Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

Whilst easier to appreciate his aspirations as a filmmaker in the 21st Century, I’ve never found myself wholly enamored with the lauded Christopher Nolan’s body of work. In fact, divisive is an appropriate label, what with the ratio of admirers to detractors not particularly favoring the former. Widely recognized for a brand of “maximalist” storytelling laden with epic proportions and the conceptual scope that fuels it, to say that the larger-than-life scale corresponding with these aspects is more hit than miss would be fair. In the case of Interstellar – the Nolan siblings’ sprawling dimension-hopping sci-fi epic – the script’s incongruous personality often quells the air of ambition permeating the overarching core concept.

Set in an eerily not-too-distant future, Earth is gradually succumbing to symptoms of a long-gestating apocalypse. Brought on by cyclical dust storms that wipe out one viable food source after another, one Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) – a grounded former NASA engineer – lives idly from day-to-day as something of an ordinary everyman with a family he loves. Always one to challenge convention with an equally audacious daughter, a recurring mini-anomaly leads the two on an at-first wild goose chase to a highly secretive NASA outpost. From here, Cooper is tasked with exploring various leads via space travel with a minimal team of experts. The mission? To seek out an inhabitable alternative to humanity’s dying home.

It’s not secret that Nolan’s scripts are inherently a mixed bag. Scatterbrained if accessible and appealingly pseudo-intelligent, I for one admire his love of the medium and subsequent attempt to reinvigorate it. Burdening his core narratives with droves of intricacies that bewilder as much as they engage, Interstellar effortlessly fits the mold as it often takes one step forward for every two steps back. The science of the film – now referred to as (well-researched) speculation by Nolan himself – is an easy-to-criticize key aspect that’s meant to pique ours interests instead of unwittingly throwing four humans and a robot into the far reaches of space. To his and brother Jonathan’s credit, it kind-of-mostly works, veering quite jarringly off the rails here and there when inherent suspense involving the outcome of said sojourn isn’t punching you in the face.

Interstellar also boasts a palpably cloying, moreover tragic sense of humanism that forces you to care for the characters in question. Like Inception, important individuals’ backgrounds and motives feel pulled from a long list of the simplest of tropes and, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Barring the film’s implementation of space-time as one vast (if agreeably alluring) asshole of an antagonist, some occurrences come off as bland and/or forced for the sake of attempted well-roundedness. As Cooper openly weeps while viewing messages sent from Earth – complete with operatic score – I couldn’t help but simultaneously roll my eyes and sympathize with an ordinary person’s extraordinary predicament.

What with my screening being enhanced by an alternately painful and captivating 70mm IMAX setting, the film’s most striking attribute is its presentation. From the always-intimidating vacuum of unending space to the environments scattered throughout it, many a sequence plays like segment straight out of an educational planetarium feature. Yes, the ones you saw and rarely understood on elementary school field trips. In fact, its the beautiful enormity of Interstellar‘s well-crafted setting that competently compels amid noticeable weak suits.

Despite a full-on descent into agreeably batshit, almost high-fantasy territory during its latter third, Interstellar is still one of the most bizarrely multifaceted things I’ve seen. “Multifaceted,” however, isn’t solely meant to be a descriptor of the film’s uniqueness. In fact, I’d say it speaks more to Nolan’s unending desire to break from the norm as much as he can for the longest amount of time, each time, as we’re given an extensive tour of each universe he’s lovingly crafted. Don’t get me wrong, the film as a unified whole almost fucking isn’t, yet to deny the singularity of its individual parts – botched theoretical jargon and all – would be unfair given the fact that Interstellar is more of an experience than a masterclass in traditional filmmaking.

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