Launching Into Deep Space and Deeper Ideas

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

INTERSTELLAR“Thinking big” is something that is a most welcome feature of most Christopher Nolan’s films.

With his original films, such as “Inception” and “Memento,” and his adaptations, such as his “Dark Knight” trilogy, he’s able to weave in grand ideas that can only come from a true filmmaker. It’s still amazing how he went from a complex indie thriller to treating us to uncommonly complex blockbusters that encourage the viewer to be in deep thought throughout the experience, while still getting a terrific sense of enjoyment out of them.

In his sci-fi epic, “Interstellar,” he provides a detailed exploration of time and space. Although the human story could have used some more work, there isn’t any denying the visual and intellectual ambitiousness of this movie.

In the near future, humanity is no longer able to inhabit the earth. Crops are ruined by blight, dust storms frequent the land, and mankind has reverted to an agricultural society. When former NASA test pilot-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is led to a secret NASA facility by mysterious coordinates, he meets Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway).

They reveal to Cooper a plan for him, Amelia and two other individuals to travel through a wormhole that has been discovered to be orbiting Saturn, which will bring them to a new galaxy in which there are a few planets that could possibly sustain human life. With time running out, they will have to travel to these planets to find out which one provides the best chance for humanity.

Matthew McConaughey has showcased his surprising acting abilities in recent smaller films, such as last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club,” and now shows that he has the talent to carry a film as big as this. Although it’s the type of role that several other actors could have played, it’s fun to see him headline an epic such as this, especially because of his growing commitment to reputable acting.

Although the other cast members, such as Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine, get a dramatic moment here and there, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay mostly requires them to deliver exposition. McConaughey has to do exposition as well, but at least he gets a sort-of emotional arc with his young daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy).

Yes, I do understand that a good amount of explanation is necessary, especially given the significant scientific ideas that this film tackles, and everyone does whatever they can with the material they’re given; I’m just saying that the Nolans could have added a little more scope to the human story.

The visuals are the true highlight of the film, and the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema gloriously frames the grandeur and vastness of outer space, so much so that this movie should be seen on the biggest screen possible, preferably IMAX. One image out of many that terrifically captures the starlit abyss is when we see the main spacecraft merely viewed as a moving white dot flying past the gargantuan planet of Saturn.

Many people have probably heard “Interstellar” being compared to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” While both films have considerable differences in their actual stories, it’s the imagery of the two films that are equal in their impressiveness.

“2001” particularly comes to mind when the crew travels through the wormhole, and when Cooper passes the event horizon in the film’s last half hour. With their strange beauty, these sequences call to mind the famous scene of Dr. David Bowman traveling through the vortex of colored light in “2001.”

The Nolans’ screenplay finds most of its strength in its presentation of considerable scientific ideas. It’s important to pay close attention during the film, especially in the second half because there’s a lot that’s thrown at you. It can get pretty overwhelming at times with the dialogues concerning time and space, but that’s a positive thing because of how much it gets you invested in the ideas that are encouraging this space exploration.

With how much the film has to offer in terms of making you think, you walk out of the movie feeling the same as you probably did after watching “Inception” or “Memento” for the first time. After all, many of the best movie experiences are the ones that encourage you to use your head.

Director Christopher Nolan has one of the finest creative abilities for visuals in modern filmmaking, but what would have made this film even better is if he added more dramatic depth to his characters in order make the emotional stakes more present in the larger scope of the story.

He always assembles very talented performers, and he’s been able to make many of his films emotionally involving for his characters in the past, but he has to make sure to keep that ability consistent. If he can always remember to do that, then I’ll always look forward to his upcoming films.

Final grade: B