"Interstellar"

4 stars

Theatrical release: 11/7/2014
PG-13; 2 hrs. 49 min.
Written by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan
Produced by Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst, and Emma Thomas
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Interstellar is a film that reaches deep into your psyche and holds you in its grip for nearly three hours. Here is a movie that is — in turns and sometimes simultaneously — haunting, spellbinding, exhilarating, audacious, introspective, heartbreaking, horrifying, and life-affirming. It is that rare moviegoing experience that feels like it's actually happening as you watch it, despite its insane turns of events.

There were times during this film — as it unflinchingly depicts desperate uncertainty and loneliness — that I felt like I almost emotionally couldn't endure it, but perhaps I can chalk that up to being willfully vulnerable to its intentions. It's a mental probe that burrows itself deep into the mind, taps into hopes and fears, and seriously ponders big questions. It is both intellectual and emotional, smart and sentimental, intimate and immense. It is about all of us when faced with the very possible idea of collective oblivion, and what that means to us as individuals.

If you value true science fiction, Interstellar may be the definitive epic of a generation. It is the rare big-budget mainstream adventure that is as much "sci" as "fi." Granted, that's a rare breed to find at all these days, but that doesn't diminish the achievement. (For years, 1997's Contact has been my benchmark for this type of major-studio sci-fi release, but it may have finally been displaced.)

Perhaps the less you know about the plot going into it, the better. (I knew very little.) I won't go too much into the details. Suffice it to say that Earth in the near future is experiencing rapid changes in the atmosphere, a catastrophic decline in viable agriculture, mass starvation, and the very real possibility that human extinction is on the very near horizon. This is a reality not widely known to the populace, but the writing is probably on the wall. The story sells this foreboding with large-scale dust storms that come out of nowhere, sweep through the film's setting in a small farm town, and cover everything under layers of dirt. Small farm towns represent the most important sector of a society that can ill-afford to care about much else; maintaining the food supply is paramount. In a telling detail, the United States propaganda machine, trying to set priorities to more pressing Earth-bound matters, rewrites school textbooks to explain NASA's Apollo missions were faked hoaxes used to trick the Soviets into wasting money and resources on their space program.

But, ironically, the fate of humanity may very well rest on an audacious plan venturing into the great unknowns of space. It leads to the recruitment of a father and former NASA pilot (Matthew McConaughey) into a daring deep-space mission. His recruitment leads to an impossible choice that is heartbreaking in its binary nature: Either face the reality that humanity will end in his children's lifetime, or leave his children behind so that he may go on this mission to try to save them. (That he can make the choice at all is astonishing, and perhaps even wrong, but one of the messages of the movie is that only a few individuals will be able to save the rest of us.)

And that's about all I'll discuss about the plot, except to say that from there it becomes a tale of space exploration that highly values extrapolating from actual science when it comes to its dialogue and details, and it shows plausible versions of futuristic technology and space travel. The movie is haunting in its depiction of an extended space mission with a small crew facing utter isolation and no guarantee of return. When a character says that the thing that really gets to him is the idea that on the other side of the thin metal wall of the spacecraft is nothing but millions and millions of miles of nothing — well, that cuts to the heart of the psychological dread of oblivion. There are potential fates here worse than death; consider the possibility of an eternity of isolation, the idea that you are cut off from your species, possibly forever, even while their very survival depends on what you do next. This, after you've willingly left behind your children in an attempt to save them.

Meanwhile, Interstellar considers the implacable nature of time, and how there is both not enough of it and too much of it. Not enough time on Earth; too much in the vast emptiness of space. And the fact that time is relative is putting things mildly. It's safe to say that time is the biggest enemy in the story. A sequence where McConaughey's character reviews a series of messages from Earth after a major mission setback is devastating in its chilling realization.

Also, the idea of the human survival instinct becomes a case study when you consider it collectively as represented by the very idea of this daring mission on the one hand — or, on the other, the disastrous example of an individual exercising that same will to live at the expense of the greater good. Some of us will do the things we feel we must in order not to die, no matter the cost.

But Interstellar isn't all intellectualism and philosophy. It also has a rousing spirit of exploration, thrilling examples of space flight, and heart-stopping sequences of peril. And it has a final act that is mind-bending in its audacity. I would guess that these revelations may not please everyone, but I found them to be a logical conclusion of the film's humanistic intentions. This is a story built upon a foundation of sentiment as much as science.

For writer/director Christopher Nolan, Interstellar represents a masterwork. He moves beyond the comfortable action-movie trappings shown in his more recent successes like The Dark Knight trilogy or Inception and creates something that is both epic in its ambitions and personal in its feelings (and, I'd predict, not likely to be nearly as commercially successful). The depiction of all the sci-fi trappings are top-notch and imaginatively envisioned. The visuals are at times astonishing, yet limited in their scope so they never venture too far afield the primary points of view. Hans Zimmer's score is awesome and evocative. There are individual shots that are definitely paying homage to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The performances (including those from Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, and John Lithgow, among others) are on target, all starting with McConaughey, who grounds the movie in straightforward humanity. His character's love for his daughter affected me deeply, perhaps because it forced me to think of my own daughter in the terms of such a calamitous situation and dire choices. This is a movie that deals in universal feelings and empathy, and explores the human condition like all great sci-fi should. After seeing Interstellar, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

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81 comments on this review

Jammer
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 2:10am (UTC -6)
Spoilers are allowed in the comment thread, so if you haven't seen the film, proceed at your own risk! As a courtesy to help others avoid spoilers, comments on this thread will be omitted from the Comment Browser for the immediate future while the film is in wide release.

And if you're going to theorize why I posted this review and still haven't posted the one for "Into Darkness," please just don't. The reason is simple: This movie is out now and I had the desire to write about it, and STID is a review that's already 18 months late and thus no reason to get it out before this.

Please talk about "Interstellar" on this thread.
Dom
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 10:35am (UTC -6)
Jammer, glad to see you writing a new review! That said, the fact that you felt compelled to write this review so quickly but still haven't written the review for Star Trek Into Darkness speaks volumes I think about how underwhelming you must find STID!
Josh
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 4:45pm (UTC -6)
Definitive epic of a generation??? Wow. I need to see this. Particularly inasmuch as Contact remains one of my favourite movies - I appreciate the comparison (and rather like that you appreciate that movie too!).

I avoided reading too much of the review re: spoilers (even minor ones), but I'll be making plans to see this much sooner than later.
ColoradoGamer
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
I watched Interstellar on the four story 70mm IMAX here in Colorado (where the movie is based) on a special screening Tuesday 11/4.

Matthew McConaughey plays two very different characters in Interstellar and Contact. His acting in this is astounding (the video letters).

I keep telling people to go see it and hope it makes a big splash at the Oscars. It deserves it.

Let us all hope that Nolan has a longer cut for Blu-Ray because I would like to spend more time exploring the human condition with his wonderful narrative.
RIC
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
I share your love for CONTACT, which will always remain one of the most impressive and wonderfully executed Sci Fi Movies of all time.

INTERSTELLAR feels like a hybrid of both CONTACT and Kubrick's 2001, but in my opinion unable to compete with either of them.

From a technical standpoint, the movie is top notch ( great visuals, superb Dialogue and great acting).

But i'm quiet unhappy with its conclusion
( the M.Night Shyamalan movies with their artificial constructed twists come to mind).

For me, it ruins the entire movie, which i liked very much up to the point when the Protaginist enters the wormhole.
I even found the usually computer distorted Hans Zimmer droning noise, which some people call filmscore, tolerable. But it did have a negative influence on my perception of the movie, though.
Imagine, what could've been achieved by a composer like James Netwon Howard, John Williams or Alan Silvestri.

A great movie with an unsatisfactory ending. What a shame :(

Two and a half stars from me:



TheShrike
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
As others have already pointed out the visuals of "Interstellar" are stunning. Also, the action scenes are enthralling and the movie is well-paced (although maybe somewhat long).

However, the story is borderline ridiculous. Yes, Mr Nolan, some people care about a story that actually holds up after all the CGI-smoke settles. 21 points have been discussed elsewhere, see www.vulture.com/2014/11/21-things-in-interstellar-that-dont-make-sense.html.

You want some additional loopholes? ---SPOILER ALERT---
1) How is it plausible that the data from the ice-planet (according to Mann "breathable atmosphere on the surface of the ice-planet where ammonia liquifies") appears to be more promising than the data from the other planet that looks like somewhere in Colorado? The data was forged granted, but Mann could manipulate things only so much - otherwise they would know something is wrong as soon as they entered orbit. 2) They knew about the time differential on the water planet, but then conveniently "forgot" about it when interpreting the existence of a signal from that planet (which apparently had to timestamp and was still decipherable despite the huge shift in frequency) 3) I also find it hard to believe that understanding quantum-gravity would result in an immediate practical application (in particular would allow them to lift people off Earth) - I would think if people can do that, then they ought to be able to cure blight and design crop that can withstand sandstorms.

