2014-11-14

Interstellar – Is it as stellar as everyone hoped?

by Yo Snyder

Yo:  Christopher Nolan
is one of the rare moviemakers who’s not only able to keep much of his films a
secret before release, but who’s also able to consistently put out extremely
entertaining and thought-provoking films. In fact, his track record on both
aspects is so good that anticipation for
Interstellar
reached such frantic levels that when early reviews started coming out for the
movie and weren’t all that great, fans – who hadn’t even seen the film, mind
you – berated said critics for not liking the movie. The sentiment being, “It’s
a Christopher Nolan movie, so of course it’s awesome, how dare you not give it
a glowing review. You just must not get it.” While “not getting it” might
certainly be the case, especially with this movie, the simple fact of the
matter is
Interstellar really isn’t
all that stellar. Oh, I wanted it to be. I desperately wanted the so-so reviews
to not be true, but after seeing it, I’d have to say they’re fairly accurate.
The question is; why? Why, Justin? Why isn’t
Interstellar the stellar epic we dared dream it would be?

 

Justin:  We need to be
careful to give reviews a fair shake. Audience reviews are giving
Interstellar much higher marks, but I
have to agree those may be influenced by the “of course it’s awesome”
halo effect. Like you, I really wanted this movie to be awesome, and the sad
fact is it could have been the space epic we dreamed it could be. It has all
the makings of an amazing story. I would argue that for 2/3 of the movie, it
was everything I hoped it would be. I had grand dreams of seeing it for a
second time on 70mm IMAX just to experience its true native format for some of
the IMAX filming. But then we get to some scenes featuring a surprise actor
that start to degrade the movie for me. You can see what the Nolan brothers are
going for in this character, but it’s delivered so poorly and with such bad
monologuing it just plain kills the point of the character and scenes. For me,
this potentially great movie took its first bad turn with the introduction of
this secret actor; not the character he plays per se, but his delivery of the
character. There may have been a few earlier moments that were not stellar, but
for me, these scenes gave me my first real complaint. How about you? What first
gave you pause to the film’s potential greatness?

 

Yo:  Well, I agree
that was not a great moment. Another issue that you pointed out after we saw
it, which I also agree with, was the film should have ended 20 minutes earlier.
Had it done so, it could have been another wonderfully maddening, ambiguous,
“it’s up to you” type of Nolan ending. Granted, some of the plot didn’t really
lend itself to that, but it would have been awesome. As it is, the ending
really derails any momentum the film had built up to that point. Still, you
can’t fault the ambition here. Nolan is never shy about aiming for the stars
(literally in this case), and he introduces some wonderfully “big” ideas here.
Particularly, I enjoyed the concept of Love being more than just a feeling, but
an actual force that has an impact on the Universe. The comment that “we didn’t
invent Love” has such weighty implications. If love is external to us, if it
isn’t just another emotion, then what does that mean to us? How then are we
accountable to it? If we take it a step further than saying Love is just
another force like Gravity or Time, and say it is an actual Entity (1 John
4:8), what implications does that have?
Interstellar
doesn’t go quite to those lengths in exploring the concept of Love, but it
definitely steps in that direction, and it’s something worthy of consideration
in a culture where “falling in” and “falling out” of love is almost as common
as changing one’s socks.

 

Justin:  The role love
plays in this movie is truly unique; love being a force like gravity and time.
I went and saw this movie with a PhD physicist and one of his comments was how
well thought-out, and from a science fiction perspective, how accurate the
physics were in
Interstellar. So to
interplay love as a force has real unique implications, especially how the
movie plays with love as a force outside of the constraints of time and
gravity, e.g. outside of the universe as we know it. One of my main comments
during the movie was how ironic it was that in a movie that ends without any
reference to God or a creator that it borrows such a weighty concept from
Christianity. I can’t think of another source for the concept that love is a
force external to the universe – not bound by constraints of time and gravity –
than straight from scripture. For the Nolan brothers to use such a weighty
concept in their story, well, to me that is giving credit to a uniquely
Biblical concept.

 

Yo:  At this point I
should be careful to point out that this really isn’t a bad movie; it’s just an
imperfect one. There’s actually quite a lot to like about it, and it’s
definitely a film that should be experienced on the big screen. The
cinematography is outstanding, the sound design is spectacular, and the
soundtrack (which admittedly can be overwhelming on rare occasions) is
fantastic. There are several moments where all these elements combine perfectly
to create a spectacular, awe-inducing scene that is well worth the cinematic
experience. However, I know you have some thoughts on the debate of whether
it’s really worth seeing in IMAX since Nolan did film some of this movie in
that format.

 

Justin:  Agreed, this
movie has some awe inspiring scenes that really do lend to a big screen
experience. Prior to the movie’s launch, I thoroughly researched expert
opinions on the six different formats
Interstellar
was released in (IMAX 70mm, 70mm, IMAX Experience, 35mm, 4K digital, and 2K
digital). It’s worth pointing out the only options available in Albuquerque are
IMAX Experience, 4K digital and 2K digital. Knowing this may be one of the last
of the IMAX 70mm films, I was amped to see it in that format when I travel to
California next week. However, after seeing the 4K version, I am not as
excited. Why? Because while
Interstellar
has some amazing cinematic moments, these are not the homerun scenes for me.
Instead, the sound design and acting in calm quiet moments were much more
impactful. I don’t want to dismiss some of the amazing “IMAX” space scenes, but
I would say the movie didn’t aim to make these scenes the star as much as the
story and actor interactions. The Nolan brothers insist you must see it in 35mm
or 70mm as they are tried-and-true film buffs who continue using film where
most others have gone digital. For that reason alone, I feel I owe it to them,
and to the dying art of film which may disappear altogether after Star Wars
next year, to go see it in IMAX 70mm; if for no other reason than to give our
audience a review of 70MM IMAX vs 4K digital RPX.

 

Yo:  Ultimately, there
were just too many and too high of expectations place on this movie for it live
up to. I was guilty of that as well. I admire the fact that Nolan is willing,
and that the studios are willing to enable him, to explore high concepts and to
make the types of movies that most just wouldn’t attempt. Still, the fact is
this movie has some problems, has some elements that just don’t work, and quite
frankly, probably loses the audience with its (highly accurate) scientific
approach and mind bending final act. On the other side, it has some wonderfully
touching moments, some stunningly gorgeous cinematic moments, and touches on
some truly big ideas that are thought provoking and challenging. It didn’t turn
out to be quite what I was hoping for, but in all fairness, I don’t think
anything could have.

 

Justin: 5.5 out of 7
Interstellar hit some high marks
and some low marks with me. I found the movie had all the elements and story
potential to be a true 7 out of 7, but due to some actor selection and a
confusing ending, I had to go with something lower. The movie deals with some
weighty concepts but has very little violence, language (exception for one
brief scene), or other mature content. This is one movie I would feel
comfortable taking younger teens to in hopes of stimulating conversation around
the concepts of our place in the universe.

 

Yo: 5 of 7 definitely
seems fair.
Interstellar has its
flaws, but it also has some wonderful moments that I’m glad I experienced in a
theater. It has also sparked some great, thoughtful conversations. In the end,
those are the two things I really want to get out of a Nolan film, and this one
delivered in that respect.