2 hour, 49 minutes
There’s just no pleasing some people. Christopher Nolan’s latest is an ambitious sci-fi epic of just the sort that sci-fi nerds have been clamoring about for years. “Interstellar” is grand in scope, beautifully realized, and tackles big ideas without sacrificing a certain amount of action and thrills. Is it perfect? No, there are things about it that don’t work, a few plot holes here and there, and a few concepts that don’t really pan out as well as they could have, but the movie is so rich and massive in scale that these little issues are, for me anyway, unimportant. And for the majority of critics, Nolan has knocked it out of the park, almost making up for, in my opinion anyway, the over-cooked, over-blown “Dark Knight Rises.” But for those sci-fi nerds, those film-geek bloggers who have been hyping this movie for the last year, suddenly, Christopher Nolan is a hack. Suddenly “Interstellar” is three-hours of nonsensical cheese and anyone who thinks otherwise has obviously been duped. This must be the secret hell of being one of these übergeeks: if the very thing that you thought was cool suddenly gains mainstream acceptance, you must immediately decry that thing as pat and lame and not worthy of your oh-so-valuable time. To them I say, “this is the movie you wanted. If you don’t like it, why don’t you climb out of your parent’s basement and you go make the ultimate sci-fi adventure and we’ll see how far you get.” I’m sure Christopher Nolan doesn’t need me to defend him, but I’ll do it anyway.
Matthew McConaghey plays Cooper, an ex-test pilot turned farmer in the near future. Nolan wisely refrains from giving us a start-date, but it would seem that within a few generations from now, environmental disaster will have struck the earth, rendering the breadbasket of America a giant dustbowl, and seeing the majority of the few people left alive turning to farming. Crops are failing and going extinct one by one and now corn comprises the majority of the food supply. Coop, now a widower, raises his two children on a large, but ultimately failing, farm with the help of his aged father-in-law, played by John Lithgow. Coop’s world-view is science-based, and rational, a rarity in a world looking for any philosophical lifeline to help it survive. When Coop’s daughter Murph complains of hearing a poltergeist in her room, he tells her not to be scared, but rather to investigate. Investigate she does and discovers a bizarre trick of gravity that, with the help of a secret code, leads her and her father to a secret NASA base where they find Michael Caine’s Dr. Brand building a ship to the stars. For the past several decades, these scientists and astronauts, working in secret, have been working on finding a new home for the human race. Earth is done, Brand tells us. A worm hole, an inter-dimensional tunnel through space and time, has been placed by someone, potentially Murph’s poltergeist, out past Saturn, revealing twelve potentially habitable worlds for mankind to settle on. A different astronaut has been sent to each of these worlds, to personally investigate, each knowing full well that they will likely never be heard from again. Three of those astronauts have been sending back a signal and now Brand wants Coop, the greatest pilot he’s ever seen, along with Brand’s daughter and two others, to travel to the wormhole and visit as many of the three planets as possible, to assess conditions and rescue the stranded astronaut. The journey will be long, many years long, and will require periods of hyper-sleep to accomplish. Murph, at eleven, cannot understand the concept of the end of the world, but she can comprehend the loss of her father, and his leaving hits her with a blow she never fully recovers from.
The more I look back on this movie the more I enjoyed it. The acting is top-notch with Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, and Jessica Chastain rounding out an all-star cast. The visuals are stunning. I can only imagine what it must look like in IMAX, an experience we on the peninsula are yet to receive. The ideas are big, covering everything from quantum mechanics to the dimensional reality of love and how it can affect time and space. Sure, some stuff doesn’t make sense, but it’s that way in any big idea movie, if you pick hard enough. For example, if inter-dimensional beings could set up a wormhole and lead the human race through gravitational clues to find it, why couldn’t they just tell us which of the twelve planets would be best? There are other issues in the third act that stretch plausibility, but there’s also great drama on both intimate and grand scales, awesome space vistas and an adventure that stretches between galaxies. So what if not every piece lines up? Sometimes big ideas are messy, and if we want smart, grown-up science fiction in the tradition of “2001,” we’re just going to have to put up with a certain amount of implausibility. I, for one, am up for the ride. Grade: A-
“Interstellar” is rated PG-13 for adult themes, frightening situations and brief language.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.