Overall, a missed opportunity I am afraid. 2 - 2 1/2 stars.
Jammer
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
I am confident the movie could be systematically dismantled based on some of the logic and its facts. Certainly, I have some questions myself, especially about the last 30 minutes. But it is not all about the facts and having an ironclad answer for everything -- even in, yes, hard science fiction. It is also: What did this movie make you FEEL? For me, it was as immersive an experience as I can remember in a movie theater in years. Doesn't that count for something anymore? I would argue that it far outweighs logical deconstruction. And certainly the story held up well enough on its terms.

Of course, your mileage may vary.
Nick
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
Jammer I know what you mean.
There was a scene early in the film where they are chasing the drone in the truck, and the music from the first trailer is playing. I remember feeling the way I used to feel when watching movies, where I didn't know exactly what would happen, but I wanted the film to whisk me away to it, and that music, editing, and shot composition could take me down a road of wonderment. It felt like I was watching a movie again, and not this stupid excuse for comic book crap that makes up the the so called Marvel Cinematic Universe (ironic since there is nothing at all cinematic about any of those films). Sure, I had many many issues with Interstellar, but when it works it really works!
Yanks
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
Jammer,

I am in lock step with you here. What a WONDERFUL SCI-FI experience this movie was. I think this DOES eclipse the fantastic "Contact".

Some "WTF" if you nit-pick it? Sure... but I FULLY am in the park of "Feel". This movie moved me to tears on a couple occasions. It's not just "CGI" as we see in so many movies. There was a story to tell and all the outstanding visuals aided in the journey. Not the other way around. It's also not a frellin retread. TONS of real science woven in this from start to finish... some "theory" and some stretches too, but that's fine. It is science FICTION.

Has a wormhole ever been depicted with such wonder and logic?

I went into the movie knowing it was 2 hours 49 minutes long but not one time watching it did I ever think "boy, this is a long movie".

This is better than 'Gravity'.

The only heartache I really had was we didn't get to meet "they".

EASY 4 stars and I will add this to my SCI-FI collection.

Bravo!!

Roy
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 5:47am (UTC -6)
Firstly, I'd just like to thank you, Jammer, for this excellent site. I'm currently working my way through the blu rays of The Next Gen series and I always check your reviews to see what you think.

Now to Intersteller. I love Nolan. I think he's made some fantastic films. Unfortunately, I left his latest feeling slightly deflated. Yes, it looks amazing and the performances are strong and some of the set pieces are incredible, but after being drawn in for 2 hours, it then all went a little bit "tits-up" for me. The last 30mins just didn't make sense and I found the sentimental parts to be cloying and a little bit fake. Those end scenes just didn't move me. A real shame after a very strong start.

It really reminded me of Contact too. Which, in my opinion, is a much stronger and deeper film. I would still recommend this to sci-fi buffs, but with a word of warning to not set your expectations too high after the Dark Knight Trilogy (well, the first two films in that series). Then again, we all have different tastes and I can understand why people would love this and hail it as a masterpiece.

I'm very interested to read further comments in this thread. Please come back more jammer. Am sure I speak for the majority here when I say we all love your site and views.
Corey
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
All throughout Interstellar I kept thinking, gee, this Kubrick lite.

The film desperately wanted to be deep, to be Kubrick, but it came across as a very fancy Spielberg movie. Loved the film's optimism, but even there, it's Star Trek lite. I hope someone makes a hard SF movie that, like Kubrick, isnt so antropomocentric and egotistical (in the sense that humans and human "selfhood" are the center of the universe).
Eoin
Fri, Nov 14, 2014, 10:03am (UTC -6)
Hi Jammr

Sorry man, have to disagree here. The primary feeling I got from this film was of being patronised. And it all started with that first idiotic speech from that teacher saying that moon landing was faked. The cumulative effect of:

1: Stupid Teacher
2: Intrusive Score
3: Repeated use of the same poem
4: Related to above, the lack of any subtley and just flat out expositing of the plot.
5: Misc plot/character decisions that I hated.

made me begin to hate the film by the end. And judging from my audience reaction, I dont think I was the only one. Nice visuals though.
Paul M.
Sun, Nov 16, 2014, 10:00am (UTC -6)
Just watched the movie. It really is the worthy successor to stuff like 2001, Contact, or Solaris. My only problem with it is that the movie dragged a bit in the middle, and drew dangerously close to overwrought pathos on a couple of occasions. Still, a wonderful piece of art. Definitely the best thing to come out of SF genre on the big screen in quite, quite, quite a while.
Nic
Sun, Nov 16, 2014, 11:21am (UTC -6)
I value true science fiction and I certainly enjoyed the second hour immensely. But I felt this film suffered from trying to be too many things at once. Perhaps two films would have been required for this story. Here’s what I thought the film got right:
- It realistically depicts the effects of the curvature of space and time dilation unlike any other film I’ve seen. Why invent random anomalies when the ones we already know about in the real world are so fascinating?
- Its depiction of space as a vacuum and gravity is also mostly accurate. I’m very happy about the recent trend (starting with last year’s "Gravity") towards accurate science in sci-fi. I hope it continues
- Most of the main characters were scientists or engineers, and the psychological effects of long-term space travel were shown very well.

Here’s what I thought the film got wrong:
- The invented ‘blight’ on crops is obviously a metaphor for climate change, but why use a metaphor? Why not state outright that humans are going extinct because of their own actions? Was Nolan afraid of offending those who still don’t believe the science?
- The way Cooper is recruited to the mission was a little ridiculous. If he's the best man for the mission they would have had him on board much earlier.
- The Dr. Mann storyline wasn’t given the time it needed to have an impact. It should have been expanded or cut from the film completely. I also don’t understand why they kept Matt Damon’s appearance a secret, other than having audience members shout « Hey! It’s Matt Damon! » and be taken out of the story.
- The ending was confusing to say the least. I’m not sure what sense we’re supposed to make out of any of it. If they had the technology to build a colony orbiting Saturn, why didn’t they focus on that instead of looking for habitable planets orbiting a BLACK HOLE of all things?
- I thought Hans Zimmer’s score was too intrusive at times, especially during the third act.
- I won’t even mention the whole « communicating through time with love » angle, I’d have to see it again to even grasp what they were trying to get at and I’m not sure I want to.

I’m glad a film like this, with real science and ideas, is so popular. But it personally did not immerse me or move me as much as "Gravity", and certainly not as much as "Contact" or "2001".
Paul M.
Sun, Nov 16, 2014, 1:01pm (UTC -6)
I'll try to address Nic's points one by one.

- Blight/climate change: I thought it was a good decision not to linger on why exactly Earth is dying. It doesn't matter if it's climate change, blight or something else (and anyway, who says the the blight isn't one of the products of climate change; seemed that way to me). The only thing we need to know is that our planet, and all life on it, is screwed.

- Cooper recruitment: A bit hard to believe, I'd have to agree. On the other hand, they did explain it and it sorta makes sense. We have to remember that NASA believed that there was some intelligence beyond all this (and there was, just not who they expected) and that this intelligence contacted Cooper somehow and gave him the coordinates to the facility. Whether this would be enough to recruit him is a valid question, but it's not like there's no motive for NASA to do it.

- Dr Mann: While I wouldn't say that this storyline is bad at all, I do think you have a point. I'm not sure there was a need for action in this movie at all. Cut it or expand it, sounds about right. Still, I liked the "reveal" of Matt Damon. Yeah, it was an Easter Egg almost, but it put a smile on my face. I like the guy and it was a neat little trick. No harm done really.

- The ending: Okay, maybe I'm misinterpreting something, but I thought it was pretty obvious what happened. Michael Caine had Plan A and Plan B. Plan A was to start evacuating the population of Earth, but he couldn't crack the math (couldn't reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics, probably the greatest problem of modern physics) so he, secretly, went with Plan B (embryos). But, once inside the "black hole" or tesseract, as the movie calls it, Cooper and his robot sidekick could retrieve the data hidden behind the event horizon, in the singularity. He transmitted that data to his daughter in much the same way that he sent the word "stay" prior to that. His daughter then cracked the problem and enacted Plan A. That is how mankind was able to build the O'Neill cylinder aka the cylindrical space station (a great touch, by the way). Okay, yeah, now that I wrote it, maybe it isn't that "obvious", but I feel it really does hold up, both scientifically and narratively speaking.

