By Varun Kumar
“Perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we’re still pioneers.” This quote from McConaughey in the teaser trailer of Interstellar had always stuck with me when I thought about the promotion of this film, mainly because of the weight of that claim. Perhaps my favorite thing about the first teaser trailer of Interstellar was how little it showed, while still managing to set the tone and the ballpark of the massive story that Nolan had prepared. However, I definitely was not prepared for the level of ambition, scope, and beauty of the actual film. Christopher Nolan, while being known for incorporating many ideas into his films, is normally not the kind of filmmaker to take big risks and still keep his films accessible enough for the general audience. However, Nolan truly went all out here, pouring everything he had into this script and telling a story that may leave some of the audience feeling alienated.
Interstellar starts off in a futuristic dystopian Earth, where most of the food resources have been depleted except for corn. Cooper (McConaughey), a pilot, and his daughter, Murph (Foy), are essentially trying to track down the coordinates of a mysterious location given by what Murph calls her “ghost.” When they finally find this location, they realize they have stumbled upon NASA, now a forgotten and secretive organization. This group has found that humanity on Earth will go extinct as the corn is dying. They have also discovered that a wormhole has magically appeared in their solar system that would take them to another galaxy and are proposing an interstellar travel manned by Cooper and several other scientists. This involves Cooper having to leave his family and making a promise to his daughter that he will come back to her.
When it comes to Nolan as a filmmaker, there are some recurring faults in his style which circle around the fact that he wants to “tell” his story and message to the audience rather than “show”. This is certainly true in Interstellar as well, however a lot of the time it seems necessary for the characters to explain the scientific theories that this film is grounded in. There were moments that certainly felt unnecessary when characters say certain things that sound more like something an actor would say about their character in an interview. Another criticism of Nolan’s films are that they lack emotion and three-dimensional characters. This is definitely fixed in Interstellar, because it is truly one of the most beautiful and emotional films I have seen in 2014 with characters I was truly invested in. A lot of this can be attributed to the fantastic performances of McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain as the father-daughter duo that anchor the emotional core of this film.
While Nolan has certain weaknesses in his writing, his actual skills as a director are always top notch and that is much more evident with this film. The visuals (particularly the wormhole sequences) are absolutely breathtaking and feel natural, rather than computer generated. A lot of this is also thanks to the immense use of practical effects in the film. Nolan’s vision of space may not be as imaginative as other filmmakers’ visions, but it is perhaps the most realistic and isolated. Nolan also makes sure to throw in a lot of visual nods to 2001: A Space Oddysey, but never allows the audience to think that he is copying the film. Zimmer’s use of organs in the score is incredibly powerful and moving, always capturing the emotion and tone of each scene.
In the end, Interstellar has its share of flaws, but it is a film that reminds me of why I love movies in the first place. It is an epic of many proportions that feels smart, emotional, intense, and entertaining. It is also a scientific, yet spiritual film that explores its ideas and themes in a very subtle, yet poetic way. Interstellar is a film that makes me excited for whatever Nolan does next, because in many ways, it is his most mature and unique film. It is a film that blends the Spielberg level of awe with the Kubrick level of ambition, yet it still feels like a Nolan film, in that it does a great job at being a blockbuster with the interesting and original ideas to make the general audience think.