Interstellar was supposed to be the sci-fi Best Picture winner that Gravity was not at the Oscars. But the higher the expectations and obligatory hype that the name “Christopher Nolan” carries with it, the further a film has to fall.
And oh how the supposed-to-be-mighty have fallen.
But while it’s not the Oscar-worthy holy grail of sci-fi we expected, it also isn’t by any means “[Nolan’s] biggest disappointment” (let’s reserve that title for his Man of Steel involvement).
Ultimately, the film is a victim of overhype, its creator’s ego and poor timing. And while it’s worth the price of admission, don’t go in expecting to see a nominee for Best Picture.
In the not-so-distant future, the world is dying and it’s taking humanity with it in the form of a food crisis. When former shuttle pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murphy (the remarkably cast Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain) find the coordinates through possible alien means, they are led to NASA’s literal underground location where Cooper is recruited to fly a mission to scope out possible worlds with Catwoman (Anne Hathaway).
After traveling through the solar system (including a wormhole thought to have been set up by said aliens), the fight for Earth’s survival becomes one man’s fight against relativity. So essentially – Interstellar’s what happens when you mix Contact, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity together minus the originality.
While the effects were stunning, with Interstellar eclipsed by the shadow of 2014’s Gravity, it wasn’t special effects that were going to set this film apart from the rest- it was story.
Despite the exposition-heavy dialogue that is an amalgamation of Hawking’s “Theory of Everything” and what seemed like unused True Detective lines (there’s even a bit regarding space-time as a flat circle), the film’s first half is promising. It manages to bring the larger-than-life concept of relativity down to a relatable human size in way that pulls on the heartstrings. And there’s some solid thrills, from the scenic wormhole ride to some unruly alien ocean swells that will make you squirm in your seat.
However, just like Man of Steel jumped back and forth between being an invasion or superhero film, Interstellar couldn’t decide whether to focus more on emotion or spectacle. And about halfway through the film, Nolan’s relativity-centric emotional narrative falls from interesting to melodramatic when he shifts to throwing in a mess of minute-by-minute thrill-rides; a method utilized in Gravity that had no place in this film.
Top that off with two more saturated twists, an onslaught of abrupt transitions, a score that makes you feel like you’re in Dracula’s mansion and a distracting “surprise” A-list cameo and what do you get?
Lost in space.
The ultimate downfall of Interstellar resulted from the overload of information that seemed to be born out of Nolan’s blockbuster-sized ego more than anything. He’s made it very clear that with his films, it’s his way or the highway, and Interstellar seemed like Nolan was trying to prove how smart, atmospheric, and overall Nolan-y he could be.
Just yesterday, it was revealed that when he was asked by Warner Bros. to do a post-credits teaser scene at the end of the Man of Steel – Nolan came back saying, “A real movie wouldn’t do that.”
This would make sense if it weren’t for that post-film teaser at the end of Batman Begins.
He also dismissed the idea of specifically comedic teasers, which is again ironic considering that unlike his other brood-heavy, serious films, Interstellar actually had quite a few laughs.
Don’t get me wrong, Nolan’s resume is fantastic – The Dark Knight changed the way I, and many others, appreciate film. But Interstellar is to Nolan’s career as The Dark Knight Rises was to his famous trilogy – still good, just not up to par with what we’ve all come to expect.
Because for a man trying to set himself apart from the methods of Marvel and sci-fi competition post-Gravity, Interstellar failed when it did the exact opposite by utilizing overused tactics that make the film fade from our memories as soon as it fades to black.
With some tweaks, Interstellar had the ingredients to become the film that the sci-fi genre deserved…but it’s not the one that sci-fi needs right now.
(Featured image courtesy of io9)