Disclaimer: This review will be very scarce on detailed examples as giving away too much will hurt the experience of the movie. The plot has very major points that should not be known going in.
Over the past decade, Christopher Nolan has continued to awe audiences with his films. “Interstellar” is no different and surpasses his previous works.
The film follows a crew of astronauts who journey into a wormhole in order to find a habitable planet. The earth is dying because humanity has exhausted the resources from overpopulation and wastefulness. The story follows the astronauts, namely Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and the family on earth that Cooper leaves behind.
The largest question that audiences ask is “Has the film lived up to the hype surrounding it because of the pedigree involved?” The answer is a resounding yes.
Starting with the visuals, the movie had a fantastic visual effects crew working on it. The nature of space is rendered beautifully visually and tonally. Space is at once awesome and terrifying at an instinctive level. You never forget just how dangerous these marvels can be.
Earth is just as beautiful, yet it is easy to feel that the planet is slowly decaying in the form of dust storms reminiscent of Depression-era calamities. The spacecraft are similar to any other craft in film, as this is the somewhat near future. Other planets are visually appealing and magnificent. Nolan is known for his imagery, but this is a whole new level.
Now the story. The film is as scientifically accurate as possible, with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne as an advisor. The first two acts are strongly grounded in science, with the third act taking artistic license as we just do not know what would happen at a certain point.
The story is strong and compelling, with very few plot holes that are easily noticeable. At one point it does falter and almost unravel, but is quickly brought back into focus.
This film has been compared to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and it will earn a place right beside it. The themes of sacrifice vs. survival, humanity’s destiny, and our struggle against nature -– our own and the world – are major factors. It is surprising how Nolan can convey so much about humanity’s existence through a handful of moments.
Personally, this is the first time I have seen the effects of relativity portrayed in a film, and it truly makes you realize how little humanity controls. The fundamental rules of the universe are indifferent in a Lovecraftian way and seeing it through the characters’ different point of views is truly heartbreaking.
The cast all did a great job. Every major character in the film is a complex, fully realized individual with realistic motivations. They are equally as fragile and there is never a superhuman moment where a character lives through something that is not survivable.
McConaughey has established himself as a wonderful dramatic actor over the past few years, and has outdone himself in this role. There is a very small list of actors who could rival his performance so well if given the role. He embodies his character completely and never comes off as a sci-fi caricature.
Anne Hathaway was an interesting choice as the female lead, but surprised just like with Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises.” She sells her role, being confident in herself with an underlying vulnerability. She is an equal among the crew, but she is human.
Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain are great as usual. John Lithgow, Topher Grace and Casey Affleck did well in their roles, although their characters were not as fully fleshed out. Matt Damon had a great minor role.
A big revelation was Mackenzie Foy. She portrayed Cooper’s daughter and did a fantastic job. It is always fun to see young artist flourish and you believe she is smart beyond her years and understands the world, with a mixture of a child’s reactions and adult reasoning.
No science fiction film would be complete without some form of robot or A.I. and “Interstellar” has two great robotic characters. TARS and CASE are two variations of the same model and have their own personalities and quirks. They brought much needed levity with some smart humor that winks at previous sci-fi conventions. You care for these robots, and I would not be surprised if they end up on some top ten lists.
Finally, the musical score was very befitting of the film. Hans Zimmer is a frequent collaborator with Nolan and has redefined his sound here. He was a major force in Hollywood overusing percussion and brass instruments after “Inception.”
In “Man of Steel,” you can find certain precursors to his musical work here. Zimmer got rid of the common blaring and booming of current sci-fi films by opting to use synth-oriented themes supported by woodwind and string instruments.
The result is something that goes along perfectly with the emotional points of “Interstellar.” It is at once hopeful, yet foreboding. One track in particular places a tiny hint of doom in your mind and slowly builds a dread for the future. It applies well to that moment in the film and is a fine example of how scores should reinforce visuals, not beat them into your brain.
There are some negative points to the film. There are certain plot holes present, but you really have to think hard to find them. There is a lot of theory that the film is based on, and some of it does not match up. The thing is, that is how science is today.
The biggest detraction is the audio mixing. I do not know if it was the theater or the film itself, but there are moments that I actually winced. It was due to the loudness. At two points in the film, the score goes up on a high note at the same time as an extremely loud event took place. For example, a rocket lifted off, the score maxed out, and there was dialogue at the same time. I couldn’t make out some of the dialogue and the main sounds blended together into a deafening roar for a couple seconds.
Overall, the film matches the hype it received and delivers the transcendent sci-fi story audiences have craved for so long. It is the “2001” of the millennial generation and should be seen in theaters for the full effect. It is a long film, but it is well worth the time and attention.