- Zimmer's score: A masterpiece, in my humble view. Yes, I agree, it's intrusive and very, very loud, but it was a conscious artistic choice to interweave the music, and more generally the sound, with the visual side of the story. The music even drowns out the dialogue on occasion, which I felt was a great move as it doesn't presuppose the primacy of the spoken word over the ambient. In fact, I'd argue that the ambient serves as an additional protagonist, be it endless dust storms, the quiet immensity of cosmos, the primal rage of the water planet, "taming" the damaged mothership or exploring the "cosmic library". The whole audio-visual experience is intensely personal, never straying far from the point of view of the protagonists (thank God, no Hollywood reaction shots of extras being worried and covering their mouths in horror and surprise as they witness some shit going down). To keep it short-ish, I very much like when soundtracks assume such prominent roles, almost like a Greek chorus commenting on the events, instead of simply following the visual cues. Poledouris, Vangelis, Shore (in LotR), Morricone, McCreary, I love it!

- "Communicating with love": I thought the movie pulled that off magnificently! It's not that love has some cosmic properties that transcend space and time (though Hathaway's characters seemed to think so in her desperation), but that it's the bonds of love that propel us to do what we do. Cooper left his family because he loved them, as that was the only way to save them. And in the end, the only way he managed to give humanity a fighting chance, was because of his love and bond with his daughter. It is these very bonds that make us human and that will make us or break is in the end.

Phew, that took longer than I'd thought.

Brendan
Sun, Nov 16, 2014, 7:28pm (UTC -6)
There were a few parts that were swings and misses, like Hathaway's speech about love, and some of the weird characterizations back on Earth in the first act. I also thought the black guy was so nonchalant when they came back and "it's been 23 years. I have some grey in my beard. anyway how's it going?"

Other than that though, I thought it was a masterpiece in just about every sense of the word. I had no issues with the ending. People seem to think the movie was saying love was a force of nature that allowed him to communicate to the past - no it was gravity, in the context of an artificial 3D space in a 5D reality created by... whoever. The way this was visualized on screen was spot on.

And Matt Damon's part is probably the most memorable cameo I have ever seen, both for the surprise factor and the way he played it. He portrays a subtly deranged person extremely well.
Strikelord
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 12:56am (UTC -6)
Jammer: Great review. Your work reminds me so much of the late, great Roger Ebert, and I'm not saying that to blow smoke up your butt, either. Thanks for your work and thoughts.
Jack Bauer
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 10:57pm (UTC -6)
Personally I dont think this movie held a candle to Contact but maybe thats looking back through rose colored glasses. Interstellar was really good but I found myself being underwhelmed by the final 30 minutes. Emotionally I was hit harder when the lander returned from the Water Planet and Romily was standing there after being left alone for 24 years. After that we were hit over the head over and over and over about the time dilation and I found myself not really caring when we got to the final scene with Cooper and Murph. Also I didnt care for the lack of a Brand/Cooper reunion in the final scene.
Jack Bauer
Wed, Nov 19, 2014, 12:47am (UTC -6)
"But it is not all about the facts and having an ironclad answer for everything"

I disagree with this point. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE leaving a movie with an ambiguous ending where I have to come up with my own interpretation. Fuck that. I am not the story teller and I should not have to come up with my own version of an ending to YOUR story. YOU tell me how it ends.

So in this movie the questions remain:

1) Where in time is Brand in relation to Cooper
2) With the wormhole closed, where is Cooper going in the little ship
3) Why the Cooper station orbiting Saturn with no wormhole there.

Thats just to name a few.
Dom
Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 11:55am (UTC -6)
@Jack, Confused Matthew makes a smart distinction between ambiguous endings that have no interpretation and those that are open to some interpretation. For example, 2001's ending was just a slideshow of meaningless images that served no purpose. Pan's Labyrinth's ambiguous ending had one of two meanings: the protagonist either died or went to a fantasy realm. I find the former intolerable but the latter can really get me thinking about a movie and have discussions with friends about it.
MidshipmanNorris
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 12:38am (UTC -6)
"...Get away from that launcher!!"

Come on, Jammer. Finish the stinkin' STID review already.

Unless you're...chicken!!
Jack Bauer
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 12:53am (UTC -6)
@Dom, heres my issue though, I didnt find the ending satisfying enough to warrant having deep thoughts about it or having discussions about it after. I spoke with a buddy after and we both agreed the ending was bullshit and left it at that. Inception didnt leave me feeling this way. This movie needed about 10 more minutes to tie up the ending.

The big question online is where Cooper went when he stole the ship at the end. Well conventional wisdom says he went back through the wormhole and made the journey to Edmond's Planet. Well one of the Nolans have said there is no wormhole when Cooper Station arrives at Saturn. Thanks movie for establishing that. How did Murph know Brand was stranded on a planet setting up a civilization and that Cooper should go back for her? Why did Cooper give Murph the coordinates of NASA if he wanted himself to "Stay"?

Little details aside I really enjoyed the movie....until the point when he ended up on Cooper Station. This movie would have been best served by having Cooper give Murph the solutions she needed to get humanity off Earth, Cooper dying in the black hole having been Murph's ghost, and the next scene we have humanity showing up at Edmond's Planet where they find Brand having set up shop with Edmond rebuilding society with the Plan B people. (As an aside, we have this movie long story about LOVE, and Brand shows up and the man she loves died in a rock slide. What the fuck. Its like, the Nolans cant help themselves but make sure every character has an unsatisfying conclusion)

Instead we dont know what is going on, why humanity is sitting in orbit of a wormhole-less planet, where Cooper is going, what Brand is doing, what anybody is doing.
Dom
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 10:09am (UTC -6)
@Jack, I'm certainly not saying I disagree with you about the Interstellar ending. Just thought I'd throw out that distinction. It's one of the reasons I despise 2001. Stanley Kubrick just didn't care about telling a story (Clarke's novelization is somewhat better in that regard). Unfortunately, some people fall into the trap of believing 2001 is artsy or creative because of that ambiguous ending, but I say it's just sloppy storytelling.
Jack Bauer
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 11:48pm (UTC -6)
I completely agree with you. Not only is it sloppy, it reeks of simply not knowing or understanding how to end it. Kind of like the Lost finale and in some regards the BSG finale. The buildup doesnt meet the hype.
Josh
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 10:01am (UTC -6)
I don't think Edmonds died in a "rock slide". I thought it was fairly clear that he had died from whatever cause and the rocks on his body were put there by Brand for his burial.
Dom
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
I'd almost rather directors film an alternative ending and include it in the DVD set rather than leave it too ambiguous. I think some directors think it clever, but it rarely works (Pan's Labyrinth is maybe the only time it's worked for me). One advantage video games have over movies in terms of storytelling is that you can replay a game and get a different ending, so you can explore different possibilities for the story.
Corey
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
Dom, 2001's ending is brilliant! I love how Kubrick's composition of the astronaut (David Bowman) reaching out his hand mimic's Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, if only Michelangelo painted it from another angle. That space, that gap between Bowman's outstretched hand and monolith/God/Knowledge/Truth, is the key. It's man's desire to bridge that gap, and his inability to ever do so - he is always an infant - which propells humanity in all endeavours. A profound, complex film. Kubrick was a great intellect and artist.

Patrick D
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 9:38pm (UTC -6)
This was a fantastic movie. I got to see it on IMAX. There are a few tropes in there I could have done without, but overall, I watched the whole thing in rapt attention and never once looking at my watch--the highest praise I can bestow on an film.

Is it Nolan's best film? No. That's still a tie (for me) between "Memento" and "The Dark Knight".

But, I'm really glad to see Jammer doing a review again and this is FAAAAAAAAAAR more worthy of his time than that piece of shit, Star Trek Into Darkness.
Dom
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 9:04pm (UTC -6)
@Corey, just didn't work for me. I've read various interpretations of the symbolism, much of them different, but I just didn't find it meaningful. Part of the problem is that Bowman is never really developed as a character so the theme of reaching for God/Knowledge etc came out of nowhere. Might have worked better with a richer character like Ellie Arroway from Contact, whose character embodies that element of humanity searching for Truth. By the way, the novel provides a different explanation for the ending, as does 2010.
Genre-Buster
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 1:15am (UTC -6)
@Dom and anyone else interested:

For the record, it's my opinion that Confused Matthew's 2001 review is the most insulting atrocity of anti-intellectual pretentiousness to come about since the John Ziegler Show. And mind you, I happen to be a fan of Matthew's, especially his views on the Lion King. Dig it:

www.confusedmatthew.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=95&t=3502&sid=8bf8b014e0ea3e1feed6376369345825

But enough of that. We're here to talk about Interstellar, and I thought I might pitch in with an observation I haven't noticed anyone else yet make about this film, and which I believe should.

