Movies

Peter Suderman Reviews Interstellar

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I liked this one, despite its flaws:

How to describe "Interstellar"?

Is it a chilly hard sci-fi adventure in the tradition of "2001: A Space Odyssey"? A metaphysical space opera that frequently embraces go-for-broke sentimentality? A technically proficient, crowd-pleasing blockbuster in the tradition of James Cameron and Steven Spielberg?

The best answer to all of the above is yes.

But mostly "Interstellar" is a Christopher Nolan movie. Like "Memento," "The Prestige" and "Inception," it's a complex puzzle-box narrative about the nature of time and identity with a grand scope, sweeping visuals, and lots and lots of heady dialogue. All of the tics and tendencies that made Mr. Nolan's previous films thrilling and awe-inspiring are present and magnified, as are those that were frustrating.

It's a bigger, bolder and more captivating movie than anything Mr. Nolan has made before, and also a more flawed one.

Mr. Nolan's Batman trilogy imagined the superhero as a lone crusader out to save the crumbling city of Gotham. 'Interstellar' takes that basic idea and expands it to a planetary scale: It's not a city that's dying, but the entire Earth.

In the near future, dust storms have ravaged the planet, and a blight is slowly strangling the ability to grow food. Invention and innovation are discouraged as frivolous, and schools teach the moon landing as a hoax.

It's a sci-fi riff on economic malaise and great stagnation—with the power of human will and ingenuity offering the only possible salvation.

Read the whole review in The Washington Times

One thing I didn't really address at length in my review is how much Interstellar plays like a sharp retort to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The movie is very much a riff on the same ideas, and it references Stanley Kubrick's film repeatedly in both its story and its visuals. It's clearly a movie that Christopher Nolan respects quite a bit. But it's also one that he seems to have some fundamental disagreements with in terms of outlook.

Kubrick's movie was chilly and removed, a technically brilliant vision of humanity's cosmic helplessness. It was a movie that downplayed human relationships (think of the sequence at the beginning when a disinterested father calls his daughter on her birthday), and emphasized humanity's inability to master its own fate. Our technology turns on us. Our ability to understand the universe eventually reaches its limit. It's a movie about how small humans are, and how little they can accomplish.

Nolan's film is cold at times, especially in the way it treats its space vistas, and it's technically brilliant in its own way, relying heavily on models and location shooting instead of computer animation. But Interstellar is also unabashedly sentimental (sometimes overly so), especially with regards to parent-child relationships, and it ends on a note of triumphant humanism. 2001 is the better movie, but there's quite a bit to like about Interstellar's determined optimism. 

Read Kurt Loder's review for Reason here