Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014) wr. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan [third film title starting with In-], dp Hoyte Van Hoytema, music Hans Zimmer; 169 min.

interstellarMatthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Michael Caine

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.

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Science fiction is often concerned with some major invasion science-y problem - an alien invasion is a common such - plus the questions Who will save us from Them, and How?

In the case of writing about a film four years after its release it's not really a SPOILER to say that in this case the alien invader is Us, and that our saviour will also be Us. The only surprise is the How.

The 'theme' of this film (as we learnt to say in school) is 'Love' (the How), specifically that between fathers and children. So it's striking how intellectual the story is, and how ineffective it shows such love to be. The film has hardly got going when the main character, Coop, leaves his daughter, aged about 10, probably forever. At the end of the (very long) film, he is reunited with her about 80 years later, and spends literally only about two minutes with her before leaving her again, this time definitely forever, because in the last scene he appears to be leaving the earth for a planet in a different galaxy to get to which he has to go back through that wormhole. That sentence got a bit too long because my incredulity made me ramble on.

But in a scifi flick like this, there's no point in worrying about plausibility (except about the science-y stuff), and I gave up expecting that after the first half hour. But when the movie itself keeps harping on about love, it's surprising how little of it is evident.

Another theme is 'hope'. And again there are contradictions. The biggy is about the future of the human race, but in this case there's no attempt at all to save the planet. The only hope is in the colonisation of a different world. Or two, actually, but the second one is apparently going to be inhabited by Coop and Amelia alone (if he can just get back again through that convenient wormhole that is mere light years away ... but, hey, this is fiction).

It seems to me that out of three crude aspects that a story can be interested in - story, character, and theme - that the writers here are predominantly concerned with the first: plot. E.M. Forster was more interested in the second: character, and saw the necessity for a story to be an unfortunate one. I often quote this passage from Aspects of the Novel, which applies just as much to a narrative film as a novel.

Yes - oh dear yes - the novel tells a story. That is the fundamental aspect without which it could not exist.  That is the highest factor common to all novels, and I wish that it was not so, that it could be something different - melody, or perception of the truth, not this low atavistic form. (41)

The Nolans are so much more concerned with their tricky plots (Mememto, Inception, etc.) than with the human beings in them that I think it must be called a fault.

The 'future of the human race' thing is also not given much chance on the small scale. The two alpha male heroes, McConaughey's and Matt Damon's characters, try to kill each other, and various other minor characters are left behind to die. (Damon's character is called Mann, by the way. No idea why the Nolans chose that name, but they must have had a reason. Maybe it's because in this film Mann/man is the baddy.)

The spaceship flying stuff is quite exciting, and Hans Zimmer's music is there in cosmic quantities, if you like that kind of thing. I should also, to be a bit fair to the film, after all the negative stuff above, say that there are many admirable things about it. The editing, for example. It's quite a long film, but never lags - unlike, let's say, Gravity, which at only 1.5 hours has its longueurs. I did actually notice while watching this one how quickly the pace nips along. Nothing wrong with the photography either, tho it's not Vittorio Storaro.

I usually try to give you two or three review clips. This time I'll lazily give you only the end of one, that of Ann Hornaday, in the Washington Post, because it was the one which said what I wanted to say, only better.

By the time Cooper realizes his rightful place in the grand cosmic soup ... the endgame becomes a protracted demand for tears that, for many viewers, will feel like distant Earth-bound artifacts themselves. Interstellar tries so hard to be so many things that it winds up shrinking into itself, much like one of the collapsed stars Coop hurtles past on his way to new worlds. For a movie about transcending all manner of dimensions, Interstellar ultimately falls surprisingly flat. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.

References and Links

Forster, E. M. 1927, Aspects of the Novel, Edward Arnold, London.

Reviewers, by the very nature of what they do, have to write about the story while trying at the same time to give nothing about it away. So they tend to show off what they know about the other work of the creatives, or about other films which are similar in some way - usually both. In addition, they usually have a 'line' they have decided to take - necessary to make their review different from everyone else's. Which tends to mean they don't write about a helluva lot of other things they could have. I am no exception, even tho I'm neither a real reviewer nor writing at the time of the release of the film.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 26 August, 2018 | Now: 9 December, 2020