Interstellar was a hard movie to sell, and honestly if it wasn’t for Christopher Nolan’s name, it wouldn’t have so many people raving over it. Don’t think that I am saying it is a bad movie, because it is a solid movie with amazing effects – a true visionary’s film – but it has the same problems that Gravity had last year. However, Nolan has a much larger fan base than the brilliant Alfonso Cuaron, so instead of blasting the deficiencies, people preferred to say it was brilliant with just small story problems.
At the end of the day, the two movies are pretty similar – they are huge undertakings, giving us a look at outer space unlike anything we have ever seen, but both with story problems that makes Interstellar a movie that plays brilliantly on the big screen (the bigger the better), but probably won’t be as amazing on DVD.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former astronaut who has found his calling to be no longer part of the world in which he lives in. The planet is dying and the only vegetable left that can grow is corn. Cooper is a farmer now because the world needs food more than it needs more TVs. It has gotten so bad that the schools now teach children that the moon landing was fiction to bankrupt the Soviet Union and NASA has gone underground so people don’t know that the government is still financing space exploration.
The entire first part of the movie is about Cooper at home with his two kids, Tom and Murph. Tom is planning to be a farmer like his dad while Murph has her father’s love for the unknown and still has her eyes in the stars. Thanks to the discovery of a drone and some later to be explained phenomena involving gravity, Cooper and Murph accidentally run across the NASA organization led by a scientist named Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and they have a bombshell and offer for Cooper.
The world is dying and Cooper’s kid’s generation will likely be the last to survive on Earth. A wormhole opened by Saturn and there are three planets in one of the galaxy’s they discovered there. Cooper, being the best pilot they know of, is asked to lead the expedition to the three planets, which already have astronauts on them, to find the best of the three with the hope of sustaining human life. This means leaving his kids, and he could be gone for many years because time goes by very different once he hits the wormhole. One hour of his time there could be years of his kid’s lives on Earth.
Cooper realizes that his choice is to stay on earth and pray for a miracle or head into the stars and try to find a miracle. He leaves his children and earth behind and this is where the entire experience of watching Interstellar on the big screen, especially the IMAX screen, makes it worth every penny of the ticket price.
Cooper joins three other astronaut/scientists in biologist Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and physicist Romilly (David Gyasi), as well as two AI robots, CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart) and TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin). They head to the wormhole and set out to figure out if any of the three planets are habitable. If they find one that is, they can return to earth and hope that Professor Brand has developed a way to fly a large group of people to the planet or, plan B, let earth die and use frozen embryos to save the species.
This is where Nolan adds conflict to Interstellar. While some of this works, others seem to fall flat. First of all, Nolan wants Cooper’s loss of family to weigh heavily on the film and it sends it into a melodramatic tone at points. Murph (Jessica Chastain) never forgave her father for leaving her, although she grew up to work with Professor Brand on his theories. Her refusing to send messages to her father breaks his heart every year that he is away. His son (Casey Affleck) grew into a farmer, but the script chooses to make him almost an earthly antagonist for no reason other than to add conflict. It was completely out of place in the story and could have been left out with no big loss.
There is also conflict in outer space, where Cooper and Brand never quite agree on their course of plans. Brand never told anyone that one of the astronauts on one of the three planets was her romantic interest before he left earth. That made her biased on which planet they should choose when they realized they were running out of time. However, the one they chose had a scientist named Mann (Matt Damon), who was called the “greatest of them all,” but proved to be very different than expected.
I want to take a break to say that Mann was supposed to be a brilliant scientist, and he in fact did know more than anyone else, but over his arc in the story, he proved to be the dumbest smart man in movies. I also want to add (minor spoilers) that I am happy that they chose not to go with the clichéd evil robots in this movie and made them just regular characters.
Now, the ending is where this movie really fell off the rails for me. I get that Nolan was going for something deep with Interstellar and the ending might have been his version of Heaven and Earth. However, it seemed to take a movie that was based completely in science and just threw it straight into the unknown in an almost spiritual way. It really didn’t fit with what came before.
With all that said, if you saw Interstellar on IMAX, you saw something amazing that will never be replicated when it hits DVD and Blu-ray, no matter how big your TV is. This is a movie that demands that you see it in theaters, in IMAX. However, at the end of the day, the story makes it less than extraordinary, although it is still better than most science fiction movies you will see these days.