Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Though it sometimes feels like it’s aspiring to the heights of 2001 but not quite reaching them, Christopher Nolan’s latest film Interstellar is an entertaining effort which asks important questions about our relationship with the universe and has some fascinating sci-fi ideas.

The central concept – we used to look up to the stars, now we just look down into the dust – is one that I, as a supporter of space travel, find compelling, and the world of Interstellar is a dystopia I really don’t want to end up living in. This is a world where schools teach that the Apollo landings were faked to bankrupt the Russians and where NASA’s been forced to go underground after lack of public support for space exploration. If only the human race had realised sooner that the only hope for humanity lies in the stars…

But Matthew McConaughey comes to the rescue! He’s great as Cooper, an astronaut leading the mission to find a new home for humanity, and his relationship with his daughter is particularly affecting. I dare you to watch the sequence where he has to tell her he’s going, then drives away as her granddad holds her back, the rocket countdown playing over this, and not have something in your eye.

The supporting characters, however, are not so great – even Anne Hathaway’s fellow astronaut isn’t given nearly enough depth or character for us to enjoy spending the film’s long running time in her presence. Dialogue is often terribly expository and theme-setting, including one particularly clunky speech from Hathaway about how love is the most powerful force in the universe. No, really.

It doesn’t help that everyone takes everything deathly seriously, and the only attempt at comic relief is a robot slab. Which could be a daringly brilliant move in a better script, but here… really isn't. It’s just not funny enough. Without any laugh-out-loud moments, Interstellar’s humour settings are disappointingly low (I know I’m not the first to make that joke) and I was left wondering if this would be any better if, as originally planned, Steven Spielberg had led this project.

Nevertheless, it’s a visually remarkable film, and there are some great concepts behind the planets the team visit. A planet with clouds of ice, a planet where time runs one hour to seven years anywhere else – all very different to what’s often seen in other sci-fi movies, and all used to great dramatic effect. Like Gravity, this is a film that should be seen on the biggest screen possible.

So, some really interesting ideas, but flawed by poor characterisation and awkward dialogue. Still, I can get behind any film that warns us against being negligent of developing space travel – let’s not leave our legacy as one little flag on the moon, eh?


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