INTERSTELLAR (2014, Christopher Nolan)
“‘Save the planet!’ Save the planet? The planet is fine. People are fucked.” — George Carlin
Nolan’s huge, sloppy, loud, dramatically- and emotionally-heavy deep-space epic isn’t about aliens or mysticism; it’s about how humans can save themselves: the lengths we’ll go to (or have to go to) in order to sustain the species. But we’re a crude species; we’re self-interested, violent, argumentative, contentious, and stubborn. Or, more accurately, Americans and Brits are. So is it worth it?
Ever the bleak optimist (cf. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), Nolan thinks it is. So he spends a lot of time with characters explaining how. A lot of well-researched physics-speak has people jabbering on about fifth dimensions, wormholes, black holes, time loops, relativity, and gravity. By the third hour I thought I was watching the most expensive TED Talk ever filmed. No science seminar, no matter how accurate, approaches the immediate appeal of human relationships, and when Nolan casts aside his nerd chatter in favor of the emotion, this thing works wonders. But every time you get choked up by a gorgeous exploration of the sadness a parent feels when his children grow up too fast, the next moment brings a hokey, cornball save-the-world scenario involving binary or morse code.
Visually, INTERSTELLAR manages to be awe-inspiring without being poetic. It’s mechanical, not graceful. The rhythms are stuttered and punctuated, while every crack and screw is painted over by a slathering of musical score. Seen in 70mm IMAX, it’s a towering spectacle but not a mysterious one. Familiar, not frightening. And while it’s intellectually rigorous it is not philosophically profound. I like the ambition; I’m just not so sure I love the product.