Despite stunning visuals, “Interstellar” fails to wow

“Interstellar” is Hollywood’s latest space exploration epic. With Christopher Nolan at the helm, I hoped for something on par with his other successes, such as “The Prestige,” “The Dark Knight” or “Inception,” but unfortunately it was not written in the stars.
Courtesy of the U’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, a full house of Utes attended a private screening of “Interstellar” earlier this month. Although I showed up late and was consequently relegated to the second row of the theater, my seat didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the stunning visuals that almost managed to distract me from the contrived dialogue and limping storyline.
“Interstellar” has it all: a comic relief robot, a gravity slingshot that saves our intrepid space explorers and an unashamed theft of the multi-dimensional navigation scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I was surprised that there are no disproportionate green men and that the robot doesn’t betray humankind in the end because the film pegged every other cliché sci-fi trope I can think of. In contrast to all its hackneyed glory though, the central conflict — man vs. time — was a breath of originality that I enjoyed.
Suddenly drafted to save humanity by exploring potentially hospitable worlds on the other side of a wormhole, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leaves behind his teenage son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and his 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Reluctant to have his children grow up without him, Cooper vows to not only save his children’s future from the blight, but also save them from growing up fatherless. The one-way correspondence that Cooper receives from his children as they age back on Earth is heart-wrenching.
Earth is portrayed as a Grapes of Wrath-esque dust bowl whose only viable crop is corn. The visual juxtaposition between deep space and the neo-depression-era landscape works well, but the aesthetics of the film were frequently undermined by Hans Zimmer’s deafening soundtrack that would have been quite good if it wasn’t mixed loud enough to penetrate the stratosphere.
Although the writing and the audio left much to be desired, the acting was decent. McConaughey toed the line between emotion and melodrama at times but still did rather well. Anne Hathaway’s performance was passable while Jessica Chastain’s made an impression. It goes without saying that veteran actors Michael Caine and John Lithgow were superb. Beyond that, no one was particularly memorable.
For all of this film’s faults, I think the worst was its ending. Following an obvious plot twist that felt hastily tacked onto the end, the film stages a staggering case of deus ex machina that shatters the emotional build and the dark realism the film otherwise cultivates. It was a rather frustrating cop-out that tipped my estimate of the movie from mediocre to bad.
Clocking in at just under three hours, “Interstellar” may have you checking your watch or stifling yawns. I recommend this film only to the most diehard sci-fi fans or the Nolanoids that are too biased to see fault in any of his work.
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