From Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception) comes the science fiction epic Interstellar. At an unspecified point in the future, global warming has affected the Earth to the point where dust storms are a regular occurrence and the focus of humanity has moved from technology to agriculture, in order to maintain the shrinking food supply. Former NASA pilot and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) discovers a gravitational anomaly in his daughter Murph’s bedroom, which leads him to the headquarters of the, long thought decommissioned, space agency.
The NASA scientists, lead by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), have discovered a wormhole near Saturn, with leads to possibly habitable worlds. With humanity on Earth poised to become extinct within a generation, Cooper is assigned by Brand to lead a group of astronauts, including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi), Doyle (Wes Bentley), and robots TARS (Bill Irwin) and CASE (Josh Stewart), on a mission through the wormhole to finds a new home for humanity.
Over the course of his 16 year career, Christopher Nolan has delivered some of the most thought provoking films of this generation. While most mainstream audiences would know him as the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan is actually much more interesting when he goes off on his own and creates original stories. I still consider Nolan’s sophomore film Memento to be one my all-time favourite films and I was also wowed by his 2006 magician thriller The Prestige and 2010 dream world mind-twister Inception.
Interstellar is a very ambitious film for Christopher Nolan and it’s a somewhat risky one as well. With Nolan now firmly established as a mainstream director of Hollywood blockbusters, Interstellar has some very heavy science fiction concepts, particularly in the final half hour, which might lose viewers just looking for a bunch of explosions (though the film has those as well).
One aspect of Interstellar that might boggle minds is how the crew’s proximity to a black hole causes time to move differently, so while Cooper barely ages on his mission, his kids on Earth grow up, with the adult versions being played by Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck. In fact, much of the second half of the film periodically switches back to Earth, as Chastain’s Murph, now working for NASA, struggles to finish the work of Professor Brand and come up with a way to get humanity off of the planet. While not as strong as the scenes in space, these Earthbound scenes still serve an important purpose to the plot of as whole, particularly the close, yet estranged, relationship between Cooper and Murph.
As for the scenes in space, Interstellar is definitely quite visually spectacular. Christopher Nolan has continued his practice of shooting many scenes with IMAX cameras, which makes seeing the film in a proper 70mm IMAX theatre almost a necessity. Not only does Interstellar feature more scenes shot in IMAX than ever before, the film is worth seeing in the format just for the film’s room-shaking sound effects. Speaking of which, Interstellar follows the rule that there is no sound in space, which used to some interesting results.
Continuing his career reinvention, Matthew McConaughey appears in what is probably his first true science fiction film since Contact back in 1997. Michael Caine continues his role in Christopher Nolan’s films as the obligatory exposition-heavy mentor figure and he is joined by Anne Hathaway, who previously worked with Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises. There’s also a certain well-known actor, who makes an appearance at one point in the film, though I don’t want to spoil the surprise here. However, I do want to mention the robots TARS and CASE, who are probably the most surprising additions to the film. Obvious comparisons to HAL 9000 aside, these robots feature one of the most simplistic, yet unique, robot designs seen in film, with TARS’ quips contributing to much of the film’s comic relief.
In some ways, Interstellar is possibly a bit too ambitious a film for Christopher Nolan and it is very easy nitpick many aspects of the plot. However, it is also the type of heavy science fiction film that does not get made that often anymore. Despite it’s flaws, I very much enjoyed Interstellar and I look forward to seeing what Christopher Nolan has up his sleeve for his next project.9 | REALLY LIKED IT