Chris Nolan is a closet softie, and a not-so-secret fan of the happy ending, and has now twice been given the opportunity to kill of Anne Hathaway and not taken it. Spoiler Alert! Catwoman lives!
I recently sat in the very packed IMAX theatre at SilverCity for three hours that didn’t quite feel as long as they were because Nolan packs a lot in his punch and there wasn’t much I would cut. Even from the vague trailers, you knew going in this was going to be an epic story.
Confession: I came out of the movie very frustrated with a certain paradox that the audience is just supposed to accept because some space cowboy told us so. It felt like lazy story-telling to me.
And also: this is a cold movie. You’re going to want to bring a sweater.
Back to the story. We are presented with a very dusty, dirty future where the only viable crop left is corn (sidebar: as someone who grew up among the rows of corn in a small town named after it, this feels to me less like the future and more like hell). McConaughey is a not-too-happy-about-it farmer when he stumbles upon an underground bunker containing not only NASA, but mankind’s only hope for survival, aka, a secret mission to outerspace! And even though just moments ago this mission was going full steam ahead without him because he didn’t even know it existed, his help becomes so necessary that, with the burden of extinction on his shoulders, he leaves his motherless children behind (in the grouchy old hands of John Lithgow) and takes off for the stars in a search for a suitable planet to call home.
Then this film becomes about difficult choices. They’ve got to be made. And so characters constantly wonder aloud – to whom do we owe the most, our children, our species, ourselves? Oh man. So hard. And as my lovely sister pointed out, in case you missed an important decision being pondered, the music swells in all the right places, and very probably, someone will begin dramatically reciting a Dylan Thomas poem though they will miss its point and use it in all the wrong contexts. But they’re scientists, goddammit, not artists. Scientists who miss glaringly obvious data for convenient plot twists, but still.
And the film is also about time. Not just time-is-running-out, though it is that too – the people on earth will not survive beyond existing generations. They are starving and suffocating. It’s about this “relativity” concept, how time runs differently out there, and just one ditzy-damsel-Anne Hathaway moment can cost McConaughey a decade with his kids. Those are maybe the most real moments of the film, when he’s just a father grappling with time’s passage, the agony of a sacrifice bigger than he ever knew or understood.
So yes. I had problems with how Nolan explains away the essential question of the film. He sets up something vague yet plausible but then ruins it with ego and pathos. I hated the basic premise of let’s throw away this earth and find another to rape and pillage. At times the film is downright bad (the “love transcends all” theme seems forced and childish and simplistic, and the ending is a little too Hollywood for my taste – Nolan, I expected better), but it’s also quite quite good in others. Visually stunning for sure. Haunting. Beautiful. Lonely in the right ways. And contains many nuggets of interest that are sure to be water-cooler talk for the rest of the month at least. Warts and all, it’s worth the watch.