Interstellar (2014): A Brave New World?

When I first heard about Interstellar, I was a bit concerned that Christopher Nolan’s so identifiable style of film would not work in a sci-fi epic. In some ways my fears were realised, but that does not stop Interstellar delivering the sort of mind-bending science-fiction and manipulation of logic that we have come to love about the director of Memento and Inception. His films often cause debate and ambivalence, with its testing of logic and playing with theories not yet confirmed. Interstellar is no exception, as it generates massive ripples through not just the film industry, but the scientific field as well.

Based on theoretical physicist Kip Thorne’s ideas, Nolan has intentionally created a film that will inevitably ask as many questions as it answers. The film begins with mankind’s struggle for survival amidst a plague of blight that is destroying our agriculture. We are placed without background into the world of pilot-turned-farmer Cooper, played by Matthew Mcconaughey, who is pulled, through strange circumstances, into a plot by NASA to save humankind. With the discovery of a black hole at the far end of our solar system, NASA has put all their hopes in sending several astronauts through the hole, as reconnaissance to find a habitable planet. The origin of the hole is under debate, and is undoubtedly man-made, posing questions regarding the possibility of an omnipresence that plots to assist us in saving ourselves. There are two plans, one involving the hope of saving the people of Earth, the other simply saving humanity itself.


As I had recently watched Brian Cox’s Human Universe, I felt I was fairly up to scratch on general relativity, or as close as I get to understanding physics even in the slightest. But even so, dealing with the science in Interstellar is a taxing process. This has left some viewers scratching their heads, or even shaking them, as their own ideas on how space and time work is thrown into doubt. But then Inception, on its first viewing was a difficult pill to swallow, and I get a feeling that once the plot sinks in after seeing it again, it may mean an opening up to the real treats in store. Visually it is stunning, and its realism makes it even more important that the science sticks.

Alas, all these heavy, scientific story elements come at a price, with most of the dialogue being used for the inevitable plot exposition. This would normally be ok considering the film is three hours long, but in fact Nolan uses so much on screen energy with the slightly over-egged daughter-father relationship element, that there is a surprising lack of actual character development. The whole film does not feel watertight or neat, and has a lack of really detailed characters.

There is loads that I love about the film. The ideas, the concepts, the visuals, not to mention a surprising turn from Matt Damon as Dr.Mann (I didn’t even realise he was in it). But the film feels overall slightly disappointing considering how grand and epic it could have been. But then I expected it. Nolan likes to create a race-against-time feel to the journey at the end of the film, even when it clearly doesn’t suit. As much as 2001 was a laboured space ballad, at least it emphasised the human journey at the end, which stuck with so many movie-goers for decades to come. I felt the choice to edit between Earth and Cooper at the end just slightly spoilt it for me, but it is still a mind-bending film that I already want to see again, if only to get my head around it.

Shapstik Verdict: Most reviewers it seems will not commit to saying Interstellar is a poor film, as it displays such a thought provoking, original and ambitious plot. On the other hand, most are reluctant to go beyond saying the film is really good either, as Interstellar is undeniably uneven, littered with unanswered questions and is arguably wasteful in its distribution of film elements. Interstellar can be seen as epic and thought-provoking, whilst cynics would say it is simply Inception in space without the fun. Either way Nolan’s new movie has to be seen, but be prepared for slight disappointment compared to his better films. 7/10

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