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Interstellar - Spoiler-free review

Nathan Strum

1,807 views

December 1st, 10:34 PM

 

Well, since I didn't have any laundry to do tonight, I decided to go catch a late showing of Interstellar. So at the moment I'm sitting in an entirely empty IMAX theater, waiting for the 10:50 PM showing to start. And yes... I know I'm in for a three hour movie that I will keep me here until nearly 2 AM, but that's okay since my internal clock has been way off lately, and getting to sleep after 3 AM has become the norm.

 

I'll admit to not having had much interest in seeing Interstellar, but I'm bored enough this evening to need some sort of entertainment, I've already seen Big Hero 6 (review coming soon), and I'm all caught up on anything of interest on my DVR. So here I am. Six minutes to go.

 

I do have one observation before posting this and watching the film though - my iPhone 5S seems really tiny for typing on now. The new word-suggestion feature is really handy, but man, does it take up a lot of real estate. Apple needs to re-think some of their interface issues for those of us who don't own an iPhone 6 Jumbotron. Time to post this and shut off my phone for now - the lights are dimming (although I'm still the only one here).

 

3+ hours later...

 

Another four people showed up during trailers - so we had a crowd! Woo hoo!

 

The thing that puzzled me about Interstellar before seeing it, was the secrecy surrounding it. Whenever the cast showed up on talk shows or did media junkets, they weren't allowed to say anything about the film or show anything but the shortest (and vaguest) of clips. So naturally, I expected there to be some big, huge, amazing spoiler to the movie. You know... like Soylent Green being made of people, the Planet of the Apes actually being Earth, Darth Vader being Luke's father, that sort of thing.

 

What? You didn't know any of that? Sorry... "Spoiler-free" only applies to movies that are reasonably current. Like within the last 30 years.

 

On the one hand, I think the secrecy helped to build mystery about the movie and generate interest (although Interstellar had already been hyped for months), but on the other hand, since it doesn't really tell you anything about the movie - the tone of it, the characters, etc. - I found it difficult to really want to go see it, because I perceived it as being very-much like Gravity - an overly-serious, overly-long, overly-epic, better-see-it-in-IMAX-or-you'll-regret-it, self-proclaimed masterpiece of psuedo-realistic science fiction starring amicable but ultimately unbelievable-as-either-astronauts-or-scientists actors, that ultimately results in a visually impressive but flawed movie that doesn't make any sense once you think about it for more than a few minutes.

 

At least, that was my assumption about Interstellar based on the trailers. But I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, since I don't drop $20 on a ticket and $13 on snacks just to go to a movie I don't think I have any chance of liking. If I wanted to waste that kind of money, there are plenty of other stupid things out there to buy.

 

That said, Interstellar did turn out to be different - plot-wise - from Gravity. They are two completely different films. Gravity takes place (apparently) before the space shuttle program ended, while Interstellar takes place at some undetermined point in the near-ish future. Gravity, despite being completely preposterous, is more grounded in something resembling reality, while Interstellar embraces a much broader, fantastical approach to science fiction. More Space:1999 than Salvage 1, if you're looking for an obscure comparison.

 

Yeah... I just equated Gravity with Salvage 1. Deal with it. Score: Andy Griffith 1, George Clooney 0.

 

Anyway...

 

Like its advertising campaign, Interstellar itself is often vague. It doesn't tell you when it's happening (you can infer that it's several decades from now), it doesn't tell you what exactly happened to Earth (there was a problem, and now everyone's in some sort of trouble), it implies that things are going to get worse for everyone on Earth really soon, but doesn't stick to that timeline or explain why, it never gives a clear background of the lead character and why he's uniquely suited to lead a mission into space (with apparently no training whatsoever), and it often either just broadly explains away major plot points or skips over them altogether, assuming the audience will somehow pick up on it.

 

Generally, I was able to follow the movie okay, but there were a lot of missed opportunities to flesh-out some really interesting stories that would've only helped to make the movie and the plight of the people in it more compelling. As it was, with maybe the exception of Matthew McConaughey's character's daughter, I had a hard time connecting with, or caring about, anyone in the movie. Some of the characters were likable enough, but they all seemed very flat and one-dimensional. I had a really difficult time believing these were the brilliant scientists that they all supposedly were. Was that bad writing? Bad directing? Bad acting? I don't really know. Maybe there just wasn't enough setup in their backstories to make them seem believable. Especially when some of the most brilliant minds on the planet end up doing really stupid things. Certainly I didn't feel any real empathy for any of them, and when you couple that with the vagueness of the situation on Earth, it make it really difficult to become emotionally invested in what's going on.

 

Predictability was another problem with the characters, and the film as well. You can see where certain parts of the film are going, just based on who was cast in which rolls, and what sort of music plays when they're on screen. Character moments that should be a surprise, aren't. Events are telegraphed way too far in advance, and I spent a lot of time just waiting for them to get around to the inevitable and hopefully move onto something else.

 

Now then... about the science in the film.

