Saturday, 8 November 2014

Interstellar

Okay, no forced joke this time, more of a disclaimer. I love Christopher Nolans movies. I think he is one of the greatest filmmakers working today, maybe destined to one day be in a league with Spielberg, Kubrick and that tier of directors. Being aware of that, I am faced with an almost impossible task.

We live in a society that hands out superlatives too often. Everything is sensational, the best, the greatest. Maybe we try to upgrade our experience in that way, I don't know, all I know is that I am guilty of this too. I have lavished films with more praise than they deserve, having been swept away by the experience or just because I couldn't find a more moderate approach to make my opinion clear. (Exhibit A: My very first review for Amazing Spiderman 2. Today, that would have gotten a lower score from me.) However, I have always tried to avoid the superlative, which I hope will give the following more weight.

After seeing "Interstellar", I am faced with the question of how to communicate the greatness of this film without falling into the trap of merely appearing as a "Nolan-fanboy". I want to tell you this is the greatest sci-fi movie I have ever seen, and I honestly feel that way, but how do I make that a believable claim?

The thing is, after a quick look at the internet, I already know that my opinion of this movie is not widely held. Most people call it an ambitious but flawed movie and place it somewhere between above average and good. Did all of those people get the movie wrong? I don't think they did, their experience just differed from mine. If you watch this movie after reading these lines, which by the way I would strongly recommend, don't even wait for the actual review, don't spoil yourself by knowing anything more than you should going in, which is nothing, you may find that you do not share my view. Criticism is always a value-judgement and thus subjective.

I'm rambling on, so let me just give you a short version of all that text:

In my opinion, "Interstellar" is the best Sci-Fi film ever made. Other people disagree with that. It is their right to do so, no one here is right or wrong. As someone who hasn't seen the movie, just know that everyone praises it as a very good movie, some more than others. This means that if you watch this movie, you might see the best Sci-Fi drama you have ever seen. You might also see a movie that is not that. In any case, it is good and for the ambition in this movie alone, it is worth seeing it, just to be able to take part in the conversation about it.

After this let me try to give this movie a proper review, with as little information as I can, because I do not want to give away anything if I can help it. I might not be the right person to review it, because the strength of the experience alone makes objectivity hard, but I will try anyway.

"Interstellar" is Christopher Nolans new Sci-Fi Drama, capital Science, and stars Matthew MacConaughey as Cooper, a NASA pilot, who currently works as a farmer because in the future, the world needs food more than it needs engineers and pilots. Because Earth is dying, humanity can hardly grow enough crops to sustain themselves, having to rely on massive monocultures, which always spells trouble, because those have a tendency of being very vulnerable. Then, Cooper becomes part of a secret mission to find a new planet for humanity to live on. That's the first fifteen minutes.

First, the cast of this movie is great. Matthew MacConaughey is a perfect choice for Cooper, an uncharacteristically conventional hero for a Nolan film. He has the ability to internalize a lot, show a lot without dialogue, and that is absolutely important in this story. The most important support would probably be Jessica Chastain, grounding the storyline on earth. She gives a great performance as well, but I'm not going to tell you who she is... the less you know. I thought Anne Hathaways part would be bigger, yet it is still integral and a great performance.

The real star here, however, is Christopher Nolan himself. After the much debated and criticized "Dark Knight Rises", he is back with an original idea, and if you thought "Inception" was ambitious, well you were wrong. The ambition that this film brings to the table dwarfs anything we have seen in previous years and legitimizes the comparisons to Kubricks "2001: A Space Odyssey". Nolan shoots for the stars, literally and figuratively speaking, tackling not only an immense amount of scientific topics, requiring copious amounts of expositional dialogue, but also a level of emotion that is maybe even more unusual for him. The father-daughter relationship in this movie still shows signs that Spielberg was once attached to this project, but Nolan makes it his own. He is pushing himself as a filmmaker, harder than anyone would have thought, to tackle these topics that he has maybe shied away from a little bit in the past.

In this, apparently, he does not meet everyones taste. Some dialogue that is meant to sound clunky and insecure is seen as being clunky and insecure by accident rather than choice, in particular a speech given by Anne Hathaways character.

The visuals of this movie are absolutely breathtaking. I had a few tears in my eyes at several points in the movie, but the first time was because of the sheer joy of going to space with these characters. Nolan finds a way to put you into the ship with the astronauts, by limiting himself to a few different camera angles in the bigger FX sequences. I am sure the temptation must have been there to go full on Bayhem on the wormhole scenes, overwhelm the audience with special effects, but Nolan understands that less is more. He restricts himself in order to ground the experience and put you in the seat next to his characters.

In the end though, what made this movie so special to me, what makes this movie stand out, what made me unable to form a coherent thought after the credits had rolled, just because of sheer awe, is the message that this movie brings with it. Nolan reminds us that there is a world, bigger than our own. That there used to be a time when we would have given everything to explore that. In this, one is reminded of Ron Howards "Apollo 13", about the real Apollo mission that had become so routine that the people didn't even care about it until it failed spectacularly. We went to the moon as soon as we could, and after that, we lost interest. It is clear that this is a tragedy to Nolan, just as it should be a tragedy to all of us. A few weeks ago, ESA released a short film to explain to the world why they should be excited about the Rosetta Mission to capture an asteroid, starring Aidan Gillen, and while they don't have quite the filmmaking skills of Nolan, it hits the same vein. We should be exploring the stars. We should question our boundaries. Will it lead us to interstellar travel? Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but the possibilities are endless. That is the spirit that Nolan wants to put on the screen, and he succeeds. The world in which his characters live, a world in which schools teach the moon landing as a clever propaganda plot to make the russians bankrupt themselves by investing in "useless" machinery, is a horrifying vision to me.


So that's it, as general as possible, because I don't want to spoil anything. My review for "Interstellar". Again, I will not temper it, in my opinion it is the best Sci-Fi film. You should see for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Do you still consider Interstellar to be "the best Sci-Fi film ever made" two years on or have you meanwhile come across one that is even more deserving of those superlatives? Because I haven't - but then again I prefer reading to watching films so I might have missed out on some.

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