Q&A Movie Review: ‘Interstellar’ A Small Human Drama Set to the Canvas of a Deep Space Epic

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Preston Barta & Cole Clay // Film Critic

INTERSTELLAR | 169 min. | Rated PG-13 | Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow and Michael Caine

Several films come to mind when you think of the great space epics in the history of film. Movies such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, STAR WARS (Ep. IV-VI), ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, SUNSHINE, and most recently GRAVITY, are among the many. Aside from 2001, these films transcended the genre and were instantly acclaimed.

So why hasn’t Christopher Nolan’s latest film, INTERSTELLAR, received the same treatment? Are critics just being too radical with their opinions? Or, is the film overall just a vast disappointment? Well, we at Fresh Fiction decided to deviate from our traditional review format to instead form a dialogue regarding one of the year’s most anticipated films.

First, what is the film about?

The movie explores a vast amount of things: space, time, wormholes, and family. But in short, INTERSTELLAR follows a group of space engineers, including Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, as they explore other galaxies to save an Earth that can’t self-sustain.

Is it Nolan’s best work?

At first glance, no it’s not, but based on scale, it’s his most ambitious film to date. It was most likely pretty difficult for Christopher Nolan and his brother and cowriter, Jonathan, to properly articulate the full gamut of emotions that they were attempting to convey. Nolan’s most successful film in terms of quality, in our opinion, is THE PRESTIGE, because of the moral/narrative ambiguity that surrounded it. Aside from THE DARK KNIGHT Trilogy, INTERSTELLAR is Nolan’s most straightforward narrative, which is why maybe some critics are responding poorly to the film.

Matthew McConaughey plays a man who heads to another galaxy to save humanity in Interstellar.

Matthew McConaughey plays a man who heads to another galaxy to save humanity in Interstellar.

Does its reach far exceed its grasp?

Let us preface our answer by saying we understand why critics have panned the film because its outlook is idealistic. No, it has a firm objective and we knew going in that the Nolans were going to toy with lofty ideas that few have found to be too convoluted and ultimately unsuccessful.

The Nolans use the plot of INTERSTELLAR as a platform to say no matter how hard we try, or how many galaxies we travel through, we can’t hide from our humanity. This is the most melodramatic film we have seen from Nolan, but upon first viewing, we are willing to forgive several of the hang ups. Perhaps we were just hypnotized by the visual grandeur of the cinematography.

People will endlessly nitpick this movie and ask if the science is plausible in the movie. For us, it worked on every level and that’s what’s important. But, there is no doubt INTERSTELLAR will have a corner office in the pantheon of sci-fi films.

Visuals?

Well, it’s a Chris Nolan film. Can you really expect anything shy of striking? Not once do the events in INTERSTELLAR ever feel unreal and lose the emotional sense that the film creates. They are subtle in a way where they are not regarded and talked about as effects; although, they take up a large part and drive the entire story. The journey is fueled by the film’s ground-breaking special effects and was a huge influence to its overall success, adding the excitement and action that everyone was looking for but had never truly discovered. The visuals and the effects show space from an angle that has no restrictions and because of this, creates an unique experience that has not been created before.

Timothée Chalamet, Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy in Interstellar.

Timothée Chalamet, Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy in Interstellar.

While INCEPTION (with its stunning visuals like INTERSTELLAR) lacked in the emotional department, where does this film sit?

INTERSTELLAR doesn’t lack in the emotional department. The whole film is hinged upon selling the character’s relationships with each other. It’s difficult not to find a way to relate to Cooper (McConaughey) and his family because this entire movie is about forgiveness and second chances.

We mentioned earlier that a major criticism (aside from script) of the film would be because INTERSTELLAR doesn’t hide its idealism, and many will find the emotional weight of the film is slight and largely contrived. Let the record state, we gravitated towards the film’s emotional weight.

The overall performances?

McConaughey ironically keeps the film grounded. He has just enough of a twinkle in his eye and spring in his step to sell the radical ideas posed by the Nolans. As for Anne Hathaway, there’s nothing special about her Amelia Brand (one of the scientists on the expedition). She is here mostly to anchor the screen when McConaughey or Jessica Chastain can’t be around. But it is Chastain as Murph that brings the spirit of the film home. Her performance has a fiery passion that is contagious. As for the other actors, they all fit in minus the 70s Show dude.

Hans Zimmer’s score?

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and a scene-stealing David Gyasi.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and a scene-stealing David Gyasi.

The score was what one could expect from Zimmer: the music was larger than life and had a sprawling effect that could be equally beautiful and riveting. However, with INTERSTELLAR he tweaked his M.O. a little bit by making the score fairly haunting. It sounded like it was out of a horror film.

The casual movie-goer will make up the vast majority of the film’s audience. How do you think they will react to the film?

INTERSTELLAR is a movie disguised as a film for critics, but really made for wide audience consumption. We have already seen that some will find it brilliant and other will condemn the film for its head in the clouds approach to science. Overall, this is a movie that mainstream film-goers will laud (and for good reason). It’s thought provoking, exciting and has the shirtless wonder at the forefront – McConaughey. Our advice is don’t over-think INTERSTELLAR; it’s a feel good movie that warrants the attention to every film fan’s attention this weekend.

Nolan set out to make his most personal and emotional film, about love and time – time being a recurring theme throughout all of his films. But it’s so much more than that as well. Nolan and his brother want us to break out of simple-minded movie comfort level and contemplate vaster perspectives. And like Steven Spielberg (who was originally slated to direct the film with Tom Cruise in the starring role), the duo also want to remind us that “all you need is love.”

INTERSTELLAR is playing in IMAX and select theaters screening in 70 and 35mm. It will open everywhere on Friday.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.