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

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  1. “That’s why I love relativistic space travel. They keep gettin’ older, I stay the same age.”

    1. Any subsequent comments are superfluous.

      1. Agreed. Game over.

  2. I did not care for 2001. Maybe because I expected too much since it is a classic.

    1. Were you sober when you saw it?

        1. Well there’s your problem.

    2. I like it quite a bit, but it’s not a fast-moving thrill a minute kind of film, no.

      1. It’s a “watch some and then go make a sandwich” sort of film.

        1. I think sammich is the preferred spelling here. Also yes.

          1. If by “preferred spelling” you mean “spelling that makes me want to get stabby,” then sure.

      2. That was the point.

        1. I know that, you know that, Kubrick knows that, and the monolith knows that, but not every knows that.

    3. I read the book long before I saw the movie. The visuals were stunning, but knowing the story in advance kind of killed the thrill.

      1. The book is based on the movie.

        1. Just like “The Bible” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

          Oh, and “Dune”.

          1. Are they finally going to make a film version of Dune, then?

            1. No one could possibly make a film version of Dune!

              Who would they cast as Paul A – that dude from Twin Peaks? Never happen.

              1. Keanu?

              2. Bill Cosby as Leto Atreides.

            2. They’d better hurry before Sting gets too old to play a significant role.

                1. She’s on NCIS now.

                  1. Holy shit, that is the same broad! I did not know that.

        2. Sort of. There was “The Sentinel,” which was a short story the movie was based on. The novel isn’t exactly a novelization, as it was written along with the movie production, if I remember correctly. It varies a little from the film, too, due to some changes in production–Saturn was a special effects problem, so Jupiter instead, for instance.

        3. Yes, Kubrick would not allow Clarke’s novel to be released until after the movie was out.

      2. The visuals are still stunning, even compared to present day special effects. All done with models.

    4. I’ve loved that movie since I was a kid. Every other sci fi movie was pretty much an action movie. This one is different and I always enjoyed its attention to detail and attempt at realism.

      1. 2001: A Space Odyssey is quite simply the greatest movie ever made by the greatest film director ever, Stanley Kubrick.

        1. This. It is my all-time favourite.

          1. Must have watched it over over, I dunno, 30, 40 times, its like listening to a Mozart piano concerto you never tire of experiencing it. I dont think such a film could be made today. Apparently Kubrick was just given the money and it was a lot and left alone with total control to make the movie, dont think that happens these days with big budget movies. Its James Wood’s favorite movie and he tells an interesting story about when the movie was turned over to the studio executives for a screening. Apparently no one had seen anything of it up till the. So the movie is screened in front of all the studio big wigs. At the end the credits roll and there is silence. Then the executive producer responsible for financing gets up, goes to the back of the movie theater and has a heart attack.

            1. It was because of the CINEMASCOPE wasn’t it?

              1. You mean what triggered the heart attack?

                James Wood meant they’d handed over a huge some of money to a young wunderkind director in the anticipation they were gonna get some kind of action in space/alien movie. Instead Kubrick handed over basically almost a silent film with no dialog for the first 20 mins or and almost no action at all in the conventional sense with a confusing ambiguous narrative that ends on a WFT They thought they had just blown a ton on money. In truth reaction to the movie was mixed and thats hardly surprising, however, as with many of Kubricks movies in retrospect it came to be judged a masterpiece.

    5. The sad thing is that there isn’t one chance in a million that the script for 2001 would ever be approved and funded by any major studio if it was being proposed today.

      1. So, like, wait, who’s the love interest? And you’ve got to spunky girl. And how are we going to do the merchandising?

      2. You’re right. From what I understand Kubrick was given the cash and total control and went off to make his movie. His other movies, after he became a big time director were made the same way. He would phone up the studio and say I want to make this movie and the budget is “x” and they would hand over the cash. Dont think this happens even with the bit time directors now.

  3. I’m looking forward to this.

    1. You know it has Matt Damon and Anne Hathaway in it, right?

      1. I was watching Matthew McConaughey movies…way before I paid to see them.

        1. Matt Damon and science fiction go together like Dane Cook and comedy.

          1. THAT’S gonna leave a mark!

        2. I see Suderman avoided mentioning that particular flaw in the movie, that it has Matthew McConaughey in it.

          1. Yes, I simply cannot join in the love of this guy after having contempt for him for so long.

            1. Why contempt? He was great in Dazed and Confused.

              1. ‘Cause I don’t like him as an actor?

                1. He was great in Dallas Buyer’s Club.

                  1. Your taste makes Baldrick look like a sophisticate.

                    1. My tastes are perfect.

                2. Apparently someone has not seen Fools Gold or Failure to Launch.

                  Mud was actually pretty good, though, and it made Reese Witherspoon seem attractive.

      2. MATT DAMON!

  4. Anyone ever see the original Solaris? I know some/many would likely find it boring, but it is a hauntingly beautiful film. Maybe my favorite movie in this subgenere.

    1. Yes, the original Solaris is fantastic, although it requires some patience. I quite like the Soderbergh remake though. An underrated movie.

      1. I loved the original Solaris, watched it several times and have seen the remake, however that didn’t leave as big an impression. Maybe I should check it out again.

