Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s latest
gargantuan-budget head trip, and it shares more in common with his non-Dark
Knight features—particularly The Prestige and Inception—but it lacks
the human element that makes one believe Bruce Wayne is a person under the
Batman outfit. In short, Interstellar is big, bold and beautiful, but
it’s more confounding than revelatory, and all the organ music in the world
can’t save it from not tugging at the heartstrings.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, mankind is on the verge of
becoming extinct because of a crop blight that puts too much nitrogen in the
air. Humans are slowly suffocating to death.
Enter Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former engineer and NASA pilot
who has been relegated to farmer since the collapse of the space program.
Because of a gravitational anomaly in his daughter’s bedroom (uh-huh), he
tracks the anomaly to a distant NASA black site and falls in with his old
mentor, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), his daughter Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway)
and other outlaws of the theoretical plane.
Professor Brand and his cohorts have discovered a wormhole near
Saturn that can take them through time and space to other galaxies so that they
may find an Earth-like hospitable planet and relocate the remaining humans. So
far, so good, except for one small detail: Coop’s daughter, Murph (played as a
kid by Mackenzie Foy and as an adult by an underused Jessica Chastain), a
science whiz in her own right, doesn’t want him to leave. Such is life.
It should go without saying that there are complications beyond the
scope of the human imagination in Interstellar, and those complications
leave the flight crew aging, stranded or dead. One planet the group lands on
would be great for surfing, if the waves weren’t also 150 feet high. Another is
covered in ice.
Co-writer and director Nolan has mastered the head game of space
travel, even if it’s beyond this critic to understand how humans can travel to
the fifth dimension to send information back to the third dimension when they
can’t figure out how to leave the third dimension in the first place.
No, all these movies in deep space depend on human feelings to make
them relevant, and Nolan can’t bridge the gap between the awe of space travel,
humanity’s big questions and making the characters seem like real people with
lives and families they’re trying to protect. (The Reds-like interviews
sprinkled throughout don’t help, either.) I understand we’re supposed to care
for Coop and his family, but when they don’t get much screen time together, and
don’t even seem to like each other much, it’s hard to pull for them.
When Wes Bentley and Topher Grace show up on screen, why am I
thinking, “Hey, is that Wes Bentley? Look, it’s Topher Grace!” A compelling
story would take care of that, but with Nolan there’s only distance. Similarly,
when Coop, Professor Brand and the gang arrive on a planet and find a
cryo-sleeping Matt Damon, the first thought in my head shouldn’t be, “It’s not
If Nolan had the guts to make Interstellar a cold, clinical
march into space, it may have worked. But with a large budget and two studios
supporting it, there needs to be an identifiable human element, and Nolan feels
more comfortable contemplating the science of relativity and theoretical
physics than he is with emotions at the center of a father-daughter
relationship. At least it’s not boring.
Directed by Christopher
With McConaughey, Chastain and Hathaway
Regal Stadium 14
Santa Fe Reporter