Those who have taken the time to study dramatic form might vaguely recall coming across a term from Aristotle: ANAGNORISIS - it's one of the most effective storytelling tropes known of, and it is as rare as it is brilliant. Only a handful of stories have it: Oedipus Rex, Sweeney Todd, Angel Heart (Alan Parker, 1987), and now Interstellar are perhaps the most well-known examples. Derived from the ancient Greek meaning "self-knowledge," anagnorisis can be described as the discovery a protagonist makes when, after spending the first three quarters or more of his or her story working arduously to unlock a kind of "whodunnit," makes a shocking final act discovery: the person they were seeking all along was themselves.

Just like Oedipus, Sweeney Todd, and Harry Angel, astronaut Cooper is set with the task of unearthing a mystery, but very much UN-like his predecessors, the being he seeks is not some nefarious criminal, but rather the god-head himself, the one who can send morse-code instructions through dust and old wrist-watches. You can like or dislike this film as you please, but the Nolan Brothers pulled off a pretty incredible feat in this regard. Hats off to them.

Thanks, Jam, for taking the time to review this film. It's clear that you're a true lover of REAL science fiction storytelling. Forget STID - blog about what you love...
Dom
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 5:56am (UTC -6)
The reason I enjoy Confused Matthew so much is that somebody finally dared to say that the emperor had no clothes. There's nothing anti-intellectual about his review. I could probably go toe to toe with anybody in the "intellectual" department.

As for Interstellar - the SFBRP podcast put it well. Interstellar is smart, but unlike 2001, it doesn't sacrifice character development or pacing. It's a fun movie and/or a smart movie. It can appeal to Joe the Plumber, but also the Ivory Tower crowd. In my opinion, that's the only way we're going to get more good sci-fi. Esoteric sci-fi I think is a thing of the past.
Sarah M
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
NEW JAMMER CONTENT YAY.

That is all for now.
Samuel
Sat, Nov 29, 2014, 11:08am (UTC -6)
Jammer, respectfully, your encomium for Interstellar notwithstanding, the film is spectacle and schlock that is at least an hour too long. The pacing is off and the narrative does not deliver. The characterization is reasonable and the science bits are not entirely awful, but the assembly does not assemble. Additionally there are plot holes the size of, well, black holes. It seems that Avatar was the inspiration for this outing--not the best model to follow. Why was Matt Damon so bent on blowing up his own base? When did the one guy learn that the one female astronaut was in love with the other guy on he other planet? Maybe I missed something. How is it that Alfred from Batman would live long enough to be there twenty years in the future just in enough time to die and admit that he deceived everyone? He looked pretty old at the beginning of the film. Why did the ship not close off its engines before landing so it wouldn't get flooded? What on earth--get it--does gravity have to do with anything? Why couldn't ey shuttle people to a space station instead? So folding space can be accomplished just like poking a hole in paper? Did that guy stay for twenty years in his pajamas while the others were on the water world? Why doesn't skype work better in the future? Why doesn't time dilation affect the film's running time? It is ironic that a film featuring time shrinkage should drag on so long. In sum, my critique is is: the film is just so boring and goes on too long with too much emphasis on flash and spectacle. This film is a good choice for a what went wrong analysis. It could have been a whole lot better--pardon e gravity of my comments.
Meeklo Braca
Sun, Nov 30, 2014, 2:38am (UTC -6)
I will attempt to answer your questions in a hope of arousing conversation about it.

"Why was Matt Damon so bent on blowing up his own base?"

I think this was clear, his planet was dead so he sent off some sort of beacon indicating everything was great so the Endurance would come to his rescue. I think he blew up poor Romiliy because he didnt want any resistance.

" When did the one guy learn that the one female astronaut was in love with the other guy on he other planet?"

Yeah, for a 2 hour 46 minute long movie, it sure felt like a scene or two was cut out hey? I was asking myself that too.

"What on earth--get it--does gravity have to do with anything?"

It was the plot device they used to allow Cooper to communicate with Murph. Also it was what was keeping humanity from escaping from Earth on the O'Neil stations.

"Did that guy stay for twenty years in his pajamas while the others were on the water world?"

Yup. And when they return he just sits there and has a cup of coffee as if shits all cool.

I thought the movie was too long but it should have been longer if that makes sense. As in it needed more explanation but it was too damn long to begin with.



Dave in NC
Wed, Dec 3, 2014, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
Ack! I want to read this SO badly, but I haven't seen the film yet. I WILL be back.

(Yay BTW for a new review!)
Corey
Fri, Dec 5, 2014, 9:32am (UTC -6)
Peter Watts, SF author, and author of one of the best first contact novels, on 'Interstellar':

"In a market owned by genre, where every second movie is crammed to the gills with spaceships and aliens (or, at the very least, plucky young protagonists dishing out Truth to Power), Interstellar aspires to inspire. It explicitly sets out to follow in the footsteps of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It wants to make you think, and wonder.

It succeeds, too. It makes me wonder how it could fall so far short of a movie made half a century ago.

This is not to say that Interstellar is a bad movie. It actually has significantly more on the ball than your average 21rst-century genre flick (although granted, that’s a much lower bar to clear than the one Kubrick presented). The dust-bowl vistas of a dying Earth evoke the sort of grim desolation we used to get from John Brunner’s environmental dytopias, and — most of the time, anyway — Interstellar shows a respect for science comparable to that evident in Gravity and 2001.

Admittedly, my delight at seeing space presented as silent has more to do with the way decades of Hollywood crap have hammered down my own expectations than it does with any groundbreaking peaks of verisimilitude; it’s not as though every school kid doesn’t know there’s no sound in a vacuum. On the other hand, the equations Interstellar‘s FX team used to render the lensing effects around Gargantua, the movie’s black hole — equations derived by theoretical physicist-and-science-consultant Kip Thorne — have provided the basis for at least one astrophysics paper here in the real world, an accomplishment that would make Arthur C. Clarke jealous. The hole was carefully parameterized to let our protags do what the plot required without being spaghettified or cooked by radiation. The physics of space travel and Gargantua’s relativistic extremes are, I’m willing to believe, plausibly worked out. So much of the science seems so much better than we have any right to expect from a big-budget blockbuster aimed at the popcorn set.

Why, then, does the same movie that gets the physics of event horizons right also ask us to believe that icebergs float unsupported in the clouds of alien worlds? How can the same movie that shows such a nuanced grasp of the gravity around black holes serve up such a face-palming portrayal of gravity around planets? And even if we accept the premise of ocean swells the size of the Himalayas (Thorne himself serves up some numbers that I’m not going to dispute), wouldn’t such colossal formations be blindingly obvious from orbit? Wouldn’t our heroes have seen them by just looking out the window on the way down? How dumb do you have to be to let yourself get snuck up on by a mountain range?

Almost as dumb, perhaps, as you’d be to believe that “love” is some kind of mysterious cosmic force transcending time and space, even though you hold a doctorate in biology.

You’re probably already aware of the wails and sighs that arose from that particular gaffe. Personally, I didn’t find it as egregious as I expected — at least Amelia Brand’s inane proclamation was immediately rebutted by Cooper’s itemization of the mundane social-bonding functions for which “love” is a convenient shorthand. It was far from a perfect exchange, but at least the woo did not go unchallenged. What most bothered me about that line — beyond the fact that anyone with any scientific background could deliver it with a straight face — was the fact that it had to be delivered by Anne Hathaway. If we’re going to get all mystic about the Transcendent Power of Lurve, could we a least invert the cliché a bit by using a male as the delivery platform?

The world that contains Interstellar is far more competent than the story it holds. It was built by astrophysicists and engineers, and it is a thing of wonder. The good ship Endurance, for example, oozes verisimilitude right down to the spin rate. Oddly, though, the same movie also shows us a civilization over a century into the future — a whole species luxuriating in the spacious comfort of a myriad O’Neil cylinders orbiting Saturn — in which the medical technology stuck up Murphy Cooper’s nose hasn’t changed its appearance since 2012. Compare that to 2001, which anticipated flatscreen tech so effectively that it got cited in Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung half a century later. (Compare it also to Peter Hyam’s inferior sequel 2010, in which Discovery‘s flatscreens somehow devolved back into cathode-ray-tubes during its decade parked over Io.)

Why such simultaneous success and failure of technical extrapolation in the same movie? I can only assume that the Nolans sought out expert help to design their spaceships, but figured their own vision would suffice for the medtech. Unfortunately, their vision isn’t all it could be.

