I’m going to talk about how Interstellar fails as a movie. This is a weird movie to talk about because of the Cult of Nolan. If you go to any review that gave it a negative or mixed review the comment sections will call the reviewer a contrarian hipster, say they don’t know how to watch a movie, or were confused about the science. Interstellar got thousands of 10-star reviews on IMDb months before it came out. People wanted this movie to be the best movie ever made. I’m in the camp that wanted it to be good. I used to love Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight is one of my favourite movies ever made and the rest of his movies for me fall from “really good” to “excellent.” As of writing, Interstellar has a respectable 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. I am not writing this to be contrarian. I am writing this because I agree with the 26% of critics that say this is not a good movie. Even the positive reviews are relatively lukewarm. Interstellar shows that even the best directors can do wrong.
I am not going to talk about the science and how accurate it is (although this is a movie where Michael Caine tries to make a space ship out of cement). I am going to talk about how Christopher Nolan dropped the ball on writing a strong plot and used strong science as a crutch. I am going to tag spoilers, so please join me as I talk about my most hated movie of the year.
First off, there are a few things that are good about Interstellar. The music by Hans Zimmer, by itself, is absolutely amazing. This is one of Zimmer’s most original and powerful scores in years. The casting except for two glaring exceptions is fantastic and the acting is strong enough that they are able to sell the hell out of some really bad dialogue. The robots in this movie are very inventive in their design and will probably end up being the most iconic thing about the movie. The special effects in regards to worm holes and black holes look great The elements of a good movie are here. However, if I make a steak dinner with the best steak but I still drown it in motor oil it’s not going to make for a great dining experience.
Interstellar is about love. The movie does not stop telling you that. It is also about exploration, ghosts, science and evil. So it really tackles the same things Star Wars did. But instead of an awe-inspiring space adventure, you got a three hour version of Qui-Gon Jinn explaining midichlorians to Anakin.
Interstellar takes place in a poorly painted world where food has run out due to crop disease. The only crop left is corn. There are no more wars because apparently food isn’t a resource people fight over like oil. In schools, they force everyone to become farmers and discourage people from becoming scientists and engineers like they were the Harper government. However, the illusion of this dying world isn’t seen. We are told that a lot of people have died off but we don’t see it. They talk about how food is running out but they still pounding back regular looking beers. It doesn’t stop Matthew McConaughey from driving through his corn field destroying acres of crop to chase a drone. It’s just like in Atlas Shrugged: Part I when they say that everyone is homeless and they show one homeless person to make the point. At least Atlas Shrugged showed you one homeless person.
I am going to be knit-picking this plot to shreds. It deserves it. Christopher Nolan has made so many great cerebral thrillers before that really make you think. However, this is not a thriller movie. It’s a basic drama set in a hard sci-fi setting. In movies like The Dark Knight Rises you may be able to forgive the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is able to deduce Batman’s identity because he apparently has orphan powers, or the fact that Bruce Wayne was able to fly back to Gotham City from the middle of nowhere with no resources at all, or the fact that Bruce Wayne was able to escape a nuclear explosion so he sip coffee in France with Anne Hathaway but at least the movie felt like it was going somewhere. It was working towards an emotional ending. It skipped details so that it could spend more time with the characters and the interesting settings so it could bring us to an ending that was fitting for the main themes and plot of the trilogy. By slapping his name across every bit of promotion the movie had, Christopher Nolan promised us a Christopher Nolan movie which are usually strong in their logic, or at least have a good reason to gloss over elements of the plot. Nolan consistently offers us a “thinking person’s” movie but the more you think about it the more it collapses on itself.
SHOW DON’T TELL
Film is a visual medium. Directors are supposed to show you the action, not tell you about it. “Show don’t tell.” Nolan is a very visual director but he still decides to spoon feed the audience every metaphor and bit of symbolism into the audiences mouth with the subtlety of a jackhammer. The first time you hear a speech about love transcending time and space, you get the point. When you realize that lovey-dovey speeches make up half the dialogue of the movie it gets to the point where you want to stop being spoon-fed. A parent can spoon feed a toddler and say “Daddy Nolan loves you sweetiecakes,” but it’s going to get to the point where the toddler is full. Either the child is going to be passive during the feeding, or the child may get to the point and say “fuck off Daddy Nolan, I’m not hungry. Stop spoon feeding me.”