    2. I did see it, and you guessed, right, I did find it boring. Or maybe just too Russian, I guess. I liked Sunshine a lot, which kind of ripped off a lot of the good aspects of Solaris, though.

      1. Sunshine is good, but it’s just the thinking man’s Event Horizon.

        1. I’m not allowed to mention Event Horizon in my house. My wife got so mad because she was enjoying a good horror movie and then “it turned into a crappy Hellraiser in space.”

          Which was unrelated to the ACTUAL Hellraiser in space. Which we can all agree is the thinking man’s Jason X.

          1. How was Jason X not a thinking man’s movie? It had titties, surgical machetes, and at least 10% of the plot was internally consistent.

          2. “Event Horizon” is kind of a guilty pleasure.

            “Hellraiser in Space” is an EXCELLENT summary!

            1. “Remember that scene when Jack Noseworthy’s eyes explode? Wasn’t that awesome?”

        2. Event Horizon was only saved from being the most boring movie in existence by the release of Unbreakable.

          1. Event Horizon is truly awful, a mess.

          2. Why don’t people like Unbreakable?

            1. Because it is the most boring movie ever made.

              1. I call it Unwatchable.

                Watch me lift weights. Now put on 5 more lbs. Now 5 more lbs. Now 5 more lbs.

                Now Im going to stare at my Cheerios.

            2. I like Unbreakable. But admittedly, I don’t mind movies that have a lot of build up, as long as the build up supports the main plot.

    3. Here’s where I will insert my pitch for Moon.

      1. Moon was great, but they cheated by hiring Sam Rockwell.

        1. I liked that the plot was feasible

      2. “M-O-O-N! That spells ‘moon’!”

        /TheStand

        1. This is exactly what I think anytime someone brings up that word.

      3. By the director of Source Code and writer/director of (here it comes) Warcraft.

        No idea how Blizzard managed to get Jones signed on, but someone’s getting a big bonus check for getting Jones on board. Now if they can just fire the twelve-year-old writer who’s been ruining their games’ scripts for the last five years…

        1. They’re making a Warcraft movie?

          1. With Clancy Brown, no less

            1. I have no idea who that is. I hope it lives up to the exemplary standards set by such video game movies as Mortal Kombat, Wing Commander and Street Fighter.

              1. You need to find out who that is.

                Funny thing about Wing Commander–I loved that series of games, including the later Privateer and so on. Gone. You’d think space combat simulators would still be a thing, though I understand that Chris Roberts is back in gaming.

                1. You do know about Star Citizen, right? My sarc-o-meter isn’t on right now.

              2. I have no idea who that is.

                As though I didn’t already feel old.

                I suspect this will be the movie that puts video-game movies on the map like X-Men did for comic books. Jones is an impressive talent.

              3. WTF? Who is the Kurgan? Only the greatest villain of the greatest movie, evah!

                1. Let him find out when the Kurgan comes for his head.

                  1. I did not know who Clancy Brown is, but I sure as fuck know the Kurgan.

                    Also, is he the same guy who voices on Sponge Bob?

                    Also, isn’t talking about actors more fun if you refuse to use the internet to answer stuff?

      4. Good but overrated.

    4. The one with George Clooney?

      *ducks*

      1. No, that was Batnipples.

    5. I liked it (the remake).

  5. I plan to go see it tomorrow on IMAX at the Air and Space Museum.

  6. think of the sequence at the beginning when a disinterested father calls his daughter on her birthday

    Harsh, Duderman. I thought Dr. Floyd was a pretty warm dad (not to mention the most interesting character in the movie).

    I hadn’t considered it before the comparison in this review, but Nolan and Kubrick feel very similar as directors. Nolan’s not the auteur that Kubrick is (nor has ever pretended to be), but both make films that are so meticulous that they feel like they’ve been created by engineers. Not a criticism–I enjoy that approach at least as much as I do Tarantino/Scorsese–but it’s not something I feel very often when I’m watching a movie.

    Soderbergh sometimes feels the same; Cuaron too (though not in a good way with Cuaron, who is waaay too impressed with himself to an almost BHO level).

    1. And PT Anderson, duh.

      I don’t know if we have so many distant, icy filmmakers because of the era we’re living in or just because there are so many more directors now relative to the 40s and 50s.

    2. but both make films that are so meticulous that they feel like they’ve been created by engineers.

      Except when there are glaring plot holes. While watching the last Batman film, I about lost it when all the cops escape from the sewers and politely line up in the middle of the street so that the better armed terrorists could just gun them down.

      Oh, but it just turned into a polite street fight.

      1. I couldn’t decide if that was a bad movie with several great scenes or a good movie plagued by two or three ridiculously bad ideas.

        1. The former.

        2. I think it was a director who’s plan was completely upended by Heath Ledger’s unexpected death and only partially successful in salvaging it.

        3. The former. Catwoman was also good but that wasn’t enough.

  7. Matthew McConna-HAY-HAY!

    1. Krusty?

  8. Is it a chilly hard sci-fi adventure in the tradition of “2001: A Space Odyssey?”

    Uh, no. Nolan wouldn’t know hard sci-fi if it came up and kicked him in the balls.

  9. “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.”

    So the Luddites took over. And bad stuff happened, because you can’t support 7+ billion humans without an advanced civilization. Hmmm, who would have thought?

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