I didn’t understand all of Interstellar and it wasn’t my fault.
Christopher Nolan was so impressed with composer Hans Zimmer’s slightly over-bearing score for Batman Begins that the two have been practically inseparable ever since (with the exception of The Prestige). Zimmer’s work on Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy (usually) compliment Nolan’s story and images nicely, adding drama and suspense in all the right places. The only trouble is, when Nolan cranks the volume up to 11 and the music really starts to swell, it can be nearly impossible to make out some of the dialogue. It doesn’t help that the director loves to have his actors mumble and whisper their lines (sometimes even from behind a Bane mask).
This is even truer of Interstellar, with the roar of space shuttles and pickup trucks, dust storms, and Zimmer’s score render the dialogue completely inaudible in several places. What’s worse is this is not a movie where you can really afford to miss anything. Nolan packs as much information, theorizing, and heart-to-hearts as he possibly can into Interstellar’s nearly three-hour running time and missing even a minute is missing a lot. So, SPEAK UP, will you, Coop? And turn the music down.
As a fan of Christopher Nolan since Memento, I had been looking forward to this movie for months so I was a little disappointed when it got off to what I thought was a bit of a rough start. Matthew McConaughey, who’s been on a surprisingly long winning streak lately, plays Coop, a corn farmer who should have been an astronaut and almost got to be one once. But we don’t need astronauts anymore.
We spent so much money and resources on the space race and arms race that we have run out of food. This is an interesting vision of the not-so-distant future but we are brought up to speed on what’s been going on in some uncharacteristically (for Nolan) clumsily written scenes. Coop soon discovers that he has been “chosen” to lead a team through a wormhole into another solar system to find another planet for us to live (and ruin). Nolan rushes through all of this with plot conveniences, clumsy exposition, and lazy writing, as if he’s as eager as we are to just move this story into outer space as fast as possible.
The film really gets off the ground once the shuttle takes off. The images of space travel are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie and decisions these characters will have to make are sure to make for passionate discussions during the ride home from the theater. What significance do we as a species have in an infinite universe? What does it mean to “save the human race?”. Should we follow scientific data or our heart when deciding how close we want to live to a black hole?
Nolan’s always been very good at this, even when making superhero movies. The questions he raises about human nature have made for some of the best post-movie discussions I’ve ever had. This is no surprise. What surprised me most about Interstellar were the scenes of Coop receiving transmissions from his children who are still stuck on Earth, surprisingly moving from a filmmaker who usually prefers to mess with your head than aim for the heart.
In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan gets the chance to show us new aspects of his talent that are pleasant surprises. I still think he’s at his best when he raises troubling questions about the monster inside all of us and I am not sure how I feel about this new Look to the Heavens and Love Conquers All side of him. But whether or not its director has gone soft on us, Interstellar is well worth watching.
This asshole not enough for you? Read Jay’s review over here.