At some point between filming The Dark Knight and Inception, Christopher Nolan forgot how human beings talked. For a movie about humanity, Nolan feels like he is only studying humans from afar. He heard that humans like love songs on the radio and said “done! Humans must only like love!” and made a movie out of this disconnection. A lot of movies have terrible dialogue and still are able to push, but Interstellar thinks it’s audience is so dumb that they need to be reminded every few minutes what the central theme of the movie is about.
Interstellar is the Dora the Explorer of science fiction. It doesn’t expect much brainpower.
There’s a hypothetical scenario about looking at subtext in works where a teacher asks the students “the curtains are blue, what does the author mean by that?” Most bitter students respond with “it means the curtains are blue.” Chances are the author didn’t mean to make the curtains into a giant essay about consumerism or second wave feminism, but if enough subtext is there throughout the entire work then you can make an argument about the curtains standing for something bigger. If a student were to write an essay about the themes of Interstellar it would be the easiest essay ever because Christopher Nolan spells out everything for you. Every other line of dialogue explains the concepts Nolan is exploring, reminds you of the plot or tells you how much characters love each other. It’s like Twilight, but with human extinction taking the place of Italian vampires.
The way that “love” is used as a concept is so basic. It is told about and sometimes shown. When it is shown we are told about it as well. If Interstellar had a clear antagonist, I bet that the good guy scientists would find some way to create a concentrated love cannon to defeat them like in Little Nicky. The Harry Potter books and movies obsessed over the concept of love as well but at least we saw it. We saw Harry Potter receive an absence of love from his adoptive aunt and uncle. Then we saw Harry receive unconditional love from a family of gingers, his classmates and teachers. The villain of Harry Potter was technically defeated because he had no love in his life, but really it was because he was killed by a spell. I do believe in love, but Christopher Nolan’s idea of love seems to be only on paper. Love to him is receiving dozens of Valentines from your classmates and believing that they are giving it to you because they believe you are the most important person ever, not because their mom forced them to write a card to everyone in the class. It’s artificial. It’s a good gesture, but it’s easy to see through.
“No mom, I don’t want to give Tyler a valentine. Ugh.”
In Inception, Christopher Nolan created an amazing thriller with its own laws of reality. Because he was inviting viewers into this bizarre sandbox, he used Ellen Page’s character as a newbie to explain the concepts to the audience. As we had questions, Nolan answered them promptly. It made for a tight thriller that was not that confusing. In Interstellar, we are answered questions we didn’t even ask. In one scene the ship knocks some ice off an ice cloud. A character immediately says “that was an ice cloud!” We know. We just saw it. Nolan writes about wonder and seeing amazing things in his screenplay but he doesn’t connect these things with what we actually see or don’t see.
If the movie looked fantastic a lot of these issues we could move past. But the framing of this movie is really poorly done. The shots of space for the most part look like Christopher Nolan slapped a Go-Pro camera on the port side of a model ship and started swinging the ship in a circular fashion. It may be realistic, but he could have at least tried out some different sides of the ship to make it more interesting. There are a few big shots of planets and space that look beautiful but they aren’t anything to brag home about. Similar scenes in Tree of Life and 2001: A Space Odyssey jumped out more. Too many scenes are closely framed on the actors faces, usually of Matthew McConaughey looking in awe or of doe-eyed Anne Hathaway looking like she’s on the break of dreaming a dream. The further I get from the movie the more the more powerful shots slip away. Probably because Nolan changed aspect ratios a lot during the movie. Many scenes that are supposed to be more personal and emotional are unfocused because the size of the image is changed and expanded. Blurry shots of Matthew McConaughey really jump out when you are expecting the crisp clarity your $15 AVX ticket promised you. In other Nolan movies, he switched aspect ratios for scenes he shot with different cameras. The IMAX action scenes in The Dark Knight were not inter cut with non-IMAX shot scenes. The film never looked blurry or grainy because of the sizing swap.
