“When a man looks at the stars, he grows calm and forgets small things. They answer his questions and show him that his earth is only one of the million worlds. Hold your soul still and look upward often, and you will understand their speech. Never forget the stars.” -Frances Hodgson Burnett
It’s been close to 24 hours, and I’m still digesting everything from my opening-night IMAX screening at the SF AMC Metreon. And to think I was worried I’d doze off during the midnight showing – by the time the credits came up at the end of the movie, I glanced down at my watch and was shocked that close to three hours had passed. And I was feeling pretty awake, more awake than I’d felt in a long time.
There’s no other way to put it – Interstellar is director Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, his magnum opus. It’s an epic of massive proportions and ambitious almost to a fault, executed flawlessly with some of the most awe-inducing cinematography I’ve ever seen. This is what true movie-making is all about, and Nolan has had a huge role in keeping the magic of the movies alive, a rare feat in this day and age of half-baked sequels and CGI overuse.
Before I jump into my review, I wanted to highly recommend watching this movie in 70mm IMAX (not the fake kind), the way Nolan intended since he filmed a large chunk of the movie in the 70mm format. I promise you won’t be disappointed. There were many, many scenes where my mouth just dropped out the sheer beauty on the big screen. There’s no question about it – IMAX is the way to go for this film.
Interstellar follows a family of farmers and is set in a futuristic dystopian Earth, where dust storms rage across the crop fields and blight destroys entire harvests of food. It’s pretty apparent the human race’s time on Earth is nearing the end. The father, Cooper, is an ex-pilot and engineer who seemingly stumbles upon the biggest opportunity of his life – the chance to pilot a spaceship to distant planets in search of hospitable environments for colonization. The trip turns into an epic journey where the very concept of time is explored and challenged.
The cast was solid and Matthew McConaughey wows again as the father and spaceship captain Cooper. Other big names such as Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine round out the group nicely, contributing some very emotional performances. But I was most impressed by Mackenzie Foy, the actress who played Cooper’s young daughter. I thought she did a wonderful job showing the father-daughter bond that fuels much of the story and helped smoothly transition the role to her older self later on in the movie. Overall the acting brought a warmth to the movie that’s a departure from Nolan’s more typical calculated storylines.
If I had one criticism of the movie, it’s that the plot is very standard (at least until the final act), with dialogue that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Of course I’m nitpicking here, and I’m sure part of the reason is because we’ve already seen so many science fiction and space movies over the years that a straightforward space story needs to have a bigger hook.
Nolan addresses this issue and indeed delivers this hook – a painstaking level of detail dedicated to getting the science right. He consulted with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to make sure the depictions of space-time, relativity, and wormholes were as accurate as possible. The scenes in space are shown in dead silence and are some of the most beautiful movie shots I’ve ever seen, taking up the entire screen and filling me with wonder and awe. Watching certain scenes made me appreciate my freshman-year Astronomy class (Astro C10 with Alex Filippenko) because there were so many references to some very complicated concepts.
The biggest draw of Interstellar was the flawless cinematography, with gorgeous shots of space, space travel, a futuristic Earth, and new planets. Too often Hollywood space movies focus on the danger and coldness of space. I don’t think there’s been many movies depicting the beauty and peacefulness of space, with the exception of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And there are definitely homages (both stylistic and spoken) to 2001 in Interstellar. Hans Zimmer does it again with a soundtrack that isn’t a repeat of Inception and fits the space scenes perfectly.
Personally, I enjoyed Interstellar so much because of the larger implications from the movie. Space has always represented the final frontier of civilization and sadly it’s rarely focused-upon in modern times (recalling a similar scene in the film). Interstellar provides that spark of possibility, that what if? attitude that I believe is essential for any person to have. It also made me excited about the future of space travel, especially with all the recent talk going on about Mars colonization. We need reminders to always be looking ahead and to strive for greater things. Leave it to Christopher Nolan to create a blockbuster movie that inspires as much as it entertains.