Sorry for not putting up the last of the reviews from the Austin Film Festival. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. And now its about to get even more hectic. I just got out of a Thursday night showing of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s latest film, at the Bob Bullock IMAX Theatre here in Austin. I saw Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight Rises, in the very same theatre two years ago, so it seemed fitting to do the same. I’ve been as excited for Interstellar as everybody else. I was wondering how Nolan would follow-up his slightly disappointing Batman finale, and he’s done so with a project that was originally going to be made by Steven Spielberg years ago. Spielberg dropped out, and Nolan came in to polish the script that his brother Jonathan had written. We then cut to two years after learning of the film, and we have some of Hollywood’s best in the film. Matthew McConaughey has decided to follow-up his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club and his highly acclaimed role in HBO’s True Detective as the lead in this film, with Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine as the Nolan regulars in the film. Interstellar has so far polarized film critics, with some calling it brilliant and others calling it confusing. Where do I stand?
McConaughey plays Cooper, a former pilot for NASA whose a widowed father of two. He raises them in the middle of America, where the world is in need of farmers. The world that the film lives in is dying, and they’re running out of food and resources quickly, with the situation feeling like the Dust Bowl in the early 20th century on steroids. Cooper stumbles upon a mission to go out of this world and galaxy, and to find a planet where mankind will have to inhabit, as the world that we know it is dying. Cooper must leave his family, and most importantly, his daughter Murphy, played in child form by Mackenzie Foy and in adult form by Jessica Chastain. Cooper promises his daughter that he will come back, and along with a team that comprises of Hathaway, Wes Bentley, and newcomer David Gyasi, they must travel to the deepest stretches of space to save mankind.
Nolan produces the film alongside his longtime producing partner and wife Emma Thomas. Instead of Nolan regular Wally Pfister as the director of photography, Hoyte van Hoytema, whose credits include last year’s Her, The Fighter, and the next James Bond film, takes over those duties. I mention this because cinematography and the look of Nolan’s films have always been an integral part of the success of his films, and this film is no exception of that. The film is just drop dead gorgeous to look at. If you see Interstellar, I highly recommend you see it in an IMAX theater, because Nolan shot a good deal of footage in the film with IMAX cameras, and it looks spectacular. The visual effects are also some of the most jaw dropping that I’ve ever seen in any film. There are shots of the spacecraft drifting through space, with planets like Venus as the backdrop with the ship as a tiny dot in the frame. It’s poetic and extraordinary to look at, with words not doing the images in this film justice. The film takes a lot of cues from the films of Stanley Kubrick, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Terrence Malick, with the sequences in space being reminiscent of Malick’s The Tree of Life. Interstellar is one of the most beautiful looking films that I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the rest of the film. While the film is a cinematic triumph in every technical category (except for the sound, which I’ll get to later), the script and story is a bit of a mess. The film is easily the smartest and unique blockbuster I’ve seen done for any big, commercial film ever. But the problem with the film is that it may be too smart for its own good. The science that McConaughey and the rest of the cast is spewing throughout the film’s near 3-hour runtime is dizzying, and makes very little sense at times. I can’t tell you how accurate the science of the film is, and I assume a lot of it is true and accurate, but it just becomes mind inducing at times. It also doesn’t help that you can’t hear it at times. I say this because I’ve heard complaints all across the country about this, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but many have said that the sound in the IMAX screenings are so loud, that the music by Hans Zimmer as well as the sound effects start to noise out some of the dialogue. There were a couple of scenes where this was apparent, and while it’s just little things and you don’t miss too many key elements, it’s still a little lazy on Nolan’s behave to let that slip, since the man is notorious for being a perfectionist and oversee every aspect of his productions. The sound issue does get better (or you get use to the loudness) as the film continues.
Now, with the problems that I did have with the film, there were some things about the film that I really enjoyed. While a lot of the supporting characters are pretty wooden and don’t add a whole lot to invest yourself with, that isn’t the case for Matthew McConaughey in this film. McConaughey gives another terrific performance that is on par, if not better, than his work in Dallas Buyers Club last year. The man is terrific, and there’s a scene where he watches video of his children growing up as he floats in deep space, and the camera stays on him for a long-span of time, and his emotions are raw and heartbreaking. It’s a shame that the Best Actor race this year is as competitive as it is, because if it were a little lighter this year, I would say that Matthew McConaughey would be a contender for a possible repeat. Anne Hathaway’s character is pretty bland, but she’s great in her role, and does her best to work with the material given to her. Jessica Chastian is great as always, and continues to be arguably my favorite actress working today. Michael Caine is great as always even though he isn’t in the film for what is just a few select scenes. And there are scenes of raw, human drama that are really terrific, and I would be lying to you if I said that I got a little misty eyed in some scenes.
I could go on and on about Interstellar for hours (and paragraphs), but I need to wrap it up. Interstellar, for what its worth, is constantly entertaining and exciting, as well as being visually vibrant and poetic. But what keeps the film from ever reaching its full potential is the screenplay and the dull and uninteresting characters. It’s a damn shame because Interstellar was my most anticipated film of 2014, and I was especially excited since this was Nolan’s first original film since Inception. And it’s rare for the audience to get excited for a movie where the director is the main draw, not the preexisting material. I do highly recommend seeing Interstellar, and if you can, please do so in the IMAX. But this film will divide people, as hearing conversations from the audience as I passed by and walked to my car, it’s not a film that you can sum up in just a few sentences. Interstellar is a film that will continue to divide both critics and audience members for years. I think once people see the film, it will strike up some very interesting and intriguing conversations between the two parties. If you’ve seen the film, I’d like to hear and read your thoughts on the film, because I want to make sure that I’m not an insane person who wasn’t head over heels for a Christopher Nolan film. Now, if you excuse me, I need to go take an Advil. I haven’t had an IMAX style headache in a little while.