Well, the big event is here; wunderkund director Christopher Nolan’s highly touted sci-fi adventure opened this weekend and I saw it last night in a packed suburban theater. The film’s 11 minutes shy of 3 hours long, with a budget of $169 million and boasts a cast including A-listers Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway along with old pros like John Lithgow, Michael Caine and a host of less familiar but equally talented actors. So what’s the result like?
Well, it’s visually dazzling and brilliantly staged yet painfully over written and accompanied by an often pretentious yet eerily appropriate film score that threatens to drive you out of your mind by the time the ending credits roll. Co-mingling cleverly written science fiction dialogue about time-bending worm-holes and “soft” black holes with sappy cosmological observations about the underlying features of the cosmos and abundant clichés about the power of familial love, Interstellar intrigues and annoys with equal abandon, suggesting that Nolan’s record of box-office successes in the realm of the phantasmagorical (3 Batman’s, 2010’s Inception & the stunning, 14 year old Mementohave given this British –born writer/director carte blanche with regard to his projects and their budgets. No doubt about it; here he’s come up with a duzzie…</p>
McConaughey plays Cooper, an astronaut turned farmer who’s called back into service by a secretly financed NASA space program to find new planetary homes for the earth’s population which has so degraded life here on earth that the species must migrate elsewhere. Working with Brand, (Hathaway) the daughter of the project’s lead scientist, Cooper and a small crew penetrate various space-time shields in search of locations to which previous missions were sent, at least one of two of which have continued to send audio messages back to earth.
Cooper, a widower, leaves behind a teenage son and young daughter (played as an adult by Chastain) who haunt his years-long journey into the outer realms of the galaxy. In a series of laughably convoluted storyline add-ons, the crew uncovers the underlying threads which bind all creation together, allowing Cooper to bridge the “space-time continuum” and hold his aged daughter’s hand on her deathbed as he readies himself to swoop off for a reunion with Brand who has been put in charge of a nascent human colony somewhere in deep space.
The script is a hodgepodge of clever dialogue and lines better suited for a Harlequin romance, but even when the film lurches badly off point, its visual aspects demand your attention and respect; production designer Art Crowley employs an army of art directors and set decorators to fashion planets of uniquely terrifying plausibility while cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema bathes the screen in such fluid images of stellar beauty its easy to believe they’re more than just the product of this collectively brilliant creative process.
The result is a film unlike any audiences have ever seen before and one which surely justifies being seen on an IMAX screen if at all possible.
Will you like it? Yes and no. Will you recommend it to others? Perhaps. Are you likely to forget it anytime soon? Absolutely not.
The Verdict? A maddening, one of a kind visual experience.
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