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‘Interstellar’ makes worthy attempt, but goes overboard with grandiose concepts

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The new Hollywood blockbuster “Interstellar” presents a lot of big ideas about outer space and our universe, which on one hand seems to make it a lush film with lots of depth.

But, on the other hand, it also keeps the movie from reaching that poignant message it attempts to convey.

Matthew McConaughey stars in Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar."
Matthew McConaughey stars in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.”

And now, you’re probably thinking, ‘But Jake, how do big ideas bog down a movie?’

‘Aren’t you always saying that movies need more intelligence and less spectacle? And now you’re saying this, what do you mean?’

Yes, I still do believe that Hollywood has too much spectacle and not enough ideas. However, the ideas in “Interstellar” get too esoteric.

If you haven’t heard much about the movie, “Interstellar” stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine and John Lithgow, among others.

It follows Cooper in the near future when Earth is nearing extinction. Cooper is recruited on a mission by NASA, which is forced into seclusion because people on Earth have been led to believe that all of the accomplishments of the once-great administration were all a lie to take down the Soviet Union.

Anyhow, Cooper and Brand (a fellow scientist at NASA, portrayed by Hathaway)’s mission is to find a wormhole in Saturn and travel across the galaxy to find a suitable planet to either lead the people on Earth to, or start a new civilization in what’s known as “Plan B.”

If you’ve yet to see it, the following few paragraphs are full of spoilers.

The idea of wormholes, black holes and the inter-dimensional time-space continuum are touched upon in an understandable way. However, it lost me near the end of the film when we find out Cooper can somehow travel back in time and tell his daughter about his plans to find NASA and go on this mission, which, as it turns out, is part of a secondary timeline in which Cooper is essentially using his daughter to help lead himself to the NASA headquarters.

I also was bothered by the fact that Cooper was able to travel in another dimension and communicate with his daughter on the other side of the bookcase with love and gravity. It was at this point I had to stop and ask, “wait, what?” He’s in some other dimension now? How?

To me, a good science fiction story takes one aspect into the supernatural while keeping the rest of the world congruent to reality.

I felt that “Interstellar”‘s problem is that it takes several supernatural elements and puts them into play. And yeah, I get that by setting it in the near future you could theorize that some of the advancements in technology and the decay of the world could naturally happen.

However, I’m going to be a stickler and say that by setting the story in the near future, that in itself is one supernatural element. We don’t know where the future will take us. Projecting that any of this would happen is in itself something that tests us on whether it can make us suspend our disbelief.

So, once we reach a point in the movie where it tests our ability to suspend our disbelief again, and this time with even more of a leap in what might actually happen, well, it lost me.

It lost me because I was already trying to wrap my head around why they needed Cooper at all when the other explorers were already stationed on the other planets. Why is Cooper able to leave these planets but the others weren’t? That wasn’t really explained that well to me.

Another more noticeable problem was the handling of the sound.

Hans Zimmer does a masterful job at providing a rich score, but it’s much too loud at several parts, to the point where you can’t quite hear everything the actors are saying.

I can understand wanting to give the audience the feeling of the music and letting that set the tone of the emotions, that’s why you use a score, but, the balance felt a bit off. The actors need to be heard, too, and when people in the theater are plugging their ears at key moments because the music is too loud, well then that becomes a problem.

If you can get past, this, though, and  if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the examination of time and how when you’re traveling in deep space, you age differently than people do on earth.

They could have almost got rid of the whole “saving the earth from it’s own destruction” aspect of the film and instead dug deeper into what it means when your child ages at a much quicker rate of speed than you do and what it means when you return and see her aged seemingly beyond her years.

Because, the scene where they first experience this phenomenon is especially powerful.

Cooper witness his children age on video transmissions in the matter of minutes right in front of his eyes is an emotional scene, and probably the most powerful one of the film.

Another strong point for me were the scenes where the elderly people talk about how they’ve adjusted to life on Earth. They speak, done in what seems like a documentary style, on the new normal now that the dust storms are threatening to destroy life as they know.

It helps make the idea real and lets the viewer know that this isn’t the supernatural event you’re looking for. It’s supposed to be something that’s the new normal, not the monster to be defeated.

Meaning that you could make a movie about how the Earth is being destroyed by dust storms and that could be considered a valid movie conflict. But, instead they head for space and reach for conflicts that go beyond what’s happening on Earth.

But, in the end, while “Interstellar” is a nice movie that has a lot for movie buffs to like, well, it attempted to bite off a little more than it could chew.

And, there are several plot holes that might make you annoyed as you watch it.

Holes such as when Michael Cain Character, Dr. Brand, is supposed to age 23 years, however, you’ll notice that after you see him again, he doesn’t look like he’s aged at all. I know there are people who age extremely well, but that’s extremely rare, especially after 23 years. It strikes you as lazy, because all it would have taken is a little makeup and other move-magic to make him look a bit older.

Or, how are we supposed to believe that NASA is operating such a expensive mission in secret? Who’s approving all this money to be spent? How are they doing it without anyone in the public, especially in the future, knowing?

Also, Matt Damon’s in the movie. Even though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the poster or watching any of the previews.

In the end, I still recommend going to see “Interstellar”, but, it might confuse you, and it might annoy you. In fact, there have been several folks who have put together handy charts that seem to help people understand what was going on, only after the fact.

Check it out below which, obviously, has lots of spoilers.

Interstellar timeline 1

 

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