If it was possible to park our brains outside the theater, then director Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic venture into time and space, “Intestellar,” could be enjoyed as a visual feast. From the heartbreaking, sweeping farm lands that reflect the desperation of a world in ruin to cities among the stars, the film is a dazzling galaxy of images.
The problem is that the story gets in the way with a blinding glare of sci-fi mumble jumble that is equal parts idiotic and gimmick. Nolan’s work on the script, which his brother Jonathan Nolan had originally written, is a black hole of ideas that never emerge from the darkness.
In some near (or distant) future, Earth is dying. Instead of aliens or zombies, this dystopian story unfolds as an ecological warning. Exactly what Earthlings did to make the planet so mad is never fully revealed. That point — as with a galaxy of others — are simply ignored.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is the last hope to save Earth’s population. Before he became a farmer, he was an astronaut — just what a secret instillation needs to pilot a ship to a mysterious worm hole parked just outside Saturn. This artificial gateway to another galaxy leads to 12 potential planets that could become a new home for Earth’s inhabitants.
Consider this. There are beings out there who have the ability to artificially create a worm hole but they aren’t smart enough to create it closer to Earth. But, such logic would have eliminated the two year journey to the worm hole that serves as the foundation for the movie’s central theme.
Cooper’s torn between his duty to humanity and his role as a father to his children, especially the inquisitive Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Nolan muddies up the story by delving into issues of time and space when Copper explains that when he returns from his trip, there’s a good chance she will be older than him.
Time is a difficult subject because there are so many variables. Any deviation from the rules set in the beginning kill the premise. And deviations are the norm in this movie.
As soon as the rocket leaves, “Interstellar” turns into a forgettable space opera with characters who fill in the predictable roles of heroes, villains and emotional fodder. Nolan shows a real laziness in staging the scenes — falling back on imagery where it’s impossible to tell which way is up. Had that camera trickery not been so memorable in his “Inception,” it would have been far more impressive here.
Nolan appears to be trying to make a 21st century answer to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But the cliched characters, unintelligible dealings with a black hole and absurd diatribe on time leaves “Interstellar” looking more like the 1979 Disney movie “The Black Hole,” a sc-fi production considered one of the biggest misses in the studio’s history.
The only thing that keeps the movie from completely collapsing on itself is McConaughey. When the movie gets pulled back into the gravity of the human story, the humanity returns to the film. McConaughey‘s performance is raw and honest, a sharp contrast to the standard space trek jabber and actions that populate the majority of the movie. There’s just too few of these moments.
It’s hard to talk about certain elements without giving away some of the film’s secrets. Let’s just say the ending would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly bad.
“Interstellar” might not have come across as such a major disaster had it been made by someone else. Nolan’s his own worst enemy here, because he’s shown with films like “Dark Knight” and “Inception” that he can produce brilliant work. “Interstellar” isn’t even in the same universe with his past films, which is what makes this such a crushing failure.