This is the heart of the problem. Interstellar soars when outsourced; only when the Nolans do something on their own does it suck. The result is a movie in which the natural science of the cosmos is rendered with glorious mind-boggling precision, while the people blundering about within it are morons.

In Interstellar, NASA happens to be set up just down the road from the only qualified test pilot on the continent— a guy who’s friends with the Mission Director, for Chrissakes— yet nobody thinks to just knock on his door and ask for a hand. No, they just sit there through years of R&D until cryptic Talfamadorians herd Cooper into their clutches by scribbling messages in the dirt. Once the mission finally achieves liftoff, Endurance‘s crew can’t seem to take a dump without explaining to each other what they’re doing and why. (Seriously, dude? You’re a bleeding-edge astronaut on a last-ditch Humanity-saving mission through a wormhole, and you didn’t even know what a wormhole looked like until someone explained it to you while you were both staring at the damn thing through your windshield?)

You could argue that the Nolans don’t regard their characters as morons so much as they regard us that way; some of this might just be especially clunky infodumping delivered for our benefit. If so, they apparently think we’re just as dumb about emotional resonance and literary allusion as we are about the technical specs on black holes. Michael Caine has to hammer home the same damn rage against the dying of the light stanza on three separate occasions, just in case it might slip under our radar.

And yet, Interstellar came so close in some ways. The sheer milk-out-the-nose absurdity of a project to lift billions of people off-planet turns out to be, after all, just a grand lie to motivate short-sighted human brain stems— until Murphy Cooper figures out how to do it for real after all. Amelia Brand’s heartbroken, irrational description of love as some kind of transcendent Cosmic Force, invoked in a desperate bid to reunite with her lost lover and instantly shot down by Cooper’s cooler intellect— until Cooper encounters the truth of those idiot beliefs in the heart of a black hole. Time and again, Interstellar edges toward the Cold Equations, only to chicken out when the chips are down.

But the thing that most bugs me about this movie — the thing that comes closest to offending me, although I can’t summon anywhere near that much intensity — was something I knew going in, because it’s right there in the tag line on every advance promo, every Coming-Soon poster:

'The end of the Earth will not be the end of us.'

Or..

'Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here.'

Or..

'We were not meant to save the Earth. We were meant to leave it.'

Which all comes down to..

'Let’s trash the place, then skip out and stick everyone else with the bill.'

This is where I finally connect with my inner antiabortionist. Because I, too, think you should pay for your sins. I think that if you break it, you damn well own it; and if your own short-sighted stupidity has killed off your life-support system, it’s only right and proper that that you suffer, that you sink into the quagmire along with the other nine million species your appetites have condemned to extinction. There should be consequences.

And yet, even in the face of Interstellar‘s objectionable political stance — baldly stated, unquestioned, and unapologetic— I can only bristle, not find fault. Because this is perhaps the one time the Nolan sibs got their characters right. Crapping all over the living room rug and leaving our roommates to deal with the mess? That’s exactly what we’d do, if we could get away with it."
Paul M.
Fri, Dec 5, 2014, 6:17pm (UTC -6)
Interesting text from this Watts fellow, though I must confess that it's a bit disappointing to see an established SF author build his arguments on such flimsy grounds. Note that I'm not trying to say that he's wrong to regard Interstellar as a bad, if inspiring, movie; he's obviously entitled to his opinion, one I don't happen to share. What does strike me as curious, however, is his strange misinterpretation of numerous points the movie makes.

I won't address his objections to scientific fidelity: "floating" icebergs, huge waves, etc. I'm not a physicist (though neither is Watts) and this is out of my pay grade. I also won't belabour his rather silly point that medical technology hasn't sufficiently changed in the next 100 years, as he's getting seriously nitpicky here.

The thing that is most problematic in Watts' review of the movie, and this is something I've seen time and again on them glorious webz, is this odd notion that Interstellar claims that love (or is it "lurv") is some inexplicable cosmic force that transcends space and time, when that is totally unsupported by anything in the movie. It isn't anyone's love that saves the day through some magical properties. Love is just the motivator that drives Cooper forward; it's his love for his daughter that enables him to pass the message and enables her to understand it. The movie argues that it's the caring and understanding between human beings that is ultimately more important than the purely cold application of intellect. Let me quote here a great post from io9 on this topic (thanks, John, whoever you are!):

"The books, dust, and second hand are moved by gravity waves, not love, and he makes those gravity waves by moving his body as a metaphor to control them, not by love. And that he finds his daughter by thinking about her could also be simply a matter of how the interface in the space-time space he was in was designed to work so he could be drawn to the relevant place and time he needed to be drawn to to close the causal loop. I don't see any magic, just metaphor.

Where the movie does come down hard on cold utilitarianism and bare selfish survival instincts is with the elder Brandt and Mann. The assumption the movie makes is that people don't deal well with hopelessness, existential threats, or cold utilitarian decisions without love and hope motivating them."

I wholeheartedly agree with this explanation and I am frankly very much surprised to see such rampant distortion of this basic point.

Speaking of distortions, the train of logic in the next segment also comes across as... almost malicious in its conclusion. Watts says that from A follows B, where A is: "Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here" whereas B is: "We were not meant to save the Earth. We were meant to leave it." Then he concludes: "Let’s trash the place, then skip out and stick everyone else with the bill."

I mean, really? That's what Watts takes away from this? He's being so literal it almost physically hurts. It's a metaphor, for Chrissakes! Same as "Children have to leave the nest someday", that the only way to truly grow up is to embrace change and leave the safety of home; open yourself up to new possibilities. It's been a staple of good SF for God knows how long. Since we're on a Star Trek site, let's mention Q's speech to Picard in All Good Things... The Ousters in Dan Simmons' Hyperion embody a similar concept. Watts' objections would be more pertinent if Interstellar had shown a flippant attitude towards Earth's imminent destruction as a life-giving planet. You know, the "oh well, shit happens, now onto this new cool planet over there" attitude. Fortunately for the movie, nothing could be further from the truth. Interstellar is oppressively, brutally, overpoweringly dark and honest in its depiction of a dying world and its effects on what might well be the last generation of human beings. There's nothing remotely apologetic about the whole thing. I remember sitting in the theater and thinking about how seriously and refreshingly bleak -- can there be such a thing? ;) -- the movie approaches the topic.


msw188
Mon, Dec 15, 2014, 11:56am (UTC -6)
Oh, I didn't even see this review was here until a couple days ago!

I thought this film was okay but not great. Some cool visuals, and the robots were perfect. I'm okay with most of the scientific liberties, and although I could've done without some of the 'explanations', I understand why they were there. My friend and I had a couple laughs at the movie's expense (oh, black holes are just cosmic libraries!!), but it was all in good fun. I genuinely liked the 'first handshake' turnaround. Little heartwarming details make me smile. I also loved that the old scientist had given up on Plan A all along. Made sense to me and changed the dynamic a bit, which was good because I had already decided early on that Matthew McConaughey and possibly Anne Hathaway were going to be the ones sending messages back in time to the daughter. Best of all, the moment was given its due weight and then the film made sure to keep pressing forward. No wasted time.

My biggest problem with the film was how much time was spent on Matt Damon. Great scene where he confirms that old-man was an asshole. After that scene, the goal should have been to get his own asshole reveal done as quick as possible, and get him offscreen. Instead he gets used to hammer in some relevant themes while trying (and failing) to create some additional tension. The repeated cuts back to earth during this sequence are awful. Somebody (Nolan?) seemed to think this action sequence was the climax of the film, and I have no idea why. Nature was a great villain for this film. Damon was a chump. Get back to the real point of the film, saving Earth from Science, using Science and the motivation of Love.
Jack Bauer
Wed, Dec 17, 2014, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
This movie didnt need to be any longer but it needed another 20 minutes. Therefore yeah I agree with you msw188, the Matt Damon stuff went on too long.
msw188
Sun, Dec 21, 2014, 11:37am (UTC -6)
Well, if we've managed to get two people agreeing on the internet about something, we must be right!
Jen
Thu, Jan 22, 2015, 9:45am (UTC -6)
Thanks for the well thought out review Jammer. I like intellectualism and philosophy in my sci fi so while I don't think the movie is as good as Contact, I enjoyed it and appreciated the effort
Ian G
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 4:30am (UTC -6)
I haven't seen the movie yet so I'll reserve my judgement till later. I just wanted to say it's good to see you back and I look forward to your Into Darkness review.
Dom
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 6:45am (UTC -6)
I think it's rare for a single scene to ruin a movie. Anne Hathaway's love speech almost did. It was so badly acted, so poorly written, that it really took me out of the experience. It totally went against the vibe of the film's fidelity to science. Fortunately, the rest of the movie wasn't beholden to that scene and there was enough good material to redeem the film. But the scene knocked off an entire star in my book.
Eli
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 5:14pm (UTC -6)
The film Interstellar upset me. In a world where we need to be increasingly aware of our impact on our environment, I think it is not appropriate to make a film where humans fantasize about abandoning the Earth.
Eli
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
Paul M: The issue that Watts raises is not that characters in the movie are indifferent to ecosystems on Earth collapsing. (Also, in the movie, I think it is not clear who is responsible for the crisis. It seems that climate change may not be the problem.) The issue is that people need to be responsible for the messages that they send in the movies they make.

