Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

 Rage, rage against the dying of the light (spoiler notice)

Interstellar has become kind of a frustrating film experience. It's not what you've come to expect from Christopher Nolan, nor does it live up to... well, the thing it aspired to be. From the trailers, the concept, its whole air. Interstellar should have been a rousing appeal to look up at the stars and dream, what Gravity so successfully did in a way, and (if you'll excuse my nerdiness) Babylon 5 achieved at its greatest moments.

The comparison to last year's Gravity is an easy one. Both share a fondness for the 'reality' of space travel, though Interstellar takes it to more science fiction extremes. Still, the films have a preoccupation with the minutiae of celestial bodies and shuttles docking and traversing the void. And, yes, both have a fair share of melodrama. But where Gravity had a laser focused sense of emotion, Interstellar soon starts gushing it forth like a broken dam, sloshing the audience wet. Not only does it lack focus, at the end it doesn't really know what to do or say with it. There are passionate speeches about love and family life, and no less than four, increasingly tedious times does the film hammer on Dylan Thomas' poem 'Do not go gentle into that good night'. So surely the theme is survival against all odds, doing the incredible to fight extinction, love spanning across the stars? Nominally so, but damn if Interstellar manages to not do anything exciting with it. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson said so succinctly on Twitter:

"In #Interstellar: On another planet, around another star, in another part of the galaxy, two guys get into a fist fight."

Because that's ultimately what it boils down to. The rather metaphysical ending, hopelessly clawing at the specter of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, tries to infuse some profundity into the matter, but ends up being no better than explaining things away by a god in the machine, or whispering "magic!"

And neither will this do as the next step in the director's oeuvre. Nolan was once a hallmark auteur, bringing a unique blend of Hollywood thrills and clockwork plots that twisted time and masterfully abused the formal conventions of film. The Prestige is a work of art. But after the disappointment of The Dark Knight Rises, which I would partially attribute to being weighed down by established Batman lore, I had some hopes for his next 'original'. Interstellar doesn't bring any of the delights you'd expect, instead indulging in schmaltz that worked in Inception because of its awesome conceit, but is overbearing here.

There are flashes of brilliance in Interstellar, moments when you can just about see how it could've been as transcendent as it sees itself. And as a whole - barring tedious flashbacks to Earth - the film does work and manages to entertain. This criticism is wholly pointed at what could've been, the lost potential, the missed opportunity.

Roderick Leeuwenhart







4 comments:

  1. Yep, that sums about up my experience.
    I blame it on high expectations, perhaps a second viewing might change my mind in time.
    One thing that bothered me quite a lot (more than in Inception) was the amount of exposition. What didn't help was that they were explaining a lot to a former NASA pilot from whom I would expect to know a bit more about certain phenomena than he did.

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    1. Nolan has always been all about exposition, but usually he does it with more sophistication. Mind you, Inception was ALL exposition.

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    2. Oh no argument there and I've been wondering why it didn't bother me so much then as it did now.

      Perhaps it was because Ellen Page/the audience was introduced to a fabricated -dream- world that really needed explaining for her/us to understand how it worked..

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