‘Interstellar’ is Supposed to Mean Something, But What?

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CHICAGO – It is most likely that movie goers were asking the same question of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1968, but Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” belongs to its own category of what-is-the-meaning, because it tries to combine pseudo-science with psycho-babble, which clashes into meaninglessness. But the visuals are stunning, and there are moments of fulfillment, especially in a big screen IMAX format.

The ante is certainly being raised for space films, and the category of humanist science fiction that “Interstellar” attempts is fulfilling exploration, paired with the use of cutting edge visual effects. The story, however, doesn’t hold water – even on a watery planet – and what is left is nearly three hours of an eye candy rush, accompanied by the crash-and-burn of the old lyric, “love is all you need.” Yes, that aphorism is truth, but in space no one can hear you scream when it doesn’t work as a motivation for saving people on Planet Earth.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a pilot turned farmer in a dystopia vision of future earth – plant life is dying and the landscape is subjected to virulent dust storms. But a mysterious force of communication is giving his daughter Murphy (younger portrayed by Mackenzie Foy, older by Jessica Chastain) signals that her father must follow, and they end up in a secret NASA bunker.

Anne Hathaway
Amelia (Anne Hathaway) in Space for ‘Interstellar’
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Apparently Cooper is the only pilot that can go up in space on a follow-up mission. Astronauts were seeking new worlds to inhabit, by going through a wormhole near Saturn, and Cooper and fellow mission specialist Amelia (Anne Hathaway) are sent to these planets to find if any of those missing explorers were successful. One problem though, the theory of relativity bends time in their travels, so the earth ages more rapidly than they do.

There are many issues that can be expounded upon witin these missions, for instance, what does time mean when the rules of it are altered? Much of the dialogue in the film are the explanations for what it happening, while it is happening, which isn’t exactly a natural way that people speak. Even the Freudian psycho-babble, in which Amelia expresses the hope for love, it mined for potential science fiction in the story.

The brilliant power of Christopher Nolan – who has made so much money for the industry that he gets freedom to do whatever he wants – is that he is a visual sensationalist, and uses the envelope pushing digital power of today’s filmmaking and delivers it beyond the fantasies that even the mind can conjure – much like Stanley Kubrick did with “2001.” There is so much to see in the film, and so many moments of clarity in that vision, that it almost…almost…makes up for the weird therapy that passes for the plot.

There is unfortunate miscasting as well. McConaughey’s recent car commercials are ripe for thought once he gets behind the “wheel” on the spaceship, and his demeanor isn’t really science-fiction friendly. Anne Hathaway has found the key to good make-up while in final frontier flight, and is a good character actress in the right part (think Catwoman). But astronaut was not that part, and she becomes glaringly stranger as the film progresses.

Matthew McConaughey
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) Does the Walk of Life in ‘Interstellar’
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

With all these nagging complaints, the film – like last year’s “Gravity” – scores points for magnificently turning feverish and creative dreams into cinematic reality, the righteous marriage of profit and artistry. The Dark Knight series begets “Inception” and “Interstellar,” which has similar plot inadequacies, but also represent the power of the ultimate play with the “train set” of moviemaking, and feeding the imagination of the viewer.

All right, all right, all right, get thee to the IMAX screen (if possible) to ideally experience the visuals, and wonder about the meaning of it all through the think tank of brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s science fiction. To boldly go where none have gone before…

”Interstellar” opened in select IMAX theaters November 5th, and will be released everywhere on November 7th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Bill Irwin, Topher Grace, and Casey Affleck. Written by Christopher Nolan, and Jonathan Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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