We need to be rallying people to help prevent the worst effects of climate change, and address the other environmental concerns of our day. Finding a means of confronting these issues is essential to our survival.

The writers of this movie may not have intended to make a movie that belittled climate change. But, anyone living in the world right now should be concerned about climate change, as well as other environmental issues of our day. It is irresponsible in my view, and perhaps in Watts's view, to make a movie where it is OK for people to see glory in abandoning the Earth. We must find a way to show how saving the ecosystems of our planet is heroic.

To call people who hold this view "malicious," because somehow it seems unfair to writer, is it lose sight of how much more important these larger environmental issues are than the ego of some writers. By the way, I don't see the writers are evil because of this lack of perspective. I simply see them as wrong in their inability to put the film in an appropriate context given the problems we confront today.
Eli
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
Jammer: I appreciate the work you put into this website. It is a unique forum for Star Trek fans to discuss their beloved franchise. However, sometimes I feel that you criticize Star Trek too much for plot holes. I think plot holes are not as important to me as they seem to be to you. That's OK, you're entitled to your opinions, and I'm entitled to mine. After all, your opinions have ignited many fruitful discussions on star trek episodes on this website. But, as a defender of Star Trek and its purported plot holes, I think you should explain why are you so hard on Star Trek and so forgiving with this film Interstellar. Why the discrepancy?

As for me, I don't begrudge Interstellar for being inconsistent here and there. However, I do think the writers could have done more to explain how human beings from the future helped save everyone. How are these human beings alive?

Anyway, my primary issue with the film (as I said above) is that human beings abandon the Earth at the end of the film.

For Jammer: thanks again for your meticulously organized website and the work you dedicated to it. Your website helped initiate discussions about each Star Trek episode. If you have a moment at some point, it would be great if you could answer my question.

Cheers
Jammer
Sat, Feb 14, 2015, 12:51am (UTC -6)
Eli, my review is based on the reaction I had when watching. That could very well be different in "Interstellar" versus an episode of Star Trek. I'd like to think there aren't fundamental discrepancies in my reactions, but that could be wishful thinking.

You also have to consider that a TV show and movie are two different mediums. The TV show is graded based on the fact that I watched an episode every week. A movie is a standalone experience. So that also could play into it, perhaps.

Really, it's not a science. It's a reaction and a review and a rating based on what I felt, and keep in mind they are written years and possibly more than a decade apart. So consistency is not going to be perfect.

As for your objection to the film being that it finds "glory" in humans abandoning Earth, I don't think that's really the message. I see the film arguing for exploration as the only avenue that saves humanity from complete oblivion, given the premise that humanity cannot survive on Earth as portrayed. I don't see that as an argument for *not* trying to curb climate change. In fact, I see it as the opposite; as the cautionary possibility that we might face a future in which Earth is no longer habitable, and that we should try to avoid that future. (Even in the events of "Interstellar," most of humanity will have perished, which is not a good thing.)
Eli
Sun, Feb 15, 2015, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
Jammer - Thank you for taking the time to respond.

cheers :)
dipads
Fri, Feb 27, 2015, 4:16pm (UTC -6)
I just heard of his passing. Mr's Nimoy and Spock. may you RIP & LLAP.
Steve
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 8:22pm (UTC -6)
I haven't read all the replies, but I see some people have mentioned what happened to Edmonds at the end. Surely he died from old age? Brand was stunk in the wormhole for many years + the 20 odd years on the water planet.
Steve
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
Sorry, I meant stuck in the blackhole event horizon...not wormhole.
Will
Fri, Mar 20, 2015, 9:51am (UTC -6)
Every time I read criticsm of this movie, it's either nitpicking the fact the film is not 100% scientifically accurate, or that it's not the cold, icy logic of Kubrick. Since when does a "good" scifi movie have to have complete scientific accuracy? I can name very, very few that don't have science holes you could pick apart in 5 minutes. It's the nature of the genre to be fantastic and too look ahead.

As for people annoyed with the emotional pretext; once again I question how you could criticize the movie for being what it is; a SciFi Drama. It's supposed to have warmth and character to it. Saying it's bad because of that fact is like saying The Shawshank Redemption was bad because most of the prisoners were too friendly.

Every time I read a critique of the movie it feels pretentious, like the person is trying to cut it down: "Once you take the CGI out of it..."/"Ignoring the awesome performances of..."/etc etc.
Jack
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:19am (UTC -6)
So do bodies "age" when in cryosleep? I'm guessing not, since Romilly said he slept on and off during those 23 years, and he looked to have aged, but certainly not 23 years. Then again, Michael Caine's character didn't age in 23 years either, which was absurd.
Jack
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:24am (UTC -6)
I'm probably in the vast minority, but I actually prefer a film have no score whatsoever. Real life has no score, and every time one kicks in I suddenly become very aware that I'm watching a movie. But as far as scores go, this one was very good, albeit at times intrusive as mentioned by others already.

It was a nice touch that in scenes where the perspective of the scene was from space, there was no sound.
Jack
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:43am (UTC -6)
I was extremely disturbed over the way that the conversation unfolded about whether to go to Mann's planet or Edmunds' planet. Essentially Cooper decided to go to Mann's because Brand had a relationship with Edmunds. That's terrifying. From the surface Mann looked like what the surface of Enceladus, with no vegetation whatsoever, while the scene at the end showed the surface of Edmund's looked like British Columbia. I can;t imagine that even from Endurance they couldn't have determined that. And was there no way to determine that Mann's planet had Mann had a 134 hour "day"? From that scene forward, I wasn't as captivated by the film because the rest of the storyline felt convoluted going forward from that scene.
Chris
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 9:35pm (UTC -6)
I just wanted to chime in with my opinion that the robots in Interstellar were absolutely perfect. The "reconfigurable slab" design and personality with adjustable humor, honesty, etc were brilliant and like nothing I've seen in a film before.

Just the other day they released a "making of" video about TARS and CASE:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cRmNPE0HwE8

Surprisingly almost all the robot scenes are live action with Bill Irwin controlling the machines in addition to doing the voices. I love it.
Latex Zebra
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -6)
Loved it.
Brandon
Mon, Apr 20, 2015, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
I wanted to like Interstellar more than I did. I didn't feel moved or immersed by the ending; something felt too clinical and sterile, despite the haunting score. It might have been the early story decisions to display the supernatural movements (Murphy's ghost, the origins of the wormhole) with such frankness. That all landed awkwardly.

BUT...film was still quite good, and thought-provoking. And rewatchable. McConaughey and his subtle scenery-chewing round out a talented cast; the robots are well done; and Nolan wisely sticks to creating crisis out of fairly simple circumstances. I'm exactly the sort of person to whom scientific realism trumps spectacle - I'd want to know how something really works instead of garish and overdone approximations - so I appreciated the straightforward spaceflight scenes and 2001 homages. Never in my lifetime have I been so riveted to a theater screen as I was during the wormhole and black hole scenes, both sources of childhood fascination to me (Star Trek never really did justice to black holes).

As far as the ending - the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Love being quantifiable as a transdimensional force - yeah, it's corny, but as a metaphor and a sentiment I found it appealing. What can I say, I'm a softy. And the ending didn't cheat like it could have; Cooper was fulfilling what had already been done, and allowing the seeds he'd planted to ripen AFTER his departure. A fair storytelling move in my view.

Azdude
Thu, Apr 23, 2015, 2:27am (UTC -6)
Jammer-

Another great review, and I'm also impressed, as always, by the reader comments. This is a great forum!

I'll make my comment brief: I watched Interstellar twice, I loved it. Real Einstein science (although black holes are probably the least scientific movie plot devices available, they do keep the story going) blended with fine moviemaking. And yes, with a soppy sentimental ending. Perfect.

And yes, I stealthily cried when I saw "Up", and even less stealthily when Old Yeller died.

