“Interstellar” is quite possibly Christopher Nolan’s worst movie, and yet within its three hour long run time it has some of the best moments of cinema I have ever seen. I’d been looking forward to this film for over a year, because like most people I’ve loved every Christopher Nolan movie I’ve seen (excluding “Man of Steel” because Nolan wasn’t directing, and “Following” because sadly I haven’t seen that movie). For the first two and a half hours I was like a child, staring in awe at the beautiful recreation of space Nolan had created, and preparing myself for a very positive review. “Interstellar” was a visual feast attacking my senses and filling my mind with ideas of time relativity and intergalactic travel, and I loved the moments which felt as though they were grounded in some form of reality, or based upon a strong scientific world-view. However, the ending completely ruined “Interstellar” for me, and has left me with an extremely bitter taste in my mouth.
I’m still disappointed that Nolan didn’t just cut the ending out, because to me it took the emotion from the rest of the film and threw it out of the window, with a laughable take on humanity’s place in this vast and powerful universe. There was a far better, more well-suited ending for the film, an ending which was in fact found within the movie itself. I believe that the last 20-30 minutes of this film could’ve easily been omitted, and there would’ve been a believable and worthy ending right there. If I ever watch “Interstellar” again I will know when to change the channel.
The story in “Interstellar” is a bit wacky from the start, with no real explanation for why the earth has suddenly become inhabitable, and no background information on the characters. Nevertheless, the audience can buy into the world and support the premise, because on screen you have a blockbuster powerhouse known as Matthew McConaughey, who right now is one of the most popular and best actors around. You also have one of the most revered filmmakers in the world masterminding the film’s direction, and an all-star supporting cast including Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, so it’s very easy to relax at the start when you have niggling suspicions that things aren’t going to be quite as amazing as you’d want them to be.
“Interstellar” revolves around Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a wise-cracking farmer who has become dissatisfied with his mundane existence, attempting to survive in a world of dwindling resources and dying crops. His stock is slowly depleting due to the state of the world he finds himself in, and dust is infecting the lungs of the next generation, so that his children could be a part of the last generation on Earth. It isn’t the ideal existence, and it’s understandable that Cooper doesn’t feel that he has much purpose on Earth, because although his job is an important one given the dying planet, it is one which is ultimately futile. He has an obligation to his children to keep them safe, and clearly there is purpose there, but that overlaps with his goals for going into space to save humanity!
By staying with his children he would provide them with valuable emotional support, but by saving the planet he can give them a real future, a continued life on Earth or another viable planet. So you can understand why Cooper eventually goes into space. When he does, the film becomes incredibly interesting and entertaining, as Cooper and his companions travel through a wormhole in order to find a planet which could be congenial to human survival. They must make difficult decisions in order to save as much time as they can in space (given ideas of time presented in the film, which suggest that time can differ greatly in different regions of space – the group can spend one hour of their time on a certain planet, but this will cost them nine years back on Earth), so that Cooper can see his children again, and Amelia (Anne Hathaway) can see her father one more time before he dies.
Parts of the movie were fascinating and warranted further explanation. (SPOILER ALERT) For example, a crucial plot point in the film is that there are twelve explorers who have ventured through the wormhole, potentially giving their lives, to find a planet which could facilitate human life. This drives the film, as Cooper and his crew attempt to follow the remaining signals which are still being sent by the explorers, in order to discover the best possible world and begin work on a colony on that planet. The exploits of these explorers are potentially more exciting than Cooper’s struggle to save his children, and could provide just as much of an emotional punch, as each of these brave astronauts presumably gave up their futures to save the rest of the world, leaving their families and friends behind. The moments when the group explore these planets are where this movie really shines, and more time should’ve been spent on developing the planets and the characters on them. I would’ve liked to know more of Miller, who was never found on the first planet visited, and even Mann (Matt Damon) could’ve done with a bit more time being developed as a real person, rather than just a character who was convenient for moving the plot forward.
The quiet moments in which the human passengers are at the mercy of space are thrilling, and they force you to think of the universe which is moving along right beside you, a world which you are in fact a part of. Watching how beautiful Nolan’s vision of space is really makes you think about how you view the real world, because we do forget that we are a part of such an amazing universe. Talk of wormholes, black holes and even other planets belong to science fiction, they are often used to tell stories of a grand nature like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Star Trek”, but they exist. They are here hurtling around the vast emptiness of space and so are we.
The realism Nolan brings with the special effects in this movie, and the emotional connection he creates between the characters, keep you grounded in the real world, but the story still feels as though it is as far from genuine possibility as anything could possibly be. You really feel that these people are at the mercy of something far greater than themselves, and you understand our own insignificance and lack of control over the larger forces in the universe. It is these moments where “Interstellar” is as beautiful and glorious a piece of cinema as anything I have ever seen.
