Movies: Interstellar

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan
Legendary, 2014
PG-13; 169 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)


Lots of people talk about going into space these days. You know, even being able to take vacations in space or whatever. Like that's the wave of the future.

I don't have any desire to go into space. Even movies about space make me feel like I can't breathe. (And then movies with big dust storms make me want to cough, so . . .)

What we all know about Interstellar going in is that it's about Matthew McConaughey going into space. From the trailers, we have the sense that things are very bad on Earth and a new terra firma needs to be found. Beyond that, assuming you haven't read any articles that give anything away, we don't know a whole lot.

And, yes, this is what the movie is about. Matt plays Cooper, a pilot/engineer reduced to farming when worldwide famine hits. Crops are being wiped out by blight. Life on earth is becoming unsustainable.

Cooper has two kids, Tom (a boy) and Murphy (a girl). His dad Donald (Lithgow) lives with them, too. And there's a ghost sending messages to Murphy.

I pretty much had the ghost/bookcase thing worked out right away. I mean, I knew what was going on, but not how it had happened, which is what the movie is for.

Anyway, the ghost leads Cooper, and Murphy as a stowaway, to NASA, where Dr. Brand (Caine) is developing a couple plans to save the human race. Both plans involve shooting Cooper and some other people into space to explore potential habitable planets found on the other side of a wormhole.

For all its length, Interstellar is well paced. Things move along relatively quickly (and as they remind us throughout the movie, time is relative). There are some drag coefficients, like when Hathaway's character Amelia (also Brand) gives a long speech about love being another dimension, like time or gravity, that humans just don't fully understand yet. And there are some things that don't fully stand up to scrutiny, like why Dr. Mann wants to kill everybody rather than just, I dunno, all go home together? Is he just simply to cover up his big lie? Or has he just gone that crazy? It's not really clear.

The story starts to fall apart a bit once we get to all the black hole stuff. Also, once we get that look on Cooper's face when he's reaching into the ship to take Amelia's hand. It's a total Matthew McConaughey face, but maybe not the right one for the moment. But on the whole, the movie is entertaining.

I think anything this big, with this much hype and this much science behind it, asks for people to target it. They see it as a challenge. People are going to list everything wrong with it simply because they want to take it down a few notches; they think that somehow proves they're smarter than . . . The movie? The writer? The director? Whatever. That's fine. There are flaws. But I feel got my money's worth, which is no little feat these days ($20 to see it in IMAX 70mm).

And let me just say, it was strange to see something on film again. There was dust on the print at times . . . I'd forgotten what that was like. Digital makes things so clear, and yet it also puts a kind of barrier between a movie and an audience. Digital makes it more unreal because the images are so sharp. Film brings us back to life, and closer to what's happening on the screen. Because life really isn't that clear. Life is blurry and dirty and makes us squint.

I walked away with mixed feelings. I kind want to think it over more, but at the same time that just seems like I'm looking for trouble. Maybe the feeling one walks away with from a movie is the "true" feeling. Whenever you try to rationalize something, again, that's putting distance between you and that thing, or person, or feeling. But movies should make you feel first and think second. Interstellar made me both feel and think. But the more I think about the movie, the less I feel. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm not sure that's what I want from my viewing experience.

ETA: One thing that did occur to me a bit after the movie: If the world is in such dire straits, why not at least build space stations to offload people onto? Or hydroponics labs in space to grow the food? Something like that?

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