Do not expect Interstellar to make an appearance in the nomination list for editing or sound mixing, but how about the screenplay? Well, I am going to tackle the plot now. Here is your first spoiler warning. Jump down to the end of the page if you don’t want to know what happens. I have no spoiler images either so don’t worry about accidentally seeing one.
Okay people. I am going to get into some spoilers now as I try to comprehend the plot. Here is your third warning. I should give a few more and pretend I am Michael Caine regurgitating “do not go gentle into that good night” like he is a girl on Facebook posting Marilyn Monroe quotes. Spoiler warning. Spoiler warning.
“Come at me, plot holes”
Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper. A former test pilot turned farmer. He lives with his two kids and father-in-law on a farm in the middle of heartland America. He really gets along with his daughter Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy, better known as Renesmee, Bella and Edward’s love child from Twilight). He doesn’t give a rats ass about his son who he forgets exists halfway through the movie. I don’t even remember his name, because the whole movie is mostly either someone saying “love” or “Murph.”
Murph is afraid of a ghost in her bedroom. Cooper assures her it can’t be a ghost but wants her to perform a scientific experiment on it anyway. Yes, this is a movie about ghosts.
During a dust storm the ghost tells Cooper and Murph through Morse code and dust the word “STAY.” Cooper then says it isn’t a ghost, it’s gravity or some unknown intelligent being. Okay. The ghost then uses Morse code to outline coordinates on a map. Cooper goes to the coordinates and that little rascal Murph sneaks aboard his truck. The coordinates take them to a secret base. Cooper finds out that the base is in fact SECRET NASA. Yes, Secret NASA. Just like in How I Met Your Mother when Barney says he works for Secret NASA to pick up chicks. A ghost tells Matthew McConaughey to go to Secret NASA. I’m not simplifying the plot at all or being flippant. This is the plot of the movie at this point.
About as scientific as this movie.
The poor world-building at this point really blows up. The only thing it does is get you excited to leave Earth out of hope that there are more interesting worlds out there. At the base, Cooper is interrogated by a former military robot. There are remarks about how the world is free of conflict in its search to find a solution to the food crisis. So does this mean that there is a global committee to find the solution to go into space and solve our problems? Apparently not. We are told that the US government has started teaching in schools that the moon landing was faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union. For a movie so obsessed with the idea of discovery this falls apart. The ra-ra, ‘MERICA FUCK YEAH attitude begins to fully emerge. The moon landing being still in public memory and a mis-education campaign would be absolutely torn to shreds. Interstellar is under the belief that you either are fully committed to being a scientist or you have to be dead set against it. For the most part, any person who is not scientist is portrayed as a blocking character and not a dreamer. It is like being stuck on Reddit. But good thing the government has been still functioning long enough to keep taxing what little remains of humanities corn so they can build Secret NASA completely independent of other nations contributions. America wants to save mankind but apparently it has to do it alone.
It turns out that Michael Caine is the lead of a project at Secret NASA to help save humanity. It also turns out that Michael Caine was a former professor of Cooper. It also turns out that they have a rocket they are sending into a wormhole to another galaxy. It also turns out they forgot to find a properly trained pilot. Good thing a ghost told Cooper where to go!
Apparently in this world of collapse they had difficulty making the day’s drive to find a pilot. Maybe they don’t have phone books any more, or a census, but they are still able to collect corn tax to fund rocket ships. The whole Secret NASA base, which is made of concrete, is actually a spaceship that is meant to be an ark for humanity. He is missing part of a MacGuffin gravitational equation to make the concrete ship functional.
Space Mutiny also had ships made of concrete and it is considered to be one of the worst movies ever. It is however one of the best MST3K’s
Michael Caine has two plans: plan A and plan B. Plan A is to send astronauts through the wormhole to gather information from a previous scouting mission whose reports say three planets are potentially habitable. The mission will take a long time due to time dilation that would age the crew of the spaceship faster than people on Earth. They also want to study gravity so they can figure out the gravity MacGuffin equation. Plan B involves establishing a colony on one of those planets and using human zygotes to re-establish humanity on another world, starting humanity anew but abandoning those corn-chowing suckers on Earth.
