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Where to begin… maybe with the technical disclaimer that I did not see the IMAX version of “Interstellar”, but a regular digital projection, in a decent but not overwhelming cinema with only minor disturbances from next door’s “Big Hero 6” screening. That may explain why the film did not bring me any of the “ooohhh woooow” moments that I have seen quoted so often in the blogs and reviews. The other reason for the lack of those moments may also be that as impressive as the outer space visuals are, if you have seen a lot of movies in the last ten years, you also have seen a lot of depictions of outer space, and pretty impressive ones too. While Interstellar does this very well, and probably “better” by whatever standard you want to apply compared to, say, “Gravity”, “Moon” or “Sunshine”, I do not consider this achievement to be sufficient to call this an exceptional film.

From what I had heard about the film, the best I could hope for was some form of Terrence Mallick-ified Kubrick’ism, a modernised “2001” with more straightforward plot and story and more focus on the characters. Actually, the choice of actors promised that: Matthew MacConaGullyewthingy and Jessica Chastain and Butler Alfred and some very famous guy on some remote planet who apparently is supposed to remain a secret (because he is a bit self-conscious as he got a tad fat, I guess)… they can hold up a complex and emotional story, Matthew McC certainly can evolve over the course of almost three hours and can come back to reflect upon what he learned. But did he, did they? Did Nolan manage to create something special?

Executive Summary would be: no, not so special, certainly worth watching, and worth watching a second time, too, but nothing that will be remembered in 20 years as an indispensable entry into the 21st century catalogue of immortal science fiction films. For that, the script is just to weak, the diaglogues too clumsy, the story loop to simple and actually the visuals – despite their spectacle – too unconvincing in some crucial aspects. I will add a spoiler segment below to give an example.

The strength of the film to me was the first bit, the earth-bound bit with the depiction of a family that is trying to survive in a future reality that has experienced something devastating Earth’s vegetation. Those who want to be engineers or artists or philosophers or poets are all just farmers now, and farmers of the world’s most despicable product, maize (“pig’s food”, it was called in my family, shouldn’t eat that… ). Given that it seems to be the only thing still growing, I would have expected the American population to have even gained some waistline, but maybe whatever cataclysmic event came along made them forget how to spoil every food with corn syrup. In this world, a father has to struggle with his kids’ ambitions and the lack of them, has to deal with twisted variations of an educational system (quite a silly scene about quite a silly variation  on a history text book, in my opinion). No wonder that as soon as there is a chance to escape from it all, he takes it. Only that his daughter takes him leaving Earth and trying to find a habitable spot in some other galaxy personal, sees it certainly for what it is, him abandoning her, despite there being signs that the trip may not be as short and controlled as he says it should be. In all isolation, independent of all the space-time hocus pocus and the bangs and pows… this bit of family drama between a father who has to leave and a daughter who just won’t have it is heartbreaking and very well done.

As soon as Interstellar The Movie goes into Interstellar The Space, curiously the film rocket thrust. It becomes soheow conventional in taking us from here to there, showing us pretty sights of vast almost empty spaces, making us trying to follow some elaborate plot explanations on why we should go there instead of here, and actually… boring us a bit. There are interesting and spectacular landscapes on planets where I personally would not like to settle (frozen clouds? No thanks!) and thrilling set pieces with giant waves and close escapes. There is also always the feeling that things you see and perceive to be somehow odd-looking (the worm hole, the support robots) must certainly be based on latest scientific research, or at least on science-based speculation. Still odd those robots move around, and more odd how they communicate with a level of artificial intelligence that does not seem to match the level of technology the rest of the film claims.

So many things to wonder about and to discuss, which means “Interstellar” is – like all Christopher Nolan films – a bold and brave experiment by an outstanding film maker with a very special position in his profession. An experiment that went wrong, but it is very interesting and mostly entertaining to look at the wreckage.

Spoiler

Spoiler

Spoiler

Plot Spoiler Special (ok, that’s pretentious, the actual Spoiler Special (including the Spoiler Special on “Interstellar” can of course be found over at Slate.com, but still… ):

  • “They put it there”: if you cannot decide what kind of aliens you want in your film, don’t use aliens. Without any reference to alien life forms, with just some worm hole sitting behind Jupiter the way a black stone sat on the Moon some years ago in a different film… with just Cooper hanging in limbo in the middle of a black hole, the way some other guy hung in a nursery with himself as a baby in some other film some years ago… you don’t need all this talking about aliens creating three-dimensional representations of five-dimensional situations. All those explanations only serve to build Michael Caine another house, and he has plenty of houses already.
  • “The Hanging Library Gardens”: The visuals of Cooper hanging suspended in the future back side of his daughter’s childhood library I did not care for too much. It was explained to me who built this space and why it is there, and for me this just did not click, it was not convincing that it would look like that. The act of communication by way of clock ticking… it was a bit too much Patrick Swayze and “Ghost” for me, too specific and mechanic in a situation that had no reason to be so specific. Why would the creator of this black hole maze create a way of communicating between space and time? And what does the sentence “Only gravity can cross time. And Love.” even mean??
  • “Fistifight on Planet Dr Mann”: why can we not just all fly back together? I understand that Dr Mann is a bit bored after decades on that ghastly planet, but why not just hop on board the newcomers’ ship and call it off? More importantly: in terms of suspense it makes absolutely no sense to pretend that the hero of your esoteric space odyssey is in mortal peril an hour away from the end of the film, because some other dude who just recently appeared punches him in the face. This is like threatening to have James Bond killed in minute 20 of any Bond movie, it just won’t happen, there is no threat for our star, because our star still has to do something meaningful and tear-jerking within the next 50 minutes.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/interstellar_2014

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