Interstellar – Review

With the level of anticipation surrounding it in the months leading up to its release, Interstellar (an apt title for said anticipation levels) was always most likely to disappoint audiences.
But does it really? For all the adulation heaped upon director Christopher Nolan in cinephile circles, it’s of note that the majority of it began with 2008’s The Dark Knight – a movie most realists will acknowledge garnered far more attention than it should based solely on the high-profile death of a central cast member. By the time Nolan followed up Knight with Inception two years later, the legend of “the director of The Dark Knight” (still used to market shambolic dross like Man Of Steel and the rather ropey Transcendence) was born, and it became not only fashionable but essential to claim that Inception was brilliant, whether you understood it or not. Coming away from Inception, Nolan’s reputation was one of prestigious analogue filmmaking and cerebral storytelling – a reputation that would feel daunting to any filmmaker – but with Interstellar following in the wake of 2012’s critically derided (yet vastly underrated) The Dark Knight Rises, the director faces the genuine prospect of seeing his bubble burst. And burst it does. But not quite for the reasons you’d expect.

In a future in which Earth has become a dust-covered battleground for economic survival, former pilot Coop (McConaughey) struggles with the reality of raising his children as part of the struggling “caretaker generation”, forced to watch as the planet’s resources and crops are rendered extinct one by one. Stumbling across a mysterious pattern however, Coop discovers a clandestine operation to remedy the situation, and faces never seeing his family again in order to guide a mission to the stars with the fate of humanity hanging firmly in the balance.

With a cast consisting of both Nolan-newcomers – McConaughey, Chastain, Affleck – and alumni – Caine, Hathaway – Interstellar continues the proud tradition of the director’s spotless casting and ruthlessly brilliant performances. Said cast are aided immensely by the welcome addition of heart and warmth to the Nolan universe (sic); an added-value element one presumes to be at the behest of co-writer Jonathan Nolan, whose work on television’s Person Of Interest ensures the show remains one of US network TV’s finest. What Interstellar gains in heart however, it lacks in form. Sure, the film retains the seminal director’s expert precision and packs in some truly astounding visuals (if ever a film were an IMAX-must, this is it), but the film suffers from a story which attempts to be straight-faced in it’s adoration of Silent Running and 2001, yet never bothers to craft anything unique and of it’s own design. “Surprise” elements are telegraphed way in advance to the extent of making you wonder if the director of Memento was asleep at the wheel that day, whilst an other-worldly combat sequence is so startlingly unengaging that it’s easy to forget the film shares it’s creator with Inception.

A large number of Nolanites will likely throw in the towel with Interstellar, and whilst the film is very enjoyable to science-fiction aficionados, it’s far and away one of the director’s least successful and underdeveloped projects. By even modern science fiction standards, it falls short of the mark; neither as engaging as Gravity, nor as flummoxing as Sunshine. If its legacy is to be the end of Nolan’s second phase of filmmaking, then it does inspire hope for the third; but one hopes that the modern auteur can learn to reign his imagination in in future, to not shoot for the moon at the expense of great story-telling, and to – above all else – let Jonathan handle the characters.

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

In it
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
Behind it
Christopher Nolan

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