Review: Interstellar

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Interstellar is a disappointment… how could it not be? The weight of expectation on Christopher Nolan’s latest film is simply too great for even a director of his high calibre to deliver on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film, bordering on great, but it’s not even close to Nolan’s best.

In short, Interstellar is a hugely frustrating picture; for every high there’s an equal low. It is simply far too ambitious for its own good. So much is crammed into the bloated running time that eventually it just collapses under its own weight. The fault must ultimately lie with screenwriters Christopher and Jonathan Nolan – Interstellar has a clear lack of restraint, in contrast to their previous work Inception which told a similarly complex tale in far more coherent fashion.

In the near future the Earth is slowly dying. A recently discovered wormhole to another solar system becomes humanity’s last hope and a small crew is sent to find a new planet to support human life. The opening forty minutes focuses on the day-to-day life of a family in a dystopian America. These early scenes are among the film’s best from a thematic standpoint – the ideas of propaganda and generational fault are played with in some really interest ways.

Soon Interstellar takes to the stars and whilst it may become a far more visually impressive film from that point on, the story takes a backseat. Which leads to some unflattering comparisons to last year’s Gravity, as both take an approach approach focusing more on style rather than substance. Interstellar oozes beauty – one scene in particularly on a water logged planet is jaw-droppingly so – but beauty alone doesn’t make for a compelling film.

What Interstellar lacks most however is fleshed out characters. The Nolan brothers sprinkle in a few scenes early on that attempt to give us a feel for the film’s protagonist (Matthew McConaughey), but they do little to build up anything other than the most basic of archetypes. The lack of characterization is so bad for some characters that I couldn’t even remember their name, including the film’s leading lady.

Matthew McConaughey’s ‘McConaissance’ was completed last year with Dallas Buyers Club – this is just him proving that he can carry a major blockbuster. As previously mentioned, his character, Cooper, is undeniably weak but McConaughey flourishes nevertheless. It’s certainly not going to be one of his most remembered roles, but he somehow manages to come off ok considering what little he had to work with.

Speaking of carrying a movie, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, both playing Cooper’s daughter Murphy across different time periods, give the film a much needed human element – perhaps rather ironically for a film about saving humanity, the majority of Interstellar feels oddly cold and sterile. Anne Hathaway gives a rather lacklustre performance that is more due to poor writing than poor acting, and Michael Caine shows up because it wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan movie without an appearance from Michael Caine.

Emotional manipulation is frequent, but thanks to some excellent acting from Jessica Chastain, these moments actually hit home. There’s odd scripting in some scenes, particularly surrounding Anne Hathaway’s Amelia who gives a very odd speech about love that feels less moving and more nonsensical.

But Interstellar’s biggest misstep is its truly woeful ending. It’s hard to explain why these final thirty minutes are so bafflingly bad without going into spoiler territory, but it’s a classic case of deus ex machina. The ending feels ripped straight out of an M. Night Shyamalan film and as anybody that has seen anything he’s made in the last ten years will know, that’s not a good thing.

Interstellar is very much on the level of Nolan’s last effort The Dark Knight Rises; it has so much potential but is ruined by plot holes, poor characters and an almost laughably bad conclusion. It’s a beautiful movie that demands to be seen on the big screen, but lacks the depth and compelling characters of Christopher Nolan’s best works.