Nolan. McConaughey. Space. Worm holes. Intense visuals. Emotions. In a starved future, Michael Caine convinces his daughter (Anne Hathaway) and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) that the only cure for the barren wasteland earth is fast becoming lies beyond our galaxy and through a worm hole just to the side of Saturn.
‘Interstellar’ is epic space travel reminiscent of the best episodes of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ Both films chronicle the evolution of humankind, but where ‘2001’ left the ending open for viewers to theorise and draw their own conclusions, Nolan takes similar concepts and makes it all very explicit. You’re left in no doubt where he’s coming from and there’s no ‘Inception’ style scratching your head or post-movie deliberation as you may have hoped; ‘Interstellar’ ties it all together nicely.
The film takes a lot from Kubrick – both feature a fallible entity which while appearing helpful ultimately puts our heroes in harm’s way; the reveal of this element is very unexpected and rewarding if you go in unawares. Both feature crews who aren’t entrusted entirely with the full implications of the mission and ultimately have to take a leap of faith “into that good night” – Dylan Thomas’ poem, oft-repeated throughout the movie.
Yet the two films are different, and made for very different audiences. ‘2001’ came out in 1968 at the height of the space race when landing on the moon was fast becoming a reality. People were excited about space travel, who was out there and the possibilities of what was on the dark side of the moon.
Now – there are only six astronauts in space and NASA have left much of the work to Elon Musk and Virgin – most governments unwilling to fund space travel, widely viewed as a non-priority given the world’s problems, as alluded to in ‘Interstellar.’ Yet as eloquently argued by Cooper, the advent of space travel was responsible for countless innovations and remains the final frontier.
‘Interstellar’ will stand as a testament to expanded space travel and exploration after a dwindling interest and will certainly excite people like myself who didn’t roll their eyes when Newt Gingrich called for a space base on the moon.
In Season 2 of ‘The West Wing,’ Sam gets asked why the US should go to Mars, he replies: “Because we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire, and we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.” This could well have been Nolan’s initial pitch to Warner Bros. and doesn’t sound too dissimilar from much of the frustrating and uneven exposition early on in the film.
The ending will annoy a lot of people, but you don’t need to entirely understand something or know it to be plausible to enjoy high-concept, visually stunning drama. The emphasis on visual effects over CGI is a staple of Nolan’s and adds a sense of reality to a film which in the hands of another director could easily have become bogged down in unrealistic and frustrating graphic imagery.
It’s long but an epic is supposed to be long, covering multiple settings, acts and story arcs. When Nolan makes a movie its a movie-event, and ‘Interstellar’ is no different. If you plan to see it, watch it in cinemas, or treat yourself and head to IMAX for the type of worm hole plunge that would leave even Gene Roddenberry slack-jawed.