At The Movies: Interstellar

You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to enjoy “Interstellar,” but it would probably make it easier to understand it.

Director Christopher Nolan’s latest effort is a wildly ambitious science fiction epic that makes his previous film “Inception” look like it has all the depth of “Sharknado.”

Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former pilot and engineer living on a dying, dust-bowl of an Earth where exploration and scientific inquiry have become a thing of the past. All that matters now is farming and the struggle to stay alive.

interstellar3Cooper lives with his father (John Lithgow), son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Tom’s future as a farmer has already been decided for him but Murph is an eccentric genius. She’s convinced ghosts are talking to her.

After a dust storm leaves marks on the floor, Cooper concludes it’s not ghosts but gravity that is trying to contact them. He translates the dust marks as coordinates which lead him and Murph to a secret NASA installation run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine).

It turns out that while the world has been going to hell in a handbasket, NASA has been looking for a replacement. While there are no usable planets in our own solar system, a wormhole has conveniently appeared outside Saturn that holds the promise of habitable planets on the other side.

Three teams have already been sent to explore potential new-Earths. Now the professor wants Cooper to fly a mission with his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), a box-like robot and a few expendable scientists to check in on their progress.

 

“Interstellar” is as densely plotted, complex and compelling as — well — any other Christopher Nolan film. It’s overlong (almost three hours) but never boring. It’s beautiful to look at — not just the space scenes but also the massive corn fields and dust storms back on Earth.  The cast — which includes Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck as older versions of Murph and Tom — deliver emotionally charged performances. There is a lot to think about, talk about and digest afterwards.

It’s not without its flaws. Sci-fi movies often fail to nail the landing and that’s also true here. I won’t go into what happens but it bent my suspension of disbelief well beyond three dimensions.

The other problem I had concerned Hans Zimmer’s score, which played way too loud and oppressive at times during the IMAX screening I attended. It was so bad it occasionally drowned out the dialogue. Maybe that was a problem of the theater or IMAX or just my old ears, but it really got tiresome.

Overall, though, Nolan should be applauded for another ambitious effort. With “Intersellar” the good far outweighs the bad.

 

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