Saturday, 8 November 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Christopher Nolan returns with another ambitious film with a big budget (he doesn't do 'small' anymore), though it is worth noting that Spielberg was originally attached to direct at one point.

'Interstellar' mostly resembles a mix between '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'Contact', with other films sprinkled around it. In it, Matthew McConaughey (who does appear in 'Contact') plays ex-pilot and engineer Cooper. He lives on a future Earth where food is scarce and there are Dust Bowl-like conditions. After a while, he finds a gravitational anomaly in his daughter's room which provides him with co-ordinates to a secret NASA facility where Michael Caine explains there isn't much time left for the Earth and that humanity must search elsewhere. He eventually convinces Cooper to take the trip, along with Anne Hathaway and two expendables, to a wormhole that has appeared by Saturn which will lead them to another galaxy with potentially habitable planets.

The main reason I had any interest in this film was because it was directed by Christopher Nolan and that is really about it. Apart from a nice teaser trailer, the marketing did little to convincingly sell me the film and I became less enthused about seeing it. And then seeing the less-than-stellar reviews (the film has had a mixed reaction) didn't help, either. Indeed, the film is a flawed film. But what one isn't?

I think that each individual's like or dislike of the film is based on whether or no they can buy into the emotional content of the film. It's a long (169 minutes) film, and it isn't an intense action movie. So there may be, for most, some need to get invested in it to make it easier to sit through. Some might see it as a good-looking but ultimately empty film. Some might see it as cheesy and sentimental. And some might really get into what they see. Among other options. You see, because 'Interstellar' banks a lot on its emotional content, the film can't quite work if the audience don't accept that part (whereas something like '2001' works fine without any of that stuff - it has a different set-up).

Where do I fit in? What's my opinion on the film? Well... I... uh... I liked it. I was never once bored nor did it feel like the near-three-hour runtime it is supposed to be.

The film does have it's cheesy/sentimental moments scattered throughout it, but I felt they were not as intrusive/alienating/nauseating as they could have been. Something that probably wouldn't have been the case with Spielberg who often gets his films to OD on sentimentality. I found enough in the emotional content of the film that worked (especially since there is stuff to do with the fast passage of time and watching people live out their lives quickly - there are a couple of nice scenes relating to that, even if they're somewhat depressing). The cast help this along. They do their jobs decently (McConaughey holds the film well), even if they have definitely done better in the past (Anne Hathaway disappointed me, especially since she was really good in Nolan's 'The Dark Knight Rises'). I'll be forgiving, though, considering some of the lines they're given have a cheesy stench to them.

On a technical level, the film typically impresses. It may not have the same imagination/innovation/ambition as 'Inception', but there is still plenty to appreciate. It would have been nice to see more worlds, but I won't complain about that too much. The ones you see are interesting enough and the space things look pretty. It's all accompanied by a Koyaanisqatsi-like score from Hans Zimmer which I liked. Again, that's another element of the film some people didn't like but I thought the score went quite well with the film (besides, it is reminiscent of Philip which is fine by me).

The film did, for me, have a couple of sound issues here and there. Mostly, these were bits where it was hard to make out exactly what someone was saying, though it would usually be clarified by another character soon after. Not a big issue, but a little irritating.

There are also moments in 'Interstellar' where it trips over itself or can't quite reach for what it is aiming for. They are kind of noticeable as you feel the film try something and not achieve it. They can throw all the science mumbo (the science talk may be seen as a problem to some as it does create a lot of exposition) at it and it won't cover up the gaps. I don't quite know how to describe exactly why some of these scenes/moments don't quite work. It's more that you just notice it and it doesn't sit right. The film sets something up only to have it fall short or come off in an overly simplistic manner. Still, these bumps didn't deter me from the film.

I came out of the cinema feeling satisfied with what I'd seen. For starters, I wasn't expecting that to be the case. But it's also because, niggles aside (and there are a lot of niggles), 'Interstellar' came together in a way that appealed to and entertained me. It steered clear of the sort of narrative I was fearing it might tread down and provided something that kept me engaged.

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