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Interstellar—Movie Review

nullYou’ve got to give Christopher Nolan credit for tackling big
ideas, as he does in Interstellar, and
doing it in a big way. I saw the film in 70mm IMAX and there are moments that
are positively enthralling. By choosing the charismatic Matthew McConaughey as
his everyman, Nolan gives us someone we can relate to—and pull for—as he puts
himself on the line and sacrifices the thing that means the most to him, his
family, for the greater good.

Yet McConaughey is no ordinary guy: although we meet him as
a Midwestern farmer and single dad, he’s a trained engineer and former astronaut.
He has a gift for flying and the experience to lead a bold expedition to find a
habitable planet outside of our galaxy. As scientist Michael Caine tells him,
there is no hope of survival on earth: the only solution is to find a new home.
To do so, McConaughey must leave behind his father, son, and the sensitive,
highly intuitive daughter with whom he has a special connection. 

null

This sprawling, ambitious nearly-three-hour film deals with
nothing less than the survival of mankind, the power of love, and the Theory of
Relativity! I can’t pretend to understand the scientific discussions that pepper
the screenplay; much of the jargon-heavy dialogue is just gobbledygook to me,
although it’s delivered with grave conviction.

What I find intriguing is that Nolan and his screenwriting
partner (and brother) Jonathan embrace both sides of the human condition. They
measure brilliance and knowledge against the raw power of emotions, and it’s
interesting to see what side wins out. Nolan is not a warm filmmaker, but Anne
Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and especially his leading man counterbalance that
coolness in their performances. McConaughey has never shed as many tears as he
does in this film.

Fortunately, given the film’s extreme length, it’s never
dull, but it does challenge the viewer as it shifts from one story path to
another. There are some real surprises along the way, not all of them welcome.
And, of course, the film is deadly serious: Nolan wouldn’t have it any other
way.

The visual effects are majestically impressive, although
there are moments that I found all-too-reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I suppose that’s
unavoidable, but it did take me out of the movie, disrupting the immersive
experience Nolan is striving to achieve. Hans Zimmer’s thunderous music does
the job it’s supposed to do, but the director also makes canny use of silence.

null

When it was over, I came away from the film with mixed feelings
of admiration and frustration. Interstellar
aims high (no pun intended) and offers an adult approach to science-fiction on
a grand scale. Then, when you least expect it, the script veers into soap opera
and melodrama, invoking trite and mediocre sci-fi movies from years past. This
threatens to tear down everything Nolan has worked so hard to build up.

I wanted to be blown away, but I wasn’t. I enjoyed watching
the picture, with its masterful cinematography and production design, and I
always like seeing good actors at work, including John Lithgow as the hero’s
father. Mackenzie Foy gives an especially impressive performance as McConaughey’s
adolescent daughter. But Interstellar is
not this generation’s 2001.

Incidentally, I was delighted to be able to see the film at
the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, but dismayed that so much of the
dialogue was unintelligible, in scenes both quiet and loud. I don’t know if
this was a matter of acoustics or sound mixing, but it was maddening, to say
the least.

 

         

                   

           

         

 

14 comments

  1. Amelia Griggs says:

    I just saw Interstellar and I too had mixed feeling of admiration and frustration because of some confusing parts. I began researching it and then wrote an article including answers to questions that I found. Here is my take on the movie, please let me know how you like my review and commentary: hub.me/aj4Lh

  2. Marco De Luca says:

    I first went to see the movie, then did read this and I must say, that’s straight to the Point.

  3. jd says:

    i must say, i agree with your opinion, while i found the movie to be majestic in scale, the different surprises the film gives us are not at all welcome as the screenwriter tries to tie up the plot ie – the ghost in Murphy’s bedroom could have been left open to speculation, but Nolan ruined it by giving us and answer and thus giving us very little to ponder over

  4. Peter says:

    I disagree about the soap opera part. The power and value of love is one of the themes in the movie, and its importance in how the plot is resolved was very relevant.

  5. gary says:

    The sound was a problem in the mx and thus in all theaters. Rumor has it Nolan intended it that way stating that in real life external noise intrudes on our ability to hear everything…normal life driving through corn fields and outer space? No excuse. I know a few projectionists who figured out how to fix it and posted it in film-tech site for other projectionists. But I also heard Paramount was going to make needed changes because bad word-of-mouth doesn’t help their bottom line.

  6. GoGo says:

    The Chinese isn’t a theater… it’s a cavern. The accoustics have always been terrible IMHO. Dialogue often sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. "Wah wah wah."

  7. Joshua Strong says:

    If you go into a movie looking for flaws, you’re going to find a lot of them. If you go into a movie with a preconceived notion of what is supposed to be, or worst.. what you want it to be, best believe that you’re going to very dissapointed. Nolan never set out to make this generation’s 2001, he just simply set out to make a great movie. This review to me sounds like the reviewer, came in hoping to see the next 2001, which is it not and not what Interstellar intends. I thought the job of a critic was to judge a piece of art for what it was, not what they wanted a piece of art to be.

  8. Now I'm Justified says:

    Maltins a fop. Typical of old-school reviewers.

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  10. Jeffrey says:

    I can’t help but feel disappointed, not at this film but at this review. It seems to me that the smallest deviation from originality (i.e. the film’s visual effects) constituted a dealbreaker in Mr. Maltin’s eyes and from there on out his criticism of the film stiffened. And yes, this review does misstate John Lithgow’s role.

  11. Kate says:

    John Lithgow played McConaughey’s dead wife’s father, not his own father.

  12. Norm says:

    Another film with apocalyptic consequences , I guess they didn’t see the elction results, or maybe they did…either way somehow being unintelligible could be a blessing…

  13. mike schlesinger says:

    Re the acoustics: I’ve heard from others that the sound at the Chinese was indeed dreadful, and those who resaw the film in another venue said the dialogue there was perfectly clear. Hopefully the Chinese has recalibrated their sound by now.

  14. Oscar Arcos says:

    how much of the producers "opinions" influenced in the final cut?

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