The team is thrown together and Cooper quickly joins. We don’t get a training montage or any scene of Cooper really contemplating the levity of the situation. This is kind of good because it gets us right to the action. Cooper quickly leaves home, has a tearful goodbye with his daughter, practically forgets about his son, then drives off. Like every good truck drive-off, Murph runs out the door to chase after him just before it’s too late. Countdown 10, 9, 8, 7, etc. We’re in space in a rocket to get to another spaceship, the Endurance, that has more efficient landing craft that could have taken them up anyway without a multistage rocket. Michael Caine then reads “do not go gentle into the good night” by Dylan Thomas for the first of four times.
Hammer impact skull. We get it, Nolan.
The crew is made up of Cooper, Anne Hatheway as Amelia Brand, a token black guy and a white guy with a beard. It also has two pretty cool robots who crack jokes in an otherwise jokeless odyssey. One of the best scenes of the movie has Cooper giving the token black guy earbuds so he can listen to a .mp3 of nature sounds. The token black guy is very likeable.
Two years later, they get to the wormhole and travel to the other galaxy. They explain the concept of flying through wormholes the exact same way as they did in Event Horizon. This is intergalactic travel, not interstellar travel, but don’t tell Nolan this. The scene looks really cool and it is really intense and it is a feast for the eyes… until the dialog happens. Anne Hatheway sees a hand and reaches out to touch it. It’s the otherworldly intelligent beings she cries at the camera! Nolan doesn’t want us to figure things out ourselves. Anne Hatheway talks about how nature can’t be evil and asks Cooper why he didn’t tell his daughter he was saving the world. Cooper says he didn’t want to lay it on a 10-year old that the world was dying. When I was 10, if the only thing I was eating was corn, I’d ask about it and probably figure out the world was dying. Less out of wanting to save the world and more of the fact that I want to know where my damn potato chips were. Murph is presented as precocious, it’s shocking that she wouldn’t figure it out.
They go to the new galaxy and decide to go to the planet closest to a black hole first. That would be a really easy planet to settle and keep civilization in because our current civilization totally does not have satellite technology that could easily get sucked into it. The black hole causes time dilation meaning that spending one hour on the planet means that seven years on Earth will pass. “This has the potential for some great drama,” I say to myself in the theatre. It’s like the climax of Inception but scientifically accurate. But there’s one problem with the planet. It is made up entirely of knee-high water. Humanity figured out what Pluto’s surface was made out of in the 1980s but apparently Secret NASA thought that settling human civilization on a planet of knee high water next to a black hole was a sound plan?
Knee-high water is a great place to raise your kids. Human babies can breath in water right?
They go down to Waterworld but leave the token black guy to crunch some numbers up on the Endurance. Due to the time dilation they find out that the scout they sent before had just crash landed and died minutes before they got there. As the bearded guy, Anne Hathaway and the robot search the wreck, Cooper sees a giant wave coming towards them. The wave is massive because of tides due to the black hole. Science! Well, apparently science can only go so far as the bearded guy and Anne Hathaway don’t notice the wave of the century until Surfer Dude Matthew McConaughey points out the radical wave. Beardy guy doesn’t make it because of dramatic tension, Anne Hathaway and the robot make it back. Beardy guy isn’t mourned. They get back up to the ship and the token black guy tells them that 23 years have passed since they went down to the planet.
Oh snap! Poor guy, being all up there alone and doing math for two decades. The emotional power of this scene goes away pretty fast as they are told they got messages from their family waiting for them. The ship can receive messages from Earth but they can’t send anything. Cooper’s son sends his ungrateful father a bunch of messages. Matthew McConaughey nails the scene. You really start feeling devastated for him… until Cooper’s son tells him that he tried to name his son Coop, after his father but his wife said no. The wife may be the only smart person in the movie up until that point for realizing that Coop Cooper is a pretty stupid name. Meanwhile Murph has sent him no messages because she resents Cooper for leaving the family behind.
Back on Earth, Murph has grown up to be Jessica Chastain. She resents her father for abandoning the family to the point that she joins Secret NASA to work on the same project that her father is. She works right next to the machine that sends messages to her father, but she still hates her father for joining a cause that she is now a part of. It’s jarring. She works with the barely aged Michael Caine to try and figure out the gravity equation.