The graphics in this movie were immaculate, and they added to a sense of realism which the emotion of the leading actors had already brought. It’s amazing to think that people actually created the world you were seeing around Cooper and Amelia. These character’s lives and the whole universe on display comes directly from the mind of Christopher Nolan, and that is truly incredible. Nolan can go from creating a bleak and sinister Gotham grounded in reality, and then take his audience into a fantastical dream world in “Inception”, or into space for “Insterstellar”. He deserves praise for both his ambition and his creativity, even though this film wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped.
There were some incredibly interesting and moving pieces of dialogue, for example, when Cooper explained to Murph (Mackenzie Foy) that when people become parents they become memories for their children, and his explanation that he couldn’t be that, that he was still his own man. It was a solemn way of declaring that he was effectively abandoning his child, but also a stunning way to explain that he knew his decision was at least in some sense wrong. Moments like this are when this movie is genuinely brilliant, and they reel the audience in at just the right time, as Cooper is about to venture into the unknown and risk his life for humanity. You become incredibly invested in the story and the characters, and this keeps you interested during scenes which could’ve seemed slightly ridiculous.
The performances were fantastic for the most part, and as usual McConaughey was brilliant. He portrayed a magnificent emotional performance, bringing some members of the audience to tears (including the person I went to the cinema with). He had great chemistry with Mackenzie Foy, and I really bought into their relationship in the early parts of the movie. Their last interaction was genuinely moving, even if it was seen on the trailer. McConaughey really showed the inner struggle of a character leaving his family behind, knowing he may never see them again, and his sacrifice for the good of humanity was utterly heroic. He brought a sense of understanding and understated sorrow to the role, and I am probably his biggest fan right now.
The supporting cast were impressive, but that was to be expected due to the calibre of actors in the roles. Anne Hathaway and Matt Damon stole a couple of scenes from McConaughey, and I enjoyed the movie the most when Damon was on screen. I am aware that his performance has been slightly polarising, but I really liked it. He showed some of the stupidity and insanity you’d expect from a man who had been alone on an alien planet, not knowing whether or not he would see another person ever again, and he was extremely weird at certain points, which I found quite entertaining.
Hans Zimmer’s score was tremendous as always, and it fit the film perfectly. It set the tempo for exciting scenes as the team explored the vastness of space, but the movie still knew when silence was key, for example, as doors opened to reveal the empty vacuum of space, and the sound emptied into that vacuum along with everything else. I’ve actually seen people say that the score was distracting or frustrating, but I just think those people weren’t buying into the wonder and beauty of it all, because the score fit that fantastically.
I’ve also seen reviews that said that the film was too complicated, or that they didn’t understand some of the dialogue, but there isn’t a lot going on at all. You don’t have to be some sort of astrophysicist to understand the movie, you don’t even need a science GCSE, it’s all pretty simple. The only bits that don’t make sense are the parts towards the end which genuinely don’t have a place in the movie, and those scenes are needed for those people out there who are desperate for resolution in their films. It’s those kinds of people that force great directors like Nolan to make a conclusive ending to a film which never needed one, so if you are on that level please don’t complain about how complicated the story was (especially because it just wasn’t), because you ruin movies for the rest of us. I felt that things were actually over-explained to pander towards a larger audience; the concepts at play weren’t overly important, and everything the audience needed to know was repeated multiple times to reinforce the key ideas.
For a long period of the movie I thought that Nolan had pulled it off again, after blowing all other “Batman” films out of the water with his “Dark Knight Series”, he outdid “The Illusionist” with “The Prestige”, which was fantastic, and he made the amnesia storyline interesting with “Memento”. He’s a brilliant director and an all round genius, but he really jumped the shark with this one. He still destroyed “Gravity”, creating a greater spectacle and utilising a more ambitious story, but much like that film, its ending let it down. His vision was commendable for the majority of the movie, and I accept that he was trying to give a conclusion to a wacky and extremely challenging story, offering closure and performing a fan service. However, the ending was a catastrophe.
When the whole audience bursts into laughter towards the end of the movie you know that something has gone array, and I have to step in and say ‘why?’ Why would you shoot yourself in the foot by ending a three hour long, epic piece of cinema, with what was complete and utter garbage? Perhaps Nolan would say that we just don’t know what would happen in the scenario, and his interpretation of events is therefore as credible as anyone else’s, but I won’t buy that.
(SPOILER ALERT) The movie should’ve ended when Cooper went through the black hole, once more into the unknown, facing death with power and glory as Professor Brand (Michael Caine) kept telling us from the start! Instead Nolan attempted to explain what would happen if a person ventured into the darkness, into a place where no man has gone before, and it just didn’t work. I appreciate that he tried it, but you can’t just say ‘I want my story to have a happy ending, so I’m going to send my leading man to a place which no one knows anything about and let him sort things out. No one can tell me I’m wrong because no one knows what would happen’. That’s just a complete and utter cop-out!