And I will not give up my man card for that, thank you very much.
JackS
Wed, May 6, 2015, 7:19pm (UTC -6)
I entered with low expectations - Nolan really went downhill for me with Inception, whose only good aspect was the South Park take on it.

But Interstellar was a pleasant surprise. Yes, much of the physics doesn't hold water, but the overall idea of harnessing gravity and higher dimensions is inspired by real work of real scientists and I can ignore some cheats that serve the greater good.

Compared to 2001 and Contact, this is a fitting successor and I liked how we have progressed since.
In 2001 evolutionary jumps were facilitated by divine intervention, intelligent AI could not handle a trivial contradiction and that firework ride at the end...FFWD
In Contact it was benevolent aliens who gave us a bus tour preview of what we can get if we behave; divinity stepped down to a debate between science and religion, with faith kind-of prevailing.
Interstellar, makes away with all that. This is it, do or die, no higher power, just humans of today. Strong/heroes, stupid (those textbooks) and weak - Mann deserves to be in the movie - it's a valid representation of putting interests of the few over those of the many. Daily we struggle against and criticize bad politicians and corporations, but maintain a big footprint rather than give up some private comfort.
Also - special effects serve the story, not the other way around.

Will watch again.
lizzzi
Sun, May 10, 2015, 10:56am (UTC -6)
Interstellar was awe-inspiring, with just a couple of caveats: It was too long, and it needed just a bit more resolution about what happened to Anne Hathaway's character. I could nit-pick some of the plot points, but my overall reaction was visceral…an emotional experience, to say the least. I had never seen Contact, so got the DVD and watched it a few days after watching Interstellar. Wow! Yes, I do see what all the shouting was about--another visceral, emotional, awesome SF movie. For me, Contact was the more complete package…did not leave me with the nagging criticisms that I had for Interstellar. Personally, I see the two as a package deal…I would recommend that someone who had seen neither should watch them both. (I just don't remember enough about 2001: The Space Odyssey to make a comment about it.)

Captain Jon
Wed, Jul 8, 2015, 11:38pm (UTC -6)
Jack: Cooper didn't choose to go to Mann's planet because Hathaway's character had a relationship with Edmunds. He chose to go to Mann's planet because Mann was sending a signal telling them to come to his planet. Cooper's argument against Hathaway was that she was choosing Edmunds's planet because of her feelings for him, which in his opinion clouded her judgment. He didn't do it to spite her, he simply said she was being emotional, not logical.
Matrix
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 11:12pm (UTC -6)
I was so bored watching this film. I realised after it though that I've not really liked any of Nolan's films prior so maybe I just can't get down with his works. I like McConaughey but he felt like more a robot than his robot buddies he had along for the ride. Some of the decisions they made didn't make a whole bunch of sense and some story elements seemed really vague. It did look very nice and had some nice music and a couple of nice scenes where it was more a music video I guess.
Mitch
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
I recently watched Interstellar (twice no less, saw it a second time with a family member) and I have to say I was less than impressed. While I enjoyed the visuals, music and special effects, the story and editing was just overall poor. It was also far too long and confusing.

And I went in seeing it without any knowledge of the plot or who the director was, just heard it was a new sci-fi film that was being talked about and jumped in with an opened mind and no exceptions. It was only after watching it I learned Nolan directed it and it all sort of made sense (I watched his Batman trilogy in theaters and really didn't like them, for much the same reasons. More like a music video than a movie!). I think it's more deserving of 2 and half stars than 4.
Dougie
Mon, Aug 31, 2015, 1:17am (UTC -6)
Worst. Movie. Ever.

Bleached my eyeballs after. Will never watch another Matt movie, ever. Lithgow, what a disappointment. The world is lost because there's no more okra? Love is the transwarp drive? An ATM saves the universe?

I'm out.
E2
Tue, Sep 8, 2015, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
@Dougie

Wow, it almost sounds like I saw a different film than you. I found it to be solidly constructed and very uplifting. (The lack of okra was the only good thing about the apocalypse; Hathaway's love speech was only to strengthen her weak case to visit the other planed first, and it failed, as it should have; I don't recall an Automated Teller Machine...)

I disliked Damon's character also, but I believed him. The acting, while despicable, seemed appropriate.

I guess I'll be watching the Martian without you, then? Perhaps Jammer will see it with me.
Peremensoe
Thu, Sep 10, 2015, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Chris: "I just wanted to chime in with my opinion that the robots in Interstellar were absolutely perfect."

Curious. That was the one thing that I really disliked.

Nevertheless, I agree with most-all of what Jammer, and Paul M., have to say. Four stars. And not too long.
Jason R.
Fri, Nov 20, 2015, 10:46am (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this movie immensely for the things it got right. I agree that it's one of the most ambitious science fiction movies of the past 20 years. However, as the movie wound up to its final act, I couldn't help but feel that it was bound to crumble under the weight of its lofty premise. It could not possibly deliver a payoff that did justice to what came before - or more to the point, it couldn't do so without basically delivering an audacious, expectation defying ending. What was needed was a resolution not unlike the movies Knowing or AI - but the writers wimped out and took the easy way out, leaving us with something hollow and false.

I would have given it three stars. A phenomenal buildup, a staggering and ambitious sci fi concept, but a cop-out ending.
The Great Danton
Sat, Jan 9, 2016, 8:42pm (UTC -6)
I too considered Contact one my favorite sci-fi movies until I watched Interstellar.

Contact is a great movie that had a lot of science in it but also had a certain amount of typical liberal propaganda (a meaningless-sex-loving hippie priest, an evil Caucasian Christian terrorist, a hideous Republican Senator, etc etc). Carl Sagan is probably the astronomer that contributed the most to bring astronomy to the public and should be praised for it. I watched Cosmos when I was a kid and it motivated me to pursue science. But he was also a bigoted ideologue who saw all religious people as ignorant Neanderthals and conservatives in general as science haters. If you read his excellent book Pale Blue Dot, you'd get the impression only Democrats favored the space program and that we didn't go to Mars simply because Reagan didn't want to. The party he favored (Democrats) gets all the credit for all scientific advances in space while the Republicans he despised are associated to all negative aspects related to NASA.

Interstellar has none of that crap. Some might see the blight in the movie as a "global warming" consequence but it has nothing to do with it. The rest is all science presented with the most effective display of special effects I have ever seen in my life.

Gargantua tops the excellent introduction in Contact by a factor of 10. That scene alone left me grasping at the screen.

Ben
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
I understand Jammer. Most (people) men have a problem to expierence movies on an emotional level. I don't mean that somebody doesn't like the music or whatever, I mean the nitpicking. relax beanvounters.
I was overwhelmed by Interstellar. I like the grim portrait of world destroyed by climate change and it fascinated me that all the people were just doing what they always did while knowing that things get worse/end. I think that is how the people will react when we have destroyed the planet. Just watchingin disbelieve and minding their own buisness. I could name other things I liked but yeah bottom line: It really got me on an emotional level. Most movies don't
Dave
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 3:03am (UTC -6)
I don't understand why people are confused about Brand's work on the equations and "the problem of gravity". What his problem was, is to be able to get a massive space station to launch and escape Earth's gravity. There were too many people on earth and not enough time to shuttle everyone up in little rocket ships. They needed a mass carrier and they had to solve certain equations and physics to do it. Brand realized he could not solve this problem without data from a black hole (which he could never get). So he lied about it so people would join him in the mission out of a sense of hope even though he knew the only option was the embryos.

I took the ending as this:

"they" are humans, from the far distant future. Humans had evolved to the point of being able to work through time as a physical dimension, but could not travel through it themselves. So, Cooper was moved into a physical dimension so he could move to any point in time he wanted to get himself to the NASA facility and allow Murphy to solve the equations.

I didn't know the wormhole had collapsed... .who said that anyways? I assumed they solved the equation, launched all the space stations and got out to Saturn, where the worm hole was. The plan was to take the stations to Edmund's planet , and that is where Cooper was flying off too.. to go be with her until humanity arrives.

Epic film, not everyone will interpret it the same way, and that is part of what makes it great. Some people get pissed if a movie gives something that is not 100% clear and not the same answer for everyone.

My two negatives were they could have cut out the frozen planet and Dr Mann. I guess they wanted to show how loneliness and desperation can lead to someone doing that. I also didn't like how Murhpy's brother was such an asshole that he would rather his son die than leave the farm behind.
Nic
Thu, Dec 8, 2016, 8:26am (UTC -6)
I saw "Arrival" yesterday and found it spellbinding; I personally felt it was better than "Interstellar", though its scope was a little smaller. It had shades of "Gravity" and "Contact" (not to mention TNG's "Darmok") but it was still fresh enough to hold my interest all the way through.
Quincy
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
@Corey: "And even if we accept the premise of ocean swells the size of the Himalayas (Thorne himself serves up some numbers that I’m not going to dispute), wouldn’t such colossal formations be blindingly obvious from orbit? Wouldn’t our heroes have seen them by just looking out the window on the way down? How dumb do you have to be to let yourself get snuck up on by a mountain range?"