The space crew decide what planet to go to next. Both options are terrible for different reasons, but Anne Hathaway wants to go to the planet where a man she loves was sent as a scout. Her lady bits take over and Christopher Nolan’s inability to make good female characters become apparent. Anne Hathaway then gives a long speech about how love is the most powerful force in the universe. “Love isn’t something we invented — it’s observable, powerful, it has to mean something… Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space,” she says, crying. Most of Interstellar‘s dialogue seems like it belongs in The Notebook or pasted as a quote on a 14-year old girl’s Tumblr blog. Anne Hathaway is a good enough actress that she can sell the terrible, corny dialogue but I felt worse for her as an actress giving a monologue in this then when I did when her character sold her hair and teeth to feed her daughter in Les Miserables.
They decide “fuck Anne Hathaway” and go to the planet her loved one isn’t on. They try and track down Dr. Mann on the ice planet and find him in cryosleep. They awaken him, and… it’s Matt Damon! Wow. What a way to take you out of the film experience by having a big-name Hollywood star make a surprise appearance and remind you that you are watching a movie. The casting is bizarre. He isn’t good in the movie. They hid him from the cast list on every promotion of Interstellar yet Matt Damon has been talking about being in the movie forever. This surprise doesn’t work. 12 Years a Slave did something similar when they brought Brad Pitt into the movie near the end. It was a bit weird, but he wasn’t hidden from the cast. People knew he was coming, they just didn’t know when. Ellen Burstyn is in the film much later and they don’t hide her appearance and she’s named on a lot of posters. It’s a cheap “twist” that creates one quick shock followed by the audience racking their brains to remember what other movies he’s been in.
Michael Caine is dying back on earth. The sound mixing is so bad in the movie that it is hard to hear what he says. It sounds just as incomprehensible as Bane did in The Dark Knight Rises prologue before fans complained. Interstellar has the worst sound mixing I have heard in a big-budget movie. Usually it shouldn’t stick out but you can barely hear what characters are saying over Hans Zimmer’s impressive score. Caine mumbles “do not go gentle into that good night” again to Jessica Chastain and tells him that plan A was always meant to fail because they needed data from the centre of a black hole, and that plan B was the real point of the mission.
Okay. This means that Michael Caine sent his daughter, Anne Hathaway, into another galaxy as the only human female to repopulate humanity with human zygotes. They sent one woman on the mission. One. Not only did they forget to plan the mission around the pilot, they forgot to plan the mission around having females to impregnate.
I’m sure these fine gentlemen on the voyage have strong uteri capable of raising the future of humanity.
Michael Caine tells Jessica Chastain. Jessica Chastain tells the robot through a message. The robot tells Anne Hathaway about the plan. Anne Hathaway tells the crew about the plan. Cooper reiterates the plan. In the span of a couple minutes we hear about it five times. Christopher Nolan really doubts the ability of his audience to retain information.
This is where Interstellar goes full cliché. Every space exploration movie needs someone to go berserk and betray everyone. This time it isn’t the robot that goes crazy. Matt Damon even explains that robots can’t do these missions because they lack survival instinct. It still seems like a cop-out, I’d much rather send three of these super-smart and capable robots who mess up then someone like Anne Hathaway who just reacts off of emotion. So who goes berserk? It turns out Matt Damon faked the planetary data so that the Endurance would come and rescue him so that he could go home. It turns out a planet full of glaciers isn’t ideal for human civilization either. Cooper calls him a coward, then Matt Damon starts monolouging like he was a comic book supervillain. They get into a fight and Cooper tries to save him which Matt Damon responds by cracking his space helmet open. The token black guy is trying to recover the data from Matt Damon’s robot, but the robot is rigged to blow up, killing the token black guy. Token black guy is not mourned despite being probably the most grounded and likeable character in the movie. Anne Hathaway is able to save Cooper but not before Matt Damon takes a ship up to the Endurance. How evil of Dr. Mann! Do you get it? Mann is man’s worst enemy! Oh ho, that Christopher Nolan sure is subtle!
