So why will many view director Christopher Nolan’s latest film as a disappointment?
Nolan is no stranger to narrative overload, and once again he packs the screen with more ambition, big ideas and heart than a dozen films. That’s rarely a recipe for success, even if he stirred similar ingredients to perfection in the “Dark Knight” trilogy.
In space, no one can hear you say, “sometimes, less is more.”
“Interstellar” demands a dazzling third act to connect the disparate threads under Nolan’s touch, and, frankly, put the icing on a cake toppling under the weight of its sugary goodness. Instead, Nolan grabs an intellectual Rubik’s Cube and gives it a yank, leaving audiences disconnected from characters they were ready to love.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former astronaut trying to raise his family in an Earth that looks nothing like the planet we call home. Its once fertile expanses are now prone to dust storms. Farms which formerly grew an array of crops must settle for corn.
And it’s about to get worse.
Which is why Cooper agrees to pilot a space craft designed to find a new planet the human race can call its own. That means leaving his son and daughter behind, although Nolan seems far more concerned with Cooper’s daughter for heart-tugging purposes.
Can Cooper and his small team of astronauts (including a poorly used Anne Hathaway) find humanity’s salvation? And if they do, will they return to earth to find their loved ones have aged in their absence?
“Interstellar” spends a great deal of time exploring time-space theories, worm holes and even the possibility of a spiritual hand guiding our fate. Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with brother Jonathan, does all he can to put these high-falutin’ themes into their characters’ mouths, and it works better than expected.
Still, the highbrow chatter douses some of the connections forged by a very strong cast. McConaughey, in particular, excels at keeping everything grounded. He’s a terrific on-screen parent, and his reaction to a video message he receives in space could be a perfect Oscar nomination reel.
It’s hard to imagine where “Interstellar” would be without him.
Other flaws start peeking out from beneath the gorgeous tapestry. A big star cameo leads to a strained confrontation. The introduction of several good actors (Topher Grace, Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain) pack little emotional payoff. And even the great Michael Caine, cast as the brains behind the humanity’s Hail Mary pass, isn’t as intriguing as usual.
Through it all is a can-do spirit embodied by Cooper. He can be a jerk, but he never gives up on himself, his family or his country. That uniquely American spirit, underscored by the sight of Old Glory, is beautifully understated but potent all the same.
It’s hard not to recommend “Interstellar.” For all its flaws it delivers on its big screen movie making like few films can. Watch it when your expectations have settled back to earth and enjoy the bumpy ride.
DID YOU KNOW: Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film, 2000’s “Memento,” was passed over by several U.S. studios before it found its way to theaters nationwide.