It’s the sci-fi epic we’ve all been waiting for – Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ promises a hearty dose of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ with all the emotional ties of an early Spielberg film. In fact, Spielberg was once tied to ‘Interstellar’ before Nolan and his brother took over… and while it makes all the pre-flight checks, ‘Interstellar’ simply fails to launch.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper – a widowed astronaut struggling to raise his kids in a world where space travel is the elephant in the room. And while he still has ambitions to get back in the pilot’s seat, it looks as though the US government has other ideas.
It’s soon explained that the moon landings were faked in order to force the Russians into the Space Race – wasting millions of dollars in a futile effort to put man amongst the stars. But of course, that’s not exactly the truth. The Earth is now wasting away with crops becoming harder and harder to grow… and while the dust descends on the human race, it seems that the government is determined to keep people’s ideas firmly grounded in an attempt to keep the good farmers working.
Of course, it’s not long before Cooper finds his way to a secret government base where space travel is still an option… where Michael Caine’s Professor Brand is working on a project that has lofty ambitions – to find a planet capable of rehoming the human race.
And this is where Cooper’s adventure really begins…
Hats off to Nolan – the shuttle launch sequence avoids all the trappings of sci-fi fanfare by being almost completely omitted. Instead, we hear the familiar countdown as he drives away from the farm and his daughter Murph lashes out at his departure. In this sense, it’s a good indicator of what’s to come – a mixture of space travel and emotional drama that walks a fine balance.
But while the film attempts to be a high-concept sci-fi and a down-to-earth drama, the problem is that it fails to succeed at either.
Instead, we’re left with a confusing mix of space travel and heartfelt moments… but that’s not to say that the scientific explanations are in any way daunting. The one good thing about the film is that Cooper’s piloting skills far outweigh his scientific ability. And so, we get the more complex principles explained to us in black and white.
It certainly helps to keep the entire audience on board with what could be more difficult pseudo-scientific principles… even if it is a bit annoying after a while.
Of course, things are never quite as simple as they seem, and it looks as though poor Cooper has signed up for a lot more than he bargained for. It’s here that we start to get a sense of the Nolans’ signature time-bending style. And with the mission venturing close to a black hole, it seems that one hour on the planet’s surface is equal to seven years back home.
At this point the film has a very similar effect on the audience – one hour of ‘Interstellar’ starts to feel a lot like seven years.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some high points. An appearance by Matt Damon gives the film a much-needed injection of action sequences, and the two robots, CASE and TARS are a constant source of comedy moments. But that’s the problem – in a film that should be full of interesting human characters, two monolithic, metal droids are by far the most human aspects of the movie.
Of course, McConaughey is on top form, as is Anne Hathaway who plays Cooper’s partner aboard the lone space shuttle. But the problem isn’t really with their acting – it’s the fact that their motivations are often a tad questionable.
And that leads us nicely onto the final act…
Instead of continuing on with the hardcore space travel story, we find ourselves thrust into a weird, mind-bending dimension where love is apparently the only thing that matters. Flying into the black hole, McConaughey has no idea what’s on the other side… and it’s soon clear that something isn’t quite right when he appears behind Murph’s bookcase – a scene which calls us back to a very specific section of the early film back on Earth.
I won’t say much more… but suffice to say that ‘Interstellar’ is clearly channelling the star child aspect of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ but with incredibly questionable results. And what we get is a weird explanation for the events at the start of the film which when taken at face value simply make you wonder what the Nolans were taking when they wrote the film.
Of course, if you delve a little deeper, you soon find that their weird, almost-scientific explanations do start to add up. But that doesn’t make them any more satisfying. Instead, you’re left with a plot that does, sort-of make sense… but leaves you feeling about as cold as the ice-world they earlier explored.
Unfortunately, this makes ‘Interstellar’ a horribly flawed movie, pushing the boundaries of disappointment. It could have been great. It could have been the movie of the year. Instead, it simply fails to launch. And that’s putting it lightly.