Some movies make you laugh. Others make you cry. Interstellar made me B-line it to the nearest corner where I sat staring out the window in an unblinking fetal position. Time no longer has meaning. Interstellar would have made an excellent T.V. series: it’s long, there are several climaxes, characters weave in and out, it’s long, there’s a constant potential for character and plot growth, and as a movie it’s just a bit long. The movie spans several years, making my first words after seeing it (and regaining a feeble grip on reality), “I feel like we’ve been sitting here for 120 years,” and leading my movie watching partner to say, “Uuugghhwwhaaat?”
Interstellar is the story of an adventurous pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a hopeful scientist, Brand (Anne Hathaway), and a smart little girl, Murph (Mackenzie Foy). They live on Earth with 6 billion starving people. We have no idea what year it is but we do know schools are now teaching the Apollo missions as hoaxes, and humanity’s role has shifted from space explorers to Earth’s caretakers. There are no armies, abandoned UAVs fly around like wild birds, and dust storms are as common as cloudy days. It sounds like we’re a few decades in the future (at least), yet fashion, car designs, interior decorating, and farming practices apparently haven’t changed since 2014. Cooper and his daughter, Murph, stumble upon the remains of NASA headquarters and discover that, thanks to the discovery of a mysterious wormhole next to Saturn, we have one last chance to leave our dying Earth and populate a new planet. Conveniently, Cooper is a pilot, and NASA selects him along with three other crewmates and two not-so-compact robots to fly through this wormhole and find an inhabitable home. Cooper signs up and abandons his family, moving forward on the hopes that his mission will be a success and they will all reunite in a couple of years.
For a while Interstellar makes sense; it’s full of smart characters who have been studying physics for their entire lives and do a decent job of explaining their theories out loud. The meaning behind the wormhole and where it came from is a question we’ll get to later in the movie – hopefully. Physics, however, eventually screams a giant “F*** you!” and abandons ship, leaving us with nothing but the black, twisting hole of philosophy and bunch of characters who try to make lemonade out of tree bark. At this point, dear viewer, it is best to abandon all hope of understanding and just accept whatever the fancy people on the big screen tell you. “But what abou-” shhh. “But I don’t underst-” shhh. Just accept. Become one with the collective and accept their tale.
As for the logistics of the film, I am currently living my life on the firm belief that this movie was only called Interstellar because Gravity was already taken. Interstellar has a few nice, directorially artistic moments, but mostly I kept thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the intensive spinning, a soundtrack of blasting pipe organs, and a mildly untrustworthy computer who runs the ship. Just like Inception, Christopher Nolan ties it all up with a resounding “Whaaaaaat?” and a simultaneous craving to find out more / run out of the room with your hands over your ears.
Some scenes in Interstellar are painfully suspenseful, repeatedly jumping to mute shots of whatever is malfunctioning out in space while the humans panic through their oxygen supply indoors. We could have explored more space, seen more planets in wide-angle, and stared at more black holes in the distance, but instead the majority of Interstellar is filmed inside the capsule with the gravity “on”. It could have been stellar but it settled for stable. The acting consists of a lot of Hathaway gritting her teeth through the G-force, McConaughey focusing intently on the objective, and both trying to put their personal feelings aside. There are a few good (although agonizing) twists, but the ending leaves me with an unsettling feeling that we jumped to a conclusion. I’m giving Interstellar a 7/10 because I liked it but felt it abandoned the realm of believability all too soon and flushed the viewer down a vortex of philosophy and hallucination.