Wow. Did you even watch the movie? Hours on the planet = years in space. Do you even realize that it took 20 some odd years from the pov of anyone IN ORBIT for the 1st and 2nd mountain ranges to sneak up on Cooper and the gang? No they couldn't see that from orbit unless that they sat around for a good part of a quarter of a century and noticed that what they thought was a mountain range was inch worming its way across the planet.

@Jack Bauer: "The big question online is where Cooper went when he stole the ship at the end. Well conventional wisdom says he went back through the wormhole and made the journey to Edmond's Planet. Well one of the Nolans have said there is no wormhole when Cooper Station arrives at Saturn. Thanks movie for establishing that. How did Murph know Brand was stranded on a planet setting up a civilization and that Cooper should go back for her? Why did Cooper give Murph the coordinates of NASA if he wanted himself to "Stay"? "

Please, post where Nolan says there's no wormhole at the end of the movie. Otherwise, I think you're mistaken. The movie itself never says that and I doubt Nolan would insert a nonexistent plot hole after the movie was over. TARS says the future humans close up the Tesseract. This is while Cooper is still inside the black hole. They then send Cooper back through the wormhole. How did he get from the black hole to the wormhole? Who knows? There are theories that say black holes can actually function somewhat like a wormhole, so maybe they're passing through the same hyperspace. In any case, he passes the ship he came in on the way out. How would they close the wormhole when he's traveling through it to get home? It would've had to have just closed at the Saturn end as soon as he arrived. And everyone would've been talking about it. Hey did you see that?!? The damn wormhole just slammed shut all of a sudden!?!

The wormhole can't be closed at the end. Edmond's Planet is in an entirely different galaxy. And while they may have some sort of anti-gravity drive, I seriously doubt they're implying at the end of that movie that they have an Alcubierre Warp Drive that can cross intergalactic distances, so Cooper is indeed going back through the wormhole.

Why did Murphy say Brand is setting up on OUR new planet if she's really talking about Brand setting up on her future test tube babies' new planet? The wormhole not being shown at the end is irrelevant. They don't show any of Saturn's numerous moons, but that doesn't mean the movie is saying they all fell into the wormhole that closed with nobody noticing it.

And how does Murphy know about Brand? Cooper's been awake for 2 days before he gets out of the hospital. You honestly believe he wouldn't have been debriefed during that time? Clearly, she would've been told everything that he'd told them, one of which is Brand went to Edmond. Why would they have to show him being debriefed or her being told the information from his debriefing? They didn't show her being told he had been found, but she'd already been told this and was already on her way to Cooper Station when Cooper's told that this is the case. We don't have to be shown absolutely everything for us to know that certain things have to have occurred. The movie would've been twice as long if they included stuff like that.

Why did he tell himself the coordinates if he wanted himself to stay? You're mixing up the very clear sequence of events. When he first goes into the tesseract he's in despair and acting emotionally and calls out to Murphy to convince him to stay.

AFTERWARDS, TARS, the robot, explains to him that he could communicate the singularity's interior quantum data through the tesseract somehow, although the robot doesn't know exactly how to do it. It's only then that he goes from despair to happiness. This is where Cooper decides to send the coords to himself in binary and communicate in morse code directly to Murphy the information about gravity that she needed to save everyone on earth INCLUDING HERSELF!

He excitedly says this out loud:
Cooper: "I thought they chose me. They didn't choose me; they chose her."
TARS: "For what, Cooper?"
Cooper: "To save the world."

Why in hell would he instead say, "But naw the hell with saving my daughter's and most of humanity's lives. I'll just break the loop and not give my daughter what she needs to save everybody including both my children in order to sit back on earth, so we can all either suffocate or starve to death. Cause hey, at least I'll get some quality parenting time!" That's totally retarded.
Quincy
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
@Jack Bauer:
Wow i just found what you were talking about; sorry I doubted you: www.ign.com/articles/2014/11/08/jonathan-nolan-interstellar-spoilers

That's retarded. How in the hell is Cooper supposed to find the galaxy she's in from where he's at in the Milky Way and then find her planet within that galaxy? If TARS is that smart to be able to do all of that he shouldn't be listening to Cooper for sure.

Why in hell would Nolan mess up his own ending like that? He basically inserted a plot hole that was't there in the theater. That almost ruins the ending for me.
Quincy
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
After closer inspection, it sounds like he's talking about an earlier script. Who knows?
NCC-1701-Z
Wed, Feb 22, 2017, 8:47pm (UTC -6)
Just re-watched this; have to agree with every word of this review. This movie blows Contact out of the water on a giant wave as far as I'm concerned. I also appreciate that this movie is based on real science most of the time (thanks, Kip Thorne and Caltech!) and stays as realistic as possible in that regard, especially the black hole and wormhole moving away from traditional depictions of such as a funnel in space. Some of the visuals - the giant waves, the black hole, the docking scene - man it just blows me away every time I rewatch!

Soundtrack deserves special mention here - Hans Zimmer blows it away again. Especially during the giant wave scene - that scene was my favorite of the entire movie thanks in part to just the soundtrack!!

When I watched it with my dad, he liked all of it except for the bootstrap paradox of Cooper manipulating his own timestream bit which he didn't understand. I told him, "Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. Just go with it."
Grumpy
Wed, Feb 22, 2017, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
Z: "(thanks, Kip Thorne and Caltech!)"

For the record, Kip Thorne is also acknowledged in Contact (the original novel) for conceiving of the wormhole transportation network.
NCC-1701-Z
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 3:30am (UTC -6)
Wow, did not know Kip helped out on Contact too! That's news to me!

Glad to have one scientist out there bringing his work to the masses!
Yanks
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 11:28am (UTC -6)
Z: "When I watched it with my dad, he liked all of it except for the bootstrap paradox of Cooper manipulating his own timestream bit which he didn't understand. I told him, "Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. Just go with it.""

Me too.

I really do need to watch this again... I'm sure I can answer some of my own questions.... having only seen it once .... well, there's a lot to digest.

Thanks for explaining some of that stuff Quincy.

I remember having a big problem with "Plan A" and Plan B", but it's been so long I can't remember what the problem was :-) Maybe I should fly through a wormhole and use a tesseract to communicate with myself ... lol
SlackerInc
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 6:46am (UTC -6)
I'm always so hungry for some really hard sci-fi that I just wanted this to be as great as some people (like Jammer) say it is. And there were cool aspects (like the time dilation on the one planet), but too much that was murky and mumbo-jumbo-ey. I'm tempted to classify it with other films that started out as really great hard sci-fi but then devolved into something else by the end ("2001", "Sunshine", "Arrival"), except that there were elements that bugged me from the beginning. I just can't buy that a civilization that can build interstellar ships cannot create food on Earth somehow or other. Even if it would require greenhouses, sun lamps, hydroponic vats, whatever.

It definitely got a lot worse with the gobbledygooky ending though. If you can detect an actual defensible hard science fiction rationale for that, good on you. For me it just seemed cheesy and cloyingly sentimental, the antithesis of hard sci fi (much like where things ultimately led in "Arrival").

"Passengers", a movie I just recently saw on Blu-ray (I actually came to this movie review section hoping it was reviewed), is much more successful in being emotionally affecting without selling out the hard sci-fi (there was only one scene where I felt there was something worth nitpicking). It doesn't get great reviews, but I would call it extremely underrated even if it doesn't have the whole "saving the world" scale to it.
Trent
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
Yes, Passengers is a very underrated and much more philosophically interesting movie. It's also very brave, essentially dabbling with an anti-natalist message (birth as a sin as no human chooses the conditions of its birth/life and/or is given the option of avoiding life and so suffering itself) for most of its running time.

Interstellar I found to be morally irreponssible. Humans ecocidally destroy the Earth? No problem! Just find a new planet and start on over! The sky's the limit! Triump of the Will! Technology and handwaving will solve Climate Change! The Universes is ours to Conquer! Ugh. The film is practically crypto fascist at times, ending with American flags planeted on New Frontiers and baseball games on Generation Ships filled with the Brave Chosen Few.

Want Interstellar done right? Read Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora and Green Earth. Pandorum, a trashy SF B movie, also does this material well and with less pretentions.

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