In a tense Gravity-like scene Matt Damon tries to dock with the Endurance. While giving another cheesy monologue, he blows up himself and part of the Endurance. Cooper uses computer magic and his impeccably good Jedi-style pilot skills to dock with the Endurance with him and Anne Hathaway aboard despite it spinning ridiculously fast. A huge chunk of the Endurance is gone and they wonder how they will finish their mission with limited fuel while Anne Hathaway cries and Cooper mumbles. They plan to slingshot around the black hole so they can save on fuel and get to the last third planet.
They put the plan into motion. Cooper ejects a shuttle with himself in it to into the black hole so that the Endurance is lighter. Cooper falls into the black hole with only his robot companion with him.
Then the movie turns into 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The black hole scene looks really, really cool and again, Matthew McConaughey is able to sell the intensity and isolation. Cooper ends up in a weird, plaid looking, Inception-style twisty dimension. Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain as Murph decides to go back to the farm she grew up on to visit the neglected son, now grown up and played by Casey Affleck doing his best Ben Affleck in Argo impression. Murph realizes the kids at the farm are coughing a lot due to the dust but Casey Affleck refuses to leave. The neglectful parent gene is in the Y-chromosome apparently. Murph and her boyfriend, the poorly cast Topher Grace (Eric Foreman from That ’70s Show) set the corn field on fire to get the kids out of the house and so that Murph can go back to her bedroom where the ghost from her childhood was.
In the black hole, Cooper is floating in a weird space. He explains everything to the robot because Nolan does not want anyone to be confused, not even your stoner friend who just walked into the movie two and a half hours late. The black hole is a fifth dimensional space that was created by humans who evolved into fifth dimensional beings in the future (this is not how evolution works). Everything Cooper does he explains to the robot who you do not see. Apparently in this fifth dimension where no signal can reach out, basic radio frequencies still work for robot-human communications. This is when the big reveal of the movie happens. It turns out… COOPER WAS THE GHOST THE WHOLE TIME! Wowie! How original! Ten Oscars for Christopher Nolan, greatest and most original movie of all time. You could see it coming a light-year away once they introduced the ghost in the bedroom at the fifteen minute mark of the movie.
This is another problem most time travel movies have. Why would the future humans, aliens or whoever it was who set up this fifth dimension rely on Cooper telling Murph through a ghost in a bedroom how to save humanity? The Terminator did this well by having the point of time travel to be to kill someone’s mother before humanity’s saviour was born. Back to the Future had an accidental time jump that then caused consequences. There were logical reasons for the where and when of time travel. Appearing as a ghost in a bedroom only satisfies the plot from an emotional standpoint. For being a big movie with “big” ideas about saving humanity, why would it be so pinpointed? Pure emotional manipulation.
Cooper can manipulate things slightly in our world slightly from the plaid zone. The bedroom is the only thing he can access but he can access it through any point in time. That’s convenient because that means he can communicate with Murph. He tells Murph “STAY” because that’s what the ghost told him earlier. He can’t tell her “It’s Coop” or “I’m Dad” because the movie has locked itself in a time paradox. Cooper says what he says because future Cooper tells him to say it. And future Cooper tells him what he says because future Cooper tells him to. Cooper knew about the Secret NASA coordinates because Cooper told him the Secret NASA coordinates. This paradox is an infinite loop. Having it revealed to be aliens would be a more logical and satisfying explanation. However, Nolan goes for the big emotional punch of Murph finding out. This isn’t a movie about fate. This is a movie about love and science. Other science fiction works like Dune and Lost can get away with this because fate and faith were big issues in them. Interstellar falls back to pseudoscience because it realises that the hard science it uses is not as emotional or engaging as it hopes.
Cooper is somehow able to manipulate the hand of his watch enough so that it affects Murph’s watch. He gets the gravity MacGuffin equation from the robot and he uses Morse code to communicate it to Murph. Murph catches on and begins translating the supposedly overly complex equation into words or numbers. Apparently it is simple enough that she doesn’t need to sleep, eat or take a break with translating it. Meanwhile, Topher Grace yells that Cassey Affleck is coming back to the house and is mighty pissed that she decided to burn some of the last corn crop humanity has to eat. Murph translates the equation and ultimately solves how to get a ship made of concrete into space.
