Interstellar ★★★

Prestige science fiction films with credible (if speculative) theoretical foundations, strong visuals and expansive soundtracks don't come around all that often. Like space travel, they cost a fair bit of cash and they're not really open to the masses, which is why there's probably only three that fit the bill. I count 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact and, because we're here, Interstellar. For the record, Gravity doesn't make the list because of its paucity of ideas, speculative or otherwise.

Needless to say, Kubrick's film is the benchmark here. It's an obvious point but one that should be made in the face of Interstellar, since many are eager (perhaps over eager) to make the comparison, Christopher Nolan included.

To that end he's crammed Interstellar with the pre-requisite ingredients. The visuals are both precise and spectacular (props to cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema), the music sufficiently ear shattering (qualified props to Hans Zimmer) and the science is suitably scientific - for the record, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was the brainbox behind this one and the inspiration for the last (Thorne's wormhole theories were the gestation of Carl Sagan's novel that eventually became Contact). Unfortunately, the similarities between the two films don't go much deeper. In fact, step off the dusty surface and into each film's swirling concepts and they diverge considerably.

I'm a lover of open-ended cinema, where characters act in silence and we're left to guess at their motivation, hence my love of Kubrick. Nolan and his co-writer, brother Jonathan Nolan, are not. They are intent on explaining their film, perhaps because they need to be more conscious of such things in today's demographically-minded market. Interstellar plays out in discrete, digestible acts, each prefaced by infuriatingly descriptive exposition. They have their characters tell us what they are going to do, do it, then tell us what they've done. Repeatedly. To the point that after they've said it the first time, you could easily walk out of the cinema, refill your jumbo sized soft drink and still not lose the plot, despite its theoretical convolutions.

Space travel, wormholes and time-shifting black holes provide the backdrop for the ostensibly human drama, adequately related by Hathaway, Caine, Chastain, Affleck (the younger) and McConaughey, but there's very little onscreen to actually care about, at least not after the heavily telescoped twist. The fact is, the Nolans spend so much time explaining what's going on that they leave their film dryer than the dust bowl in which it opens and no amount of "love" can breathe actual life into it.

Basically, Nolan's gone for profound and come up with elevated popcorn flick. It's big. It's loud. It's ideasy. It's forgettable.

Stanley, they just don't make them like they used to.

Michael liked this review