Interstellar – Movie Talk

Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Interstellar has been out for several months now and is nearing the end of its run at cinemas. However, tomorrow select AMC theaters will be showing it again on IMAX along with 12 extra minutes of footage. Unfortunately I do not live close to a city that is showing it. I already saw it in IMAX though and I can wait until it comes out on blu-ray, assuming they put the bonus footage there. With this news, I’ve decided to give my thoughts on the science fiction film, Interstellar.

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After seeing The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, I remember hearing about Christopher Nolan’s next film. It sounded ambitious even then. The physicist, Kip Thorne would be working closely with Nolan to create a story centering around time travel and black holes. From that moment to November of 2014, I could not wait for this movie. Once I saw the first teaser trailer, I freaked out I was so excited. I had no idea what the movie was about. Only the trailer gave minimal information as to what we’d be seeing. Every subsequent trailer there seemed to be more and more hype from not just me, but from everyone, including people I know who don’t pay attention to new releases. Nolan has a flawless track record in my opinion. There was no way this movie could be bad.

Turns out this movie wasn’t “great.” It was deemed flawed, poorly written, and far too complicated. Valid critiques that I agree with, however, how much of that backlash was just from disappointment? Coming from the guy who made Inception and The Dark Knight, everyone had high expectations for Interstellar. Expectations so high that it seems almost impossible that they could be exceeded or even met. The movie was not perfect, or as good as Inception and The Dark Knight, in my opinion. But if it was made before those two films, I think it would have done a lot better. Going back to the expectations everybody had, no one really knew what was going to happen in the film. That forced people to go into the theater with a range of perceptions of what they were about to see and what they saw was nothing like they imagined. At least it was for me. I didn’t realize this until I saw it a second time, in IMAX, although that’s irrelevant. Knowing what was going to happen made me enjoy it a lot more.

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With all that said, this was a very dense movie. By that I mean it had more to grasp and comprehend than the average movie. There’s talk about alternate dimensions, black holes, wormholes, plus a personal, human story. Even in a near three hour movie, it is hard to create a product that balances all of those aspects well. I thought Interstellar did it well for the most part though. There were times that I was transfixed by the special effects and others when I was on the verge of crying. There are two very emotional scenes that come to mind: When Cooper is leaving Earth and we see his daughter running out of the house, and when he gets back from the water planet, realizing that more than 20 years of his life had gone by when he sees video recordings of his family.

This felt like a Nolan movie. And part of that means it had a great Hans Zimmer score. I recently listened to the entire soundtrack and it really is amazing. Adding it to the movie gives it that emotional punch and sets the tone so well. What I love about Zimmer and what he tries to do with his scores is that they’re not catchy like a John Williams Star Wars score. They are very unique, utilizing technology and classical instruments that fit perfectly with the story. When creating the score, Nolan describes the tone he wants the film to be, and Zimmer brilliantly comes up with a sound that reflects Nolan’s vision. This is one of my favorite scores of his.

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Matthew McConaughey gives the performance you’d expect. It’s not a breakthrough, but he hits all the right notes and is believable in the role. The two performances that stood out to me were from MacKenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain. They were what grounded the movie and made Nolan’s most ambitious movie, his most personal movie too. The film was filmed under the name “Flora’s Letter”. It is a love letter to his daughter. This personal connection was nothing like Nolan had done before.

Unlike the usual Nolan film, Interstellar did not have Wally Pfister as cinematographer. He decided to try directing. That didn’t turn out too well though. The movie still looked great though, a credit to the cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema and the special effects team. Seeing it in IMAX was my best theater experience last year. It was also the only time I can honestly say I was in awe from what I was seeing. It is also my pick for the special effects Academy Award.

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The script is where I think the film is the most flawed. If I had to say what it is about in a few words, I’d say: Love and time travel. Like I said, it tried too hard to combine these two things into one cohesive story. It would be like if Marty McFly tried to communicate with Jennifer while he was in 1955 and she was in 1985. As a result, the pacing was off. Some scenes tended to drag with complicated science talk, while the next would have a completely different tone. The dialogue also seemed forced and written poorly. One of the final scenes of the movie could have compared in its provocative message to the last 10 minutes of 2001, but it was ruined by expositional dialogue.

I enjoyed Interstellar a lot. It wasn’t perfect, but it made me think, cry and entertained me for nearly three hours. I thought this was an incredible step in Nolan’s career. It showed how far he is willing to go for a film, figuratively and literally, and showed that he is still trying new things when it comes to filmmaking. Next he should make a movie over 12 years that looks like one continuous shot. That would automatically win him an Oscar.

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