Thank god Christopher Nolan casted some good actors in the movie or else it would have been even more unbelievable. Chastain and McConaughey are both amazing actors so it still packs a bit of an emotional punch as long as you don’t think about how ludicrous the paradox is. It’s the same paradox that has Kyle Reese knock up Sarah Connor in The Terminator but you bought the romance so it wasn’t as confusing to witness. Not that Interstellar is ever confusing because Christopher Nolan is sure to slap you awake the second you have a question about anything. You feel emotionally invested at this connection that Murph and Cooper have through time and space because the movie tells you that they love each other and that time and space is no way to stop true love. You cry on cue. Nolan tells you how to feel instead of letting you react to what’s going on. In Titanic you don’t cry when Jack dies because Rose gives a speech about how he was the only love of her life and that she changed because of him. Titanic showed you a relationship that you grew to care about then severed the ties between them. You felt the cut. I’m using Titanic as an example because it is another super popular, melodramatic movie about relationships that was a visual spectacle. It is not the saddest or most emotional movie ever. Interstellar reads like a textbook. It’s a step-by-step instruction about how you should feel about a movie. It’s blunt and offensive.
At this point Murph runs outside and hugs her brother Casey Affleck and goes back to the cement Secret NASA base and tells everyone she has figured out how to make cement aerodynamic. Love really did transcend time and space like the movie trailers said to save the day. Anne Hathaway’s speech was right. Love is quantifiable because it is a strong emotion that audiences can relate to. Fear and hate? Nah, those aren’t strong enough emotions to carry a full movie. Thank goodness for ghosts and time paradoxes and extremely convenient coincidences.
Cooper then of course travels a bit through the fifth dimension, shakes Anne Hathaway’s hand as they are travelling because he was the ghostly other being the whole time, then he wakes up outside of Saturn. He is recovered by a shuttle and brought to a space station and to the worst part of the movie.
At a hospital on the space station Cooper is told he is now over a hundred years old. He asks about his Murph, not giving a single shit about his son. The son is never mentioned again. The son that cared enough to send messages to his father while he was on a suicide mission doesn’t even get a passing thought. Why was the son even in the movie other than to get Murph back to the farm so that Jessica Chastain can cry while staring at a bookshelf? It turns out Murph is now in a cryosleep and is being brought back to the station so that she can say hello to her long-lost father.
Cooper’s old farmhouse is considered a historical landmark and has been recreated on this space station. The station can only exist because of the equation that Cooper sent to Murph. Humanity’s ark is named Cooper station after Murph Cooper. There is a landmark for the Endurance crew who saved humanity where we get to see Dylan Thomas’s “do not go gentle into that good night” poem for a fifth time. At this point the movie has gone from having the subtlety of a jackhammer to the subtlety of an atomic bomb with speakers blasting Ke$ha as it drops.
Then we have the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Murph and Cooper finally reunite. Murph is surrounded by her kids and grandkids at a hospital. She is old now and played by the not-secretly-cast Ellen Burstyn. Cooper brushes past his extended family and descendants to say hello to the daughter he has spent almost a century getting back to. Murph says she always knew he would come back just to jerk at your heartstrings a little, then starts talking about Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is still lost in the other galaxy on the third planet. Murph tells Cooper to save her, apparently she didn’t consider sending a recon team out to find her beforehand. Cooper then is like “okay, peace.”
This movie built up a father-daughter relationship for 169-minutes and then dumps it in the toilet so that Cooper can go get some. This is a movie that kept telling us that “love can transcend time and space.” Interstellar got us so invested in the father-daughter love plot that this would have been a logical point to end the movie. The movie didn’t give damn about token black guy or beardy guy, but now suddenly Anne Hathaway is the most important person in the universe. It’s like we are living Anne Hathaway’s perception of the 2012 Oscar race all over again. Cooper doesn’t say a word to his extended family despite the movie yammering on about how important it was to save humanity for the future generations. These are the future generations. Cooper suddenly doesn’t care. He cares about being with Anne Hathaway for some reason now. Interstellar betrayed everything it spent the whole movie it tried to build up. It would be like if Batman went on a killing spree and started illegally downloading music at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, it goes against everything we were led to believe about the character and where the movie was going.