SPOILER ALERT – The remainder of this review contains spoilers for key scenes in “Interstellar”.
The ending wasn’t just ridiculous, far-fetched and downright stupid, but it was also extremely strange. I could’ve just about accepted that Cooper could alter the past through a tesseract (a four-dimensional analogue of a cube) found in the centre of a black hole, solving all the world’s problems through the transcendent nature of gravity and love crossing all dimensions (yes that is the plot when you break it down!), if Cooper had then died. However, the fact that he survived that was a disgrace! As I’ve said many times about many different films, there are certain things you just can’t live through and carry on as normal, and this is definitely one of them!
This idiocy was then followed by a final reunion between Murph and Cooper. In this scene Murph was about to die at a very old age, and Cooper arrived just in time to say his goodbyes. But that was just cringe-worthy to the extreme, and both character’s reactions were completely out of step with their personalities as established in the rest of the movie. Neither character seemed to care all that much about their reunion, even though the whole film had played on the relationship between these two people, and we had seen on numerous occasions that the most important thing in Cooper’s life was Murph. This scene ruined the film for me even more so than the scene in which Cooper made his way into the black hole, because it destroyed the memory of the emotional scenes in the rest of the movie.
The biggest problem with the ending of “Interstellar” was that nothing was explained. I’m still unclear about how Murph realised that the fact that her watch was broken meant that her father was sending her a message in Morse code from another dimension; are we seriously supposed to lay back and take it as Christopher Nolan attempts to force that down our throats? Sit down and ask yourself how this sounds now that I’ve articulated it properly, and ask if you can take yourself seriously if you actually enjoyed the last third of the movie. The ending of a film is, in my opinion, the most important part, it validates the rest of the movie and is supposed to provide some sort of interesting closure to a story you have been emotionally invested in, not tarnish everything which comes before it. If you’re making a nice dinner for two hours, making sure that the flavours are balanced and each new ingredient works with the rest of the dish, but then spend the next hour slowly pouring an obscene amount of salt into the pot, it won’t be a nice dinner by the end of the three hours! So why doesn’t the same apply to a movie?
Once you’ve seen the ending of this film, you’ve pushed the detonator, and you begin to think of all the other plot holes the movie has. Each scene topples down from top to bottom, and suddenly you’re left with the memory of a far from perfect experience. The character behaviour in the movie is downright weird at times, and you start to question whether or not these characters are in any way believable. Professor Brand offers Cooper the chance to fly a spacecraft which he has been working on for a very long time, for a mission which will determine the future of the human race, even though he had no intention of offering the position to Cooper just hours before. This crucial mission was going to take place anyway without Cooper! Would a man put his life’s work in jeapordy like this because he knows what Cooper has done in the past? Wouldn’t he want to check that Cooper could still do the job?
Brand also sends his daughter (Amelia) into space, having lied to her about his life’s work, and withholding the fact that she will never see him again!
Cooper accepts the chance of going into space on a life-threatening journey, at the expense of a life with his children, even though he knows that his place on the shuttle isn’t integral to the mission, and he has a fine life back home. Yes the soil is becoming infertile and the world is dying, but he has a family that love him, and there’s every chance that the mission could succeed without him. I know he wants to explore and believes that the human race wasn’t meant to die on earth, but it’s clear that Cooper loves his family more than anything, and that is integral to the emotion which lies behind the scenes in space, so I don’t believe for a second that he would abandon them even if he did think he could save them.
Murph’s behaviour was also extremely odd, because although she would resent her dad for leaving her, of course she would, she had no right to hold it against him for decades! When Cooper is leaving she tries to reconcile with him unsuccessfully, just as he drives away into the dust-filled distance (which I will admit was heart-breaking). This suggests that she understood what her father was doing, so if I understand human behaviour in even the loosest of ways, I would expect that she would want to tell him this at the first given opportunity. Yet she refuses to communicate with her father when given the opportunity, she gives him the cold shoulder for trying to save the planet on which she still lives! I respect her frustration but that’s just downright irrational!
“Interstellar” is like a dysfunctional firework. It flies into the air with beauty and promise, exciting its audience with wonder and awe, and then at the last moment it crashes back down to earth in a blaze of shame and disillusion, exploding on impact, destroying the anticipation it had built and replacing it with anger and confusion. This film promises to be so much more than it actually is, but it never delivers. For a considerable chunk of its run time “Interstellar” deceives the audience with fantastic special effects and an ambitious story, but as the ending leaves you baffled and bemused, the dominoes start to fall. The characters don’t respond to their situations in believable and organic ways, and the story takes you to a ridiculous and nonsensical place. Overall this film is a mess trying to be an abstract work of art, and I will not buy into it.