAL 9000 of this movie, but it doesn’t follow the robot-gets-evil pattern established by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Instead, it is funny as hell (“…plenty of slaves for my robot colony”), it saves the situation multiple times and when you’ll see it in action you will understand why I gave it a special place in my review.
Here comes the conclusion
Interstellar is not 100% perfect, but it is damn close to that percentage. If you love the Sci-Fi genre, you will probably have a blast the first time you will watch it on the big screen. There were times when the pacing could have been faster, and there were times when Nolan should have slowed things down a bit, but it’s the best space opera I’ve seen since Star Wars. Yes, I said it and you can quote me on that! There are few things that I didn’t understood at first watch, and it will definitely be fun to rewatch it couple of times when it will be available on DVD. Hate it or love it, but this movie is a spectacle!