A lot of comparisons can be drawn to Prometheus in how many plot holes a science fiction movie can have, but while Prometheus may have had dumb characters who made dumb decisions it all led to a point narratively that made sense. The movie ends with Cooper stealing a spaceship to go find Anne Hathaway. We see Anne Hathaway on the third world. It is not made of water or glacial ice so it is confusing about why they didn’t just go there first. There is probably a scientific technobabble gobbledy-gook reason they didn’t go there first but from a narrative standpoint the first two planets fell flat so a third one fails to be exciting. She is burying the body of who can be assumed to be the dude she loved that got her hormones going enough to make a grand speech about love as a unit of measurement. The only thing interesting about it is that it looks like a fresh grave site and a fresh base have been set up which means the time dilation is stronger than it was on Waterworld.
For a movie that was not about lust, Interstellar spent an offensive amount of time looking at how women made brash decisions based on needing a man in their life. So that’s where the movie ends, with Cooper bailing on another one of his kids to rescue or hook up with Anne Hathaway.
I honestly expected Interstellar to end with “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith playing as the credits rolled. It was just as sappy of a mess as Armageddon but at least in Armageddon you believed the relationships and the movie wasn’t so far up its own butt that it couldn’t have fun. Ben Affleck feeding Liv Tyler animal crackers was more fun this space romp. No post-credits scene, just slight ambiguity if Cooper makes it or not to Anne Hathaway. Humanity has lived on, but we only see a selfless hero ditch his daughter, again, for another suicide mission.
SPOILERS END HERE!
Interstellar is a mess. The science is sort of sound but the plot is jarring, convoluted and manipulative. If it weren’t for the good actors in the movie, the movie would not have been able to sell the terrible dialogue that it dishes out. Critics and fans call Interstellar ambitious but I just can’t see it. Christopher Nolan made a movie about love that was set in space and had some real science behind it. Beyond that, there’s nothing too ambitious about it. It has the same DNA as other space travel dramas, but what it tries to do uniquely doesn’t feel unique.
I’m sure you may think I’m trying to poke too many holes in this movie but this movie itself is a giant black hole. It’s a singularity that sucks in everything that is wrong with Christopher Nolan as a director: bad female characters, logic leaps, simplification of what could be complex themes and iffy dialogue that only works with the best actors in the business delivering it. Whereas his previous movies were so grand and so well-plotted that you missed the flaws because you were amazed by the movie experience, you can tell that Nolan should have never touched Interstellar. Chris’s brother Jonathan Nolan wrote the movie planning on having Steven Spielberg direct it. Everything that was wrong about Interstellar could have likely been fixed by Spielberg. Spielberg can sell hokey love stories with ease. Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial all moved past the flaws in their plots because they had enough charm and zippiness that you still believed in the magic of the movie experience. Interstellar feels calculated. You can tell when you are supposed to cry because Nolan tells you to cry. You can tell when you are supposed to laugh because there are only about three jokes in the movie. The Deer Hunter is funnier. You can tell when you are supposed to be in awe of the visuals because Nolan frames the camera on Matthew McConaughey’s face instead of actually showing you the visuals.
I wouldn’t completely skip Interstellar if you are mildly interested. Nolan fans seem to be very passionate about the movie. I would never watch this movie on the small screen so I would see it in theatres if possible. This is not the greatest movie ever. This is not the second coming of Christ in film form. A lot of Christopher Nolan fans want it to be. They’ve already rated it the 11th best movie of all time on IMDb (as of the time of writing). The best thing that can come of this movie is that it does well enough that they trust other directors to enact on different ideas. Interstellar is far from original but you can tell that Christopher Nolan was practically given a blank cheque to make this film. There is no other way the dialogue and sound editing should be this bad in a big budget film done by an Academy Award-nominated director who has made some of the greatest movies of the past few decades. Interstellar is not the greatest movie ever. It’s not even a good movie. There’s nothing below the surface, it’s just knee-deep water of hokey gushy love talk spread across three hours of good music and disappointing visuals. What you see is what you get. Demanding and dreaming of more is what Interstellar preaches, and we should take that to heart when it comes to looking at our movies.