Friday, November 7, 2014

Interstellar *** A Spaced Out Epic

Chris Nolan's long awaited Sci-Fi epic Interstellar has finally arrived and while it has moments of true wonder, it's overlong and meanders in a netherworld of spaced out ideas. With a running time approaching three hours, Interstellar blatantly tries to top 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.  I'd compare the experience of watching Interstellar to the moment you realize your favorite band's double album would've worked better as single record.

The story is set in the mid 21st century as Earth is running out of food.  History textbooks inform students the Apollo missions to the moon were a myth.  Scientists make feeble efforts to solve the food shortage.  Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, widower and former test pilot who mysteriously stumbles upon a secret NASA base. Although technological progress appears to have stopped, NASA continued to build spacecraft designed to travel the Solar System. Without revealing more, they draft Cooper to lead a mission to save the planet.

I was lucky enough to see Interstellar on an IMAX screen.  The special effects depicting space travel are quite extraordinary, very much inspired by the IMAX films about the International Space Station.  If Interstellar was simply a film about space exploration, I see unlimited potential for an amazing, even cerebral masterpiece; however, the story line about saving the Earth really weighs the film down.

Back on Earth, Cooper left his two children behind and they resent him for it. Jessica Chastain plays Cooper's daughter (who happens to be a genius).  Nolan tried to make the father-daughter relationship the emotional core of the story, but it never quite gets off the ground.  And that goes for most of the supporting characters; they are functional and predictable. McConaughey has his moments, but the flat dialogue and talkie scenes make Interstellar seem dull in comparison to Guardians of the Galaxy or Gravity - two films alive with humanity.

According to IMDB, Interstellar has been in the works for years and it shows it.  Originally Spielberg was set to direct, but he passed it along to the Nolan brothers.  At times, Interstellar feels as if three films were sandwiched into a one script. When the ending finally arrives, it's more relief than catharsis.  

Don't get me wrong, if you like Sci-Fi films, Interstellar is a must see.  I liked the underlying theme about the joy of acquiring knowledge and the excitement of discovery. I'll get behind that movie any day.  Public enthusiasm for space travel has declined after Apollo 11 landed on the moon and NASA does face an uncertain future.  Maybe this movie will inspire a new generation.  Maybe.

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