Every year, there seems to be one film that everyone and their grandmother sees, whether you are a fan of the genre or not is regardless. Such film events include Avatar, The Avengers and last year’s epic space masterpiece, Gravity. This year, we were given the very similarly space-bound drama Interstellar, a film with such high concepts, it was bound to be either the greatest film creation in history, or an epic failure. Unfortunately, it is neither. Interstellar is a panoply of sight, sound and emotions, and is difficult to even start to comprehend to form an opinion on. So please bear with me, because I myself have not entirely come to a solid conclusion as to what I thought of Interstellar.
Christopher Nolan may very well be the modern Hitchcock. No other director working today has made such a huge effort to take cinema to a more progressive, much more intelligent level. He seems to be a director who isn’t content that he has created masterpiece after masterpiece, and strives to move forward with his ideas, each film having higher concepts and more thought thrown into it than the one before. So it seemed the next logical step up (and consider that he previously revolutionized Batman and created the mind-destructing Inception) was to do something out of this world…literally. Boarding an old Steven Spielberg project, Nolan and his brother Jonathan tried to fashion this space epic that would be unlike anything else ever seen in cinema before. They were clearly attempting to make a spiritual successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it is very clear that the Nolans tried to achieve this. It was a huge concept, but unfortunately, it didn’t pay off.
Let us try and pinpoint everything that went wrong with Interstellar. Sure, it had mind-blowing visual effects and amazing technical prowess. I am not one to compare films to others, but just for the sake of it, let us look at last year’s masterpiece, Gravity. Both were set in space and are tense, exciting science fiction thrillers. What Gravity had going for it was it had a brilliant concept of brevity – Alfonso Cuaron knew that the idea of Gravity was a brilliant one and one that could potentially be a masterpiece (which it did become), but no one wants to sit and watch it for two and a half hours. Gravity, despite its larger-than-life concept, was a mere ninety minutes. The brevity and succinct nature of the film made it thrilling and exciting, and never once dragged. Interstellar, on the other hand, was far too long. Clocking in at just under three hours, it was an exercise in patience and perseverance I have no problem with a film of its length, but not when so much time is spent on redundant plotlines and parts of the story that were totally unneeded. It is a daunting experience, but as the film goes on, you can’t help but feel a growing sense of intensity, wondering how this group is going to escape, and how the film will end. The excitement grows in the last quarter and then…nothing. A disappointing, confusing and muddled explanation for the film. It is honestly incredibly confusing and dare I say it, pretentious. It was a complete sell-out of an ending and explanation for the film, and a more simple and precise ending would have been much more satisfying.
Interstellar is quite simply the very definition of a confusing film. For every moment that this film bears a resemblance to a masterpiece, there are two moments that pull it back to the realm of mediocrity.
However, a film like Interstellar cannot go without praise in some areas. For one, it is perhaps Nolan’s best film in terms of performances. Matthew McConaughey, who is working his way up to becoming a great actor everyday, really makes an effort here as the conflicted astronaut. Supporting performances from Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow and Michael Caine greatly improve the film, and serves as a wonderful introduction to Mackenzie Foy, a young actress who I hope will go on to have great success. Other than the performances, the pure scale of the film deserves some praise. It may not be the masterpiece it set out to be, but it certainly was beautiful. A lot of effort was put into creating the look of this film, and it looks authentic and exciting (unlike the similarly misguided epic, The Life of Pi). These two elements may very well be the only worthy parts of Interstellar that are deserving of praise, but the greatly improve the film.
Nolan may strive to deconstruct the idea of cinema and reassemble it into a radically different, more progressive format for the future, but over time, his films have slowly been losing heart. He reached his peak of both superb direction and brilliant emotional gravitas with The Dark Knight, and even while Inception is an iconic film, it was the first sign of a declining amount of heart and dedication to the reason we go to the movies – to feel…something.
Nolan tries desperately to inject some emotional moments into the film, but the few instances of someone crying or the constant melancholic music does not make up for the fact that Nolan was more concerned about making the impressive science fiction epic, he neglected to concentrate on the humanity of the story, with the moments of down-to-earth lucidity being underdeveloped and unnatural. Nolan is definitely capable of making excellent films that are capable of making us feel something and packing a visually impressive punch. Interstellar was not one of them, and it was one of the reasons I feel so cold towards the film.
In conclusion, I can’t say Interstellar was an amazing film. It wasn’t even great. It was merely good. It was visually stunning, but it was exhausting. I walked out of that cinema, tired from this film. It was too long, too packed with unnecessary material and just a daunting experience. Science fiction fans will get a huge kick out of it, but it was very often too cold and distant to be truly enjoyable. At the end of the film, McConaughey’s character has aged to be over 120 years old. After seeing this film, I feel like I aged that much as well. Disappointing, but it will no doubt be an iconic film in the future, and will probably become one of the most divisive in history. I just wish it lived up to the film it wanted to be.