Thursday, November 06, 2014

INTERSTELLAR: The Film Babble Blog Review

Opening Friday, November 7th, at multiplexes from here to beyond the stars...

(Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2014)

Despite some spectacular set-pieces, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated outer space epic INTERSTELLAR is a massive misfire. 

It so wants to be for our times the profound experience that 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY was to the late ‘60s, but with its problematic plotting, pretentious dialogue, and cringe-worthy convolutions of the cosmic variety, it’s more M. Night Shyamalan than Stanley Kubrick.

Set in the near future on a dying, dust stormed-out Earth, an intense Matthew McConaughey, acting like he rehearsed his lofty line readings while being filmed driving his Lincoln to the set every day, stars as a former NASA test pilot, a widowed farmer raising two kids (Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet).

With some cajoling by a ghost who apparently lives in the bookcase in Foy’s bedroom, McConaughey leaves his kids behind to travel on a spacecraft with a small crew (including a short-haired Anne Hathaway as a head strong scientist) to another galaxy to find a new habitable planet for the human race.

Michael Caine, who must really get along with the filmmaker as it’s his sixth role in a Nolan film, again brings his fading yet still stirring gravitas to his part as Professor Brand, the physicist who’s in charge of the secret mission, and is also Hathaway’s father.

By way of a wormhole near Saturn, which is pretty cool if you can rid your mind of the extremely similar scene in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, McConaughey, Hathaway, and fellow explorers David Gyasi and Wes Bentley (and a robot named TARS voiced by Bill Irwin) find a possible candidate planet but there’s a mighty catch in order to check it out. You see, because of it’s a proximity to a black hole, every hour on the planet’s surface will equate to seven years back on Earth.

So while McConaughey and crew battle the ginormous tidal waves of that inhospitable world, his daughter and grow up to be Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck, both bitter at their departed dad in different albeit not very impactful ways.

To go any farther plot-wise would be Spoiler City, and the exposition-filled (and fueled) turns of Nolan’s screenplay (co-written with brother, Jonathan, a frequent collaborator) are too messy and strained to describe. This is especially true pertaining to what I guess is a surprise cameo that McConaughey and Hathaway encounter on a bleak, ice planet in the film’s second half (Nolan really must liked shooting in the snow, see INCEPTION).

Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema captures Nolan’s imagery sweepingly - a large portion of the film was shot with IMAX cameras - and there are moments in which the movie’s ambitious vision comes close to exhilaration, but what should’ve been a spiritual successor to CONTACT unfortunately brings to mind the title of another McConaughey movie: FAILURE TO LAUNCH.

Movie fans can expect to be reminded of many, many other movies while watching INTERSTELLAR, from the aforementioned 2001 to Phillip Kaufman’s THE RIGHT STUFF (a 1983 historical drama about pioneering astronauts, for you young folks) to such sci-fi staples as ALIEN, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, FORBIDDEN PLANET, and everything that’s ever had the word “Star” in its name. However, Nolan’s overwrought opus amore often recalls scores of sci-fi failures such as THE BLACK HOLE, MISSION TO MARS, SIGNS, and, uh, lots of movies that have had “Star” in their titles.

Also, GRAVITY did the ‘let’s see A-list actors struggling for survival in outer space
 scenario way better. On top of that, its colossal lack of emotional pull really hinders its climax which never comes close to making anything near satisfying sense.

I take no pleasure in saying that while INTERSTELLAR is Nolan’s most audacious and certainly his most personal film, it’s easily his worst work, and the biggest cinematic letdown of 2014. Because it’s not without visual power, and some invested acting, many critics will praise it, and it will definitely get some award season action, but me, I’ll be over there, on the side, standing behind BIRDMAN.

More later...

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