Before my Interstellar Review – a little preface:
Ok, a lot of preface… I admit, I love word vomiting and then posting, sometimes without a 2nd edit. Guilty as charged.
Alright. Back to our story. About a week ago, I was sitting in my car in the drive thru line at my local Del Taco. I had already ordered my steak and fries burrito, and was waiting for what seemed a week for the two cars ahead of me to get their orders (this is another issue entirely, and will be covered by a snarky tweet at some point). I hear Navi the fairy implore me to “Listen!” It’s my phone’s email notification. I check it. There’s an email about a SAG screening for Christopher Nolan’s new space-based epic, to be held the next day at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Ah, free movie screenings. Screenings, folks, are probably one of the awesomest parts of being in SAG-AFTRA, the screen performer’s union, well apart from getting paid union rates when you can get the work. Around this time every year, the buildup to the Oscars begins, and the studios wanna get the word out to any and everyone they can, even us lowly working-class acting plebes. After all, we all get to vote in the SAG awards, which is one of the first award shows leading up to the Oscars.
Now, once one of these aforementioned emails drops, it becomes a race to see if you can get your RSVP in before one of the other 10s of thousands of actors in LA can crowd you out. Sometimes, seats fill within minutes. It’s reached almost Comic Con proportions at this point – even worse when one of these giant landmark films has a screening, with all the top-billed cast dropping by for a Q&A afterwards.
So, I tap the RSVP link and fill out the form, while sitting in the drive thru line, trying to complete it and send it off before I get to the window, because an interruption like paying for my food would cost me precious seconds. One car left in front of me as I finally remember my gorram password to the screening website. Furious taps assault my touch screen like a miniature wing chun dummy. Luckily, perhaps, the car in front of me made an almost comically large order, and I end up having plenty of time to hit submit. And it’s off. I get to sit for a minute or so, hoping that I don’t receive a dreaded “Screening filled to capacity” email.
I pick up my food and start driving off when I hear Navi call out again. Confirmation email. Seated. Victory.
Alright, ass. What about Interstellar itself?
I’m going to try and make this as unspoilery as possible, because geez, Bathala knows I hate spoilers. Plus, they asked us not to spoil the film in the intro before the screening.
Short Review: I really, really liked Interstellar. I had problems here and there, but overall, it’s a fantastic cinematic experience.
Less Short Review:
Interstellar is set in the near future, one that technologically isn’t much different from our own. There are of course, examples of large technological leaps, but they are few. In that regard, the world feels very familiar. It, however, is a much different world societally. Whether it’s due to our own hubris, or because of cyclical shifts in the planet, the human species is on the verge of disaster.
Like I said, the world Nolan builds is not so different from our own, which I think is beautiful. I really enjoyed the nuance of creating a world just like present day earth, plus 50 or so years. An unfortunate side-effect for me, however, was because it was so similar to our own world, our own universe, I started applying my scientific knowledge of this ‘verse to it, specifically my understanding of astrophysics, which is never really a good thing with movies. And because because of that, I allowed myself to get pulled out of the story every so often. It’s my fault, really. I really do want to give it a second viewing, with that part of my brain turned down, now that I know what to look out for. Warning for you scientifically minded: turn your science setting down to 50% or so.
The performances are really, really awesome. I’m so glad that Matthew McConaughey (Cooper) has broken out of the RomCom box he’d been placed in for so long. A movie like this, with real, relatable stakes is something he can really sink his teeth into. He plays a complicated mixture of tragic flawed hero and everyman, which gives him room to flex some muscle and give us a great, multi-layered performance. Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brandt) and Jesssica Chastain (Murphy) are also rather awesome. Really, when aren’t they? Hathaway portrays both the expertise and naivete of the character to a T. Chastain really gets through the idea and attitude of a girl whose entire life has been shaped by, perhaps unfairly, the choices of her father. Mackenzie Foy also does a wonderful job in this film. I mean she’s got an acting resume that’s like 3 times as long as mine, and she’s 13 or something. (Note to self: work more.) You’ll also enjoy a surprise cameo or two, so… woo!
Visually, this film is an absolute masterpiece. In both the terrestrial and extraterrestrial landscapes, the film looks great. But, where the film really shines is its visual representation of space. It’s hands down amazing. A lot of what they explore in the film are things that human eyes have never laid eyes on, but they still took the time to make sure everything felt real, creating their own models based on scientific theory, instead of relying on visual tropes. When you first lay eyes on Gargantua… my, dat accretion disk tho. I love the production and set design. Nolan is known for using real sets and practical effects, and it looks really good on screen. The consoles and instruments feel real, and have weight, because they are. Plus, the automaton designs… yes.
If there is one thing that Nolan does extremely well, it’s his use of tension in action setpieces. There were several times when I found myself involuntary holding my breath, or whiteknuckling my armrest. In fact, after one particular intense (and perhaps wholly unbelievable, but I bought into this instance) scene, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. And whoa, did it feel warranted. The way Nolan directs chaos into order for the screen, it’s gorram art.
This brings me to Hans Zimmer’s score. It’s easily his most interesting and atmospheric work as of late. I’ve read stories that even Zimmer didn’t know the plot of the film when he started working on it, and that just boggles my mind, because I think the score completed the film perfectly. True, like Zimmer’s other work, there’s not a strong leitmotif, which I usually prefer, but it just works so well in this movie.
While much of this review is glowing, I do have my misgivings about the film. At times the dialogue felt a bit… out of the moment. For a film that feels so real, it was a bit off-putting to hear characters, scientists nonetheless, wax far into the poetic at what felt like inopportune times. While these pieces of dialogue felt at home as narrative points, they felt strangely out of character.
Also, I’m going to need another viewing to really pinpoint whose story we’re watching. Knee-jerk reaction tells me this is Cooper’s (Matthew McConaughey’s) story. But too, I feel it’s Murphy’s at times, because she’s the one with the arc, really. I guess that’s an important question for me because the ending of the film still leaves me somewhat bewildered. I think I understand it if we’re following Cooper’s story, but still it feels a tad unsatisfying after the relationship we’ve been spectator to over the course of the film.
In the end, still, this one is a must see in the theatres. IMAX if possible. I got the opportunity to see it in that 70mm format, and it is breathtaking. Interstellar is one of those films that I think will definitely carve itself out a space in the annals of Sci-Fi. (See what I did there!?!). Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out.
I call TARS HotToy.