 

It felt like someone had been watching a few too many episodes of "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman", without really paying attention. It's fine to throw around completely theoretical science concepts in a movie. Star Trek thrived off it. Star Wars never even bothered with it. But if you're going to attempt to ground a movie in something resembling reality, then you need to do a better job of explaining why things are happening that don't make any sense. Why transporters could never work doesn't matter in Star Trek - it's still explained well enough in the context of that world to be believable. It doesn't matter in Star Wars how hyperspace or lightsabers work - we just accept that they do because it fits that universe. But Interstellar establishes a particular level of scientific believability, and does a poor job of following through with it. The movie completely goes off the rails in the last act of the film, trying desperately to be something unique and thought-provoking, but only comes across as baffling and silly.

 

Maybe the problem is that Interstellar has an identity crisis. It thinks it's trying to be original, but it's so completely derivative of so many other movies and science fiction stories, that it just can't. It's not a good enough movie to stand apart from everything it borrows shamelessly from: 2001, 2010, Contact, The Black Hole, Close Encounters, and more episodes of various TV series than I could ever hope to count. Maybe someone who had never seen any of those other films or episodes would have a completely different take on Interstellar. But for me, the comparisons were inevitable, and rarely favorable.

 

From a production standpoint, it's a pretty amazing looking film. They certainly didn't cheap-out on the visual effects. There's one particular shot that really makes me wish someone would finally make a movie out of

.

 

Just not Christopher Nolan.

 

As has been stated in other reviews, sound was another complaint I had about the film, too. There were some scenes where the sound effects were absolutely deafening, and others where dialog was completely drowned out by them. And yes - I understand that's more in keeping with reality. But here's the problem: it's a movie. If something pulls you out of the movie while you're watching it, and makes you think "That's too loud! I can't hear anything they're saying!" then it's failing as a movie, unless the the intent of the movie is to remind you that you're watching a movie. I don't think that was the idea behind Interstellar. There was one (and only one) shot in the movie where an abnormally loud sound was used effectively to have an impact on the audience, but the rest of the time just felt like the director was trying to be self-important and overwhelm the audience with the awesomeness of his own creation.

 

Interstellar isn't what I'd call a boring film (and at nearly three hours, that's actually quite an accomplishment). But it isn't particularly engaging, either. I didn't really care what happened to anyone. To Earth. To the astronauts. The whole ending was silly, preposterous and pandering, and the movie felt like it was spending it's entire run time trying to be important. Like it wanted to grow up and be 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it never read the book.

 

In the end, I guess my initial assumptions about the film were right. It is like Gravity.

 

So, it gets the same score: 5/10

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Oh man, I would love to see a movie based on [spoiler book from your review above].

 

I enjoyed Interstellar, but it wasn't as stellar as the hype made it out to be. I'd like to see it again now that I know how it all plays out, but probably will wait until I can rent it.

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I enjoyed Interstellar as I've always preferred 'hard' science fiction. Now I would also like to see some movies based on the Rama series of books... BUT not before a movie based on Poul Anderson's Tau Zero!

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I never really liked Space:1999, but I love its forerunner U.F.O.
It's still in my Top 3 Sci-Fi series along with Firefly and BSG 2004 :D

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I had fond memories of watching Space:1999 as a kid, but when I tried watching it again a few years ago, I came to the conclusion that what I had actually liked were the sets and special effects - not the writing.

 

I hadn't seen many episodes of U.F.O. since I was really young when it aired here. I remember it looking really cool, but the aliens freaked me right out. :)

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That pretty much nails it. Space:1999 had that psychedlic look, but U.F.O had those incredibly fantastic stories that still work today. I also had only vague childhood memories, but I got me a DVD box a few years ago and me and my wife loved every minute of it :)

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I had the Dinky Toys U.F.O. Interceptor. Cool toy. Could never figure out why they made it green, though...

 

Mine looked just like this one:

 

dinly.jpg

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Just remembered the name of another Sci-fi series I liked: "Space - Above and Beyond". Unfortunately, just like Firefly it was cancelled after the first season :sad:

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Very good and grounded review. I was starting to think I was the only one who didn't drink the Interstellar Cool-Aide and thought it was some sort of modern masterpiece on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey (which I also think is pretentious and silly, and given too much credit for what it really is -- but that's a rant for another day).

 

I agree with your views completely, except with one: I did find it kind of boring. Perhaps not because of any lack of action, but because of the utter lack of engagement at any level -- I just couldn't get into the movie, care for any of the characters, and so it just became a chore to watch.

 

The characters, specifically, annoyed me. I understand that there is now a post-modernist attitude of depicting flawed heroes and broken souls in the interest of some hyper-realism; but it is very irritating when characters do not have a single redeemable quality, and just happen to make exactly the wrong decisions, and take exactly the wrong course of action, every single time!

 

C'mon, that's not a "flawed character," or a "realistic depiction of humanity"; it's just stupid and lazy writing. Nobody is that obtuse! Especially, as you point out, when they are supposed to be the mostest brilliantest geniusest humans in the universe! :roll:

 

To me, the whole thing stank of pretentious "auteur" bullshit. "We don't need to explain anything or justify our intentions, because... art!" Meh.

 

5/10 -- (I reserve the lower third for any Matrix sequels.)

 

-dZ.

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