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Movie Review: Interstellar (English)

Alert: The review may contain Spoilers mentioned to illustrate some key plot elements!

Whenever he makes a film, Christopher Nolan is either playing around with time or delving into drama. His best experiment with time was the non-linear narrative of ‘Memento’ and his best written characters were in ‘The Dark Knight’. But who could have imagined that a director of his caliber would make a disappointing pseudo-intellectual film ‘Inception’. While I expected Nolan to improve things in his ninth feature film, ‘Interstellar’ comes across as a let-down of sorts, despite interesting science.

‘Interstellar’ has all the ingredients of a typical space sci-fi film: spacecraft, wormholes, stasis, strange planets, time travel, a black hole, robots running on artificial intelligence, father-daughter drama, etc., all set in the background of a slowly dying Earth. All of these concepts aren’t new to Hollywood. Just that the big budget allowed for the visual spectacle. Nonetheless, it is marred by choppy narrative, clich├ęd dialog and poorly developed characters that we hardly care about.

Set in an unspecified future, Earth’s capacity to sustain life is diminishing; crops are dying and there’s dust everywhere. Agriculture is the top priority, everything else taking a backseat. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is one such farmer, although formerly a NASA test pilot. A widowed Cooper lives with his father in law and children Tom and Murph. An inquisitive young Murph (Mackenzie Foy) is obsessed with the idea of a ghost in her bedroom and is always trying to decode signs.

As it turns out, the signs are coordinates to a hidden space station of NASA, headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), in search of life sustaining planets so as to evacuate Earth. Predictably, our hero, Cooper is the only man who can pilot the mission to outer space, beyond our galaxy accessed through a wormhole. Now, I’m sure you are wondering how a trespasser at a hidden space station is suddenly asked to commandeer a spaceflight without any serious briefing or training!

Joining Cooper on the mission are Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and two other scientists who are written into the script as expendables. Their spacecraft Endurance has is tasked with finding three of the ten manned probes that went through the portal earlier and have reported seemingly positive findings. Again, don’t ask why they needed manned missions when they had advanced AI robots like TARS and CASE? That brings us to the existential question: why a manned follow-up mission, huh?

The overarching premise that has motivated future NASA mission is that there are benevolent ‘beings’ that have opened up the wormhole and left clues through gravity-based anomalies. The aging professor has been working on a mathematical model to evacuate Earth but has failed at it as he needs data from a gravitational singularity, where space and time can be bent. Failing his Plan-A, to evacuate, there is a Plan-B to populate extraterrestrial planets with genetic samples of the human race.

Unbeknownst to the fatality of Plan-A, the crew continues to explore planets, one of which has time distorted to such an extent that an hour on the planet is equal to seven years on earth. The plant fails to make the cut as it has gigantic waves in shallow waters. The second planet is full of ice (filmed in Iceland) and has ice-clouds and a nut job of a frozen explorer (Matt Damon) who tries to kill Cooper so that he can execute plan B at the third planet, Miller. Damon brings in needless drama.

As with every movie that involves a vehicle, terrestrial or extraterrestrial, fuel shortage and damage to the craft and the need for Singularity data are key plot elements towards the climax. Apropos, they need to slingshot past the black hole to the third planet which Amelia bets on, as her loved one went there during the original Lazarus project. Oh My God, a movie is so incomplete without a love angle! Glad they didn’t bring in the hackneyed plot of a romance between Cooper and Ameila.

And then comes the climax where the hero Cooper dives into the event horizon of the beautifully depicted supermassive black hole and reaches singularity. But what is this singularity? Just like the limbo being linked to Cobb’s dreams in ‘Inception’, the singularity in ‘Interstellar’ is actually a four dimensional tesseract presenting a single location to Cooper at various points in time occurring as different dimensions. And the location? You guessed it: Murph’s bedroom. Strange Coincidence!

So, who’s the ghost in Murph’s life? Cooper! And who’s described as ‘beings’ by NASA and Amelia? Cooper again! He is the one who opened up the wormhole near Saturn that took him through the same spot half a century later. Doesn’t this create an inconsistent causal loop? Remember the ‘Grandfather Paradox’ or the narrative of a chicken going back in time and laying an egg that it is born out of? But then, an average moviegoer doesn’t care as long as there are spectacular sights and happy endings!

‘Interstellar’ comes across as lengthy and tiresome. The narrative is patchy and there are excessive intercuts during crucial scenes, especially so in the climax. Spoiling the cinematic experience further is the jarring and ominously heavy background score by Hans Zimmer that muffle out dialogs. Acting department is just passable. McConaughey is hardly a fit. Jessica Chastain as the grown up Murph is decent as the scientist and Michel Caine seems to be having his fourth outing with the director.

Nolan’s fiction works for audiences who believe they enjoy intelligent films, but actually watch them without thought or logic. Damn, that sure sounds contradictory, but truth is stranger than fiction. Nolan’s ‘Inception’ was full of plot holes, irrespective of whether they were deliberately inserted or inept storytelling. No matter the narrative chosen, the logical thread always reaches a dead end. I haven’t come across anyone who understood that film fully, despite claiming that they loved it.

About the science in ‘Interstellar’, the moviemakers have opted for the safest bet. Bring a scientist on board, in this case, Kip Thore, as a consultant and executive producer. This would’ve surely had an impact on the depiction of a spinning black hole and other stuff like the four-dimensional tesseract within the event horizon, boxy but versatile AI robots, etc. Nonetheless, I’m still amazed at how an astronaut can dive into a black hole and come out totally unhurt. Does this look believable?

If anything, Christopher Nolan must be admired for dreaming big. But, given the potential that this movie had, it has been totally wasted; a great concept turned into an average movie that sells only the basis of special effects bankrolled by a big budget. Die hard Nolan fans would rave over this one. But, seriously discerning movie connoisseurs won’t appreciate the poor storytelling.

Rating 5/10: Scores on effects, fails on narrative! 
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