SPOILER ALERT ( as always )
Interstellar is a widely disputed film, with true sci-fi fans loving it, and realists hating it.
And this also depends on what lens you are viewing Interstellar through. For entertainment value I thought it was pretty good. As a work of storytelling, however, I thought that it was superb. And as a science-fiction movie, I thought it was brilliant. But as a film I thought it had some problems that took it just below being perfect. Although some of this does have to do with my bias going into the film. I knew that it was obviously a sci-fi film, depicting space travel and other fictional events. However as there seem to be two different types of sci-fi, the realistic and unrealistic, this was where I was thrown. What started out as a gritty and realistic sci-fi, through the course of its 2 hour and 49-minute runtime gradually became an unrealistic sci-fi with moments where I found myself almost cringing.
Hence my problems with the film.
CRAFTSMANSHIP: Interstellar is a superbly crafted film. The sound design, the visual effects, the set design, the practical effects, and almost everything else involved in the production are top notch. As an example of a well-crafted work in the medium of film, Interstellar is a masterpiece.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The cinematography takes strong cues from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but still feels genuinely Nolan-esque with its faded palette and flesh tones. It also has a certain vibe of Americana to it that lends to it’s post-apocalyptic tone. However, unlike the large quantity of artistic shots in Nolan’s Inception, the cinematography here is more practical, showing us the reality that these characters are living and mostly passing up on the sprinkles. It does contain some really spectacular visuals though, including a mind-blowing wave sequence on another planet, a scientifically accurate portrayal of a black hole & wormhole, and some dazzling planetary footage.
PERFORMANCES: Partly in thanks to the writing, Interstellar sets the canvas for some truly moving performances delivered by McConaughey and the cast. Everyone is convincing in their roles and gets the job done with flying colors. At a particularly affecting scene, McConaughey’s character must watch 20 years of video messages sent from his children while he is away in space. The earnestness with which he portrays the scene is utterly believable and engrossing.
WRITING: The writing of Interstellar may be its greatest contradiction; some of it perfectly conceived, and other parts shaky in their foundation. The dialogue is for the most part sufficient and convincing. However, there are certainly several scenes and lines throughout the film that were a little too contrived and they did not feel natural like the rest of it. The pacing of the scenes is slow for the first hour – but this is not your average action flick. It is not even your average sci-fi movie. It is more accurately a human drama dressed in the clothes of science fiction.
Once the movie gets going the pace picks up and charges right along, delivering during one particular moment what might have been one of the most intense sequences I’ve ever been through in a movie theater. The kind where your knuckles are white, gripping the chair as if your fate is tied to that of the characters in this fictional world, grasping against all hope for a shot at returning back to Earth from the faraway galaxy they find themselves in.
MUSIC: The score of Interstellar may very well be some of Hans Zimmer’s best work to date. He was notoriously not shown any of the script or the movie before composing. He was simply given a page of themes and concepts written by Nolan and asked to record whatever the first thing was that he came up with in relation to the subject of what it means to be a father.
That might give you a clue to how powerful the music is. It is a masterful score, striking deep emotional chords that reverberate straight to the heart and soul. Using mostly an organ and the simplest of melodies, it is raw and primal, conveying through music those feelings that cannot necessarily be expressed in words.
STORY: The story is both great and not great at the same time. On the one hand it is a touching story of a father’s love for his daughter and how this love ends up literally bringing him back from certain death. And yet on the other hand it is the epic story of one man’s struggle to save the world, in a daunting quest into outer space. And the way that these two aspects were tied together is what gives Interstellar its problems.
But again these problems are only problems depending on your bias towards science fiction. I went in to Interstellar expecting, as depicted in trailers, a realistic science fiction film about astronauts searching for new planets. I was completely unprepared for the 5th dimensional beings, the time travel black hole, or any of that stuff.
If I look at the film as an unrealistic sci-fi with emphasis on the fi (fiction) then I can accept the wild tangent of the third act somewhat. The emphasis then shifts back to the emotional core of the film which is its definite strong point, strong enough to carry it through the heavily fictional swing of the last thirty minutes of the film.
And as either a realistic or unrealistic sci-fi film, Interstellar succeeds. As a realistic sci-fi film it was perfect until the introduction of the fiction part in act three. As an unrealistic sci-fi it works, not quite as good as the realistic sci-fi part, but still very good.
No matter what your disposition, if you allow the human core of the story to grab you, you will be unable to walk away from Interstellar without feeling deeply moved, or at the very least exhilarated that you have just seen something unlike anything you have seen before in terms of dramatic cinema.
OVERALL REVIEW: Interstellar is one hell of a film, any way you look at it. Regardless of it’s inconsistencies, minor plot holes, or wildly sci-fi ending, it is still a breathtaking experience to watch.
It traverses intergalactic territory previously unseen by audiences, and carries such a strong human element that the emotional scenes will yank on your heartstrings mercilessly, whether you like it or not.
It is a powerful film, simply on the strength of it’s dramatic juxtaposition, well paced storytelling and magnificent visuals. Not to mention the adrenaline pumping moments scattered throughout, leaving the viewer breathless and gripping their chair.
I highly recommend Interstellar as a must-see film, simply due to its cinematic opulence and master craft score. But you cannot go into it expecting your usual fast-paced action movie garbage. This is a science fiction film for the thinking man, for the artist, for the mind-bender, and for the everyman. There’s something in it for everyone, and resting at #31 on IMDb’s Top 250